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Are VPNs legal in 2022? [updated]

Are VPNs legal in 2022? [updated]

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Is using a VPN illegal?

There is no simple yes or no answer to this question. It all depends on the country you find yourself in. VPNs are a thorn in the side of any government that monitors or censors the Internet. This is because a powerful VPN like NordVPN helps users bypass these practices by securing traffic from governments and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Some governments demonize VPN services by claiming that they are primarily used for illegal activities. Others simply make VPNs illegal. However, in both cases, the goal is the same – to prevent people from enjoying the freedom that the Internet is meant to provide.

But focusing on illegal activities misses the whole point of using a VPN, as its positive implementation far outweighs the negatives. There are a lot of good things that VPNs can be used for, such as:

  • Browse the Internet privately and securely;
  • stay safe on public Wi-Fi while traveling;
  • Preserving internet freedom and evading censorship in a repressive state;
  • access to geographically restricted websites and services;
  • search for information and communicate securely and confidentially about sensitive topics;
  • Handling sensitive trade secrets or other important data that must remain protected at all costs.

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Where are VPNs illegal?

In some countries, VPNs are only legal if they meet certain requirements, but those same requirements seriously threaten the security and privacy that VPNs are intended to provide. We consider VPNs illegal in a country if:

  • Part or all residents of the country are expressly prohibited from using VPNs;
  • Using a VPN is only legal if it meets government regulations that allow authorities to monitor users.

The growth of VPNs as a global tool for security, privacy, and internet freedom is a relatively recent phenomenon. Many countries with repressive tendencies that have not yet passed any laws regulating their use may still plan to do so. One of the best places to monitor changing situations is Freedom House’s online Freedom Report.

If the country you’re visiting or live in rank low in terms of internet freedom but isn’t on our list of anti-VPN countries, it might be worth doing a bit more research to see if you can use a VPN.

List of countries where VPN is illegal

China

China severely restricts and filters its traffic using a variety of online blocks and filters, often referred to as the Great Firewall. That’s why you need a VPN to access blocked content. Any VPN used in China must meet government regulations, which means backdoor access, logs, and censorship.

Services that don’t comply with their rules are often banned by the country, which makes using a quality VPN in China a bit more complicated. However, so far, we haven’t heard of many foreigners facing serious problems when using VPN services in China. NordVPN is a great choice for use in China – it has an obfuscated servers function, which hides the fact that you’re using a VPN, so it’s hard to curb your connection on these grounds.

Russia

In 2017, Russia banned unauthorized VPN providers. What VPNs are approved? You guessed it – those who agree to record user data and submit it to the Russian government upon request.

The country has also banned the use of VPNs to access prohibited content. But using a VPN for other purposes is not against the law. In 2019, Russia went even further in its embargo policies. Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Communications Supervision, has given orders to the world’s leading VPN providers to provide the Russian government with access to their servers located in Russia. This is the reason why all our servers have been removed from Russia. The privacy of our users is of paramount importance to us and we cannot comply with these requirements.

Belarus

VPNs and Tor have been banned in Belarus since 2015, as well as any technology that provides users with online privacy. The dictatorial regime tries to control the internal internet traffic to avoid the circulation of any potentially anti-government information.

Turkey

While VPNs are not illegal in the country, their use is restricted and the government has already banned some VPN service providers. Turkey blocks many social media services and websites with the aim of preventing terrorism and avoiding politically sensitive content.

Iraq

The country has banned VPNs in recent years, but they haven’t had a good reputation when it comes to internet freedom. While the country’s censorship measures are not as strict as North Korea or China, they still penalize VPN users. However, even censorship is a restricted topic in Iraq, so it is very difficult to keep track of the latest information about VPN usage as well.

The United Arab Emirates

While VPNs are not restricted in the UAE, using them for illegal activities or accessing websites that are banned by the government can get you in trouble. If a VPN server is caught using a VPN, users may face a fine of $136,129. The UAE uses vague wording in its laws, but it seems clear that the use of a VPN is strongly discouraged.

Sultanate of Oman

Oman expressly prohibits any encryption of communications. However, full implementation of this law would isolate the country from the majority of the World Wide Web, so it’s a bit of a gray area. Of course, VPNs are also prohibited. However, there is a problem here as well, as VPNs can be used by organizations or organizations that are approved by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Oman (TRA).

Iran

VPN providers are only legal in Iran if they are approved by the government. Naturally, that consent allows her to monitor users. Therefore, you will need to use an undetectable VPN to avoid getting penalized. Again, obfuscated servers can help you in this case.

Egypt

People who try to access blocked websites on a VPN may face fines or jail time. While VPNs as such are not illegal in Egypt, you should use them with caution and always take some extra precautions. This may include using a double VPN feature or obscure servers. As always, for your own safety, you must refrain from all illegal activities while using a VPN.

Turkmenistan

VPNs are strictly prohibited, and any attempts to use them are detected and subject to penalties. It is one of the most extreme cases of VPN blocking. Most citizens can only use Turkmenet, which is a heavily controlled version of the telecommunications network. The state also closely monitors and monitors all of your online activities. Because of this weird internet setup, even advanced VPN tools like obfuscated servers won’t help much here.

North Korea

North Korea is considered one of the most repressive countries in the world, so strict regulation of the internet fits the course. The government bans VPN use and monitors internet access. Similar to Turkmenistan, most citizens are only allowed to use the country’s intranet. But the majority of the population does not even have access to the Internet or telephone service.

Uganda

Uganda is a strange example because it tried to block VPNs not for political or censorship reasons, but for economic reasons. The state decided to tax users for using social media a few years ago and citizens started using a VPN service to bypass this regulation. Then the Ugandan government instructed ISPs to block VPN users. However, many people continue to use VPNs in the country.

Is using a VPN legal in the US and Canada?

Yes, it is legal to use VPNs in both countries. However, anything that is illegal remains illegal when using a VPN, so you should refrain from using VPN services for illegal purposes. We strongly urge any user to avoid breaking any laws, regardless of whether they are using a VPN or not.

How is a VPN ban enforced?

Countries with repressive regimes practice the following techniques to enforce VPN bans:

  • Require VPN providers to grant access to servers located in that country. VPN providers with a no-logs policy cannot comply with such demands, as this may violate their terms of service. As a result, they cannot have servers in this country;
  • Use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). This method can be used to track certain forms of VPN traffic, helping governments to control information coming in and out of the country. It also allows them to monitor who is using the VPN;
  • imposing heavy fines on or even jailing those caught using a VPN;
  • Offer free VPNs issued or approved by the government, which puts your security at risk and fails the purpose of using the VPN. This is because free VPNs, even of the freelance type, need to make money somehow. So what they do is serve you ads, collect information about you and/or monitor your traffic. They can then sell this information to hackers, governments, and other third parties.

What can happen if you use a VPN illegally?

The following can happen if you are using a VPN illegally:

  • You could lose your internet connection. For example, your ISP may disconnect you from the Internet if they see that you are using a VPN;
  • You can get a fine ranging from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars;
  • can be imprisoned.

That is why you should be very careful and only use the most reliable VPN services in such hostile environments.

How to bypass VPN blocks

If you find yourself in one of the countries that ban VPN use, you should be very careful when choosing a VPN provider. Do thorough research on any VPN service you plan to use to ensure that it does not collect your data and will not pass anything on to third parties.

For this reason, you should avoid using free VPNs as they frequently collect users’ data and do not guarantee privacy. They may also have poor infrastructure and limited functionality. For obvious reasons, in no case should you use the VPNs approved by the previously mentioned country.

The following functions are also very useful in high-risk areas:

  • Obfuscated servers. This function hides the fact that you are using a VPN by changing your data packets and hides all VPN metadata. In this case, the intrusive organization will not be able to see that you are using a VPN;
  • Double VPN. It will provide you with additional layers of encryption and you will get better security;
  • kill switch. This feature will not allow you to go out in the open as it will cut off your internet connection if the VPN connection drops. So, you won’t be accidentally caught browsing without a VPN;
  • A large number of servers. If the VPN company has a large server network, you will always have the opportunity to reach a desirable virtual location and have an alternative in case the server you are connected to becomes overloaded.

Your rights and VPNs

The best VPN providers, like NordVPN, represent a free, open, and private internet. We believe that everyone has the right to express their opinions freely, regardless of their location or field of work. NordVPN is designed to work even in adverse conditions, overcoming advanced monitoring and censorship efforts around the world.

NordVPN also believes that everyone should have the right to keep their life or any sensitive information private, whether it’s from oppressive regimes or hackers. Our team of dedicated engineers works hard to keep NordVPN safe from the latest threats.

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