VPNs are no longer privy to the corporate scenario. Individual usage is at an all-time high. Thus, consumer vendors are tirelessly trying various methods to promote their services. People recognize that they live in a digital age where data is valuable and privacy matters. Today, organizations around the globe are relentlessly mining data for their gain. Most countries engage in online surveillance. Although, democracy won’t let them be upright with it. Users also realize the value of a VPN as it aids them. However, some countries don’t mind any possible repercussions. These regimes openly and aggressively oppose the usage of VPNs. Consequently, a VPN gets banned in such countries.
Why do countries ban VPNs?
Countries ban VPNs for various reasons. They practice VPN blocking in an attempt to curb the usage of VPNs. Furthermore, they employ other methods to censor the internet. It can include making use of legislature. Given below are a few reasons behind VPN bans in countries.
- Politically motivated: Sometimes, a ban is motivated by politics, as in, to prevent the opposition from gaining traction. Countries also ban VPNs endorsing a particular thought or opinion while disregarding the rest.
- Copyright: A VPN ban can also take place to prevent copyright infringement. If a VPN is a party in piracy, it is illegal. Thus, a government can ban/regulate/block VPNs to prevent illicit actions.
- Economic validation: Most VPN blocks are subject to redistribution of wealth. In the Middle Eastern countries, the rise of VoIP aided by VPNs resulted in a loss for major telecommunications players.
- Legal issues: As mentioned previously, VPN may be legal, but using them for illegal activities can be counterproductive. If a country can’t effectively pursue the matter, it can directly ban VPNs, quickly rooting out the cause.
- School/college/workplace policies: An organization/institution can make their policies and ban VPNs as per their discretion.
- Fraud prevention: Most banking and financial websites block the use of VPNs as it can lead to fraud.
- ISP empowerment: ISP (Internet Service Provider) can monitor user activity and using a VPN can prevent this. Thus, a ban can help ISP with monitoring.
Countries that banned VPN
Although most of the world recognizes and supports them, VPNs are banned in some countries, like:
China heavily regulates the usage of VPNs. Although VPNs are not outright banned in China, it is cumbersome to use them. Furthermore, the Great Firewall of China employs DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) to prevent unauthorized VPN access. Owing to the new data laws of March 2018, the country allows VPN use under certain conditions. At the forefront is mandatory data logging. Not only will this defy the basic principles on which a VPN operates, but it will also open doors for government intervention. Thus, even when the country tightly restricts a VPN, it is, in essence, no different from a ban.
Russia bans the use of a VPN. Although, the ban allows access to VPNs with government authorization. The government passed a law in November 2017 to prevent the spread of extremist materials and unlawful content. Furthermore, the Russian ISPs play their part in this ban by blocking websites that offer VPNs or proxy services. Thus, a user can neither employ a VPN nor also visit related websites. The few authorized VPNs also have to comply by banning websites, per the Russian law directive. The ban comes attached with a punitive fine: $5100 for unauthorized VPN access.
North Korea has declared the usage of VPNs illegal. However, the effective ban applies to the citizens and not the tourists. Internet is already scarce in N. Korea. You might need a certain level of authority to get access to the World Wide Web. As such, anyone with access to the internet can’t circumvent the policies imposed by the government. North Korea could top the VPN banned in countries list if the general digital environment was not backward.
Belarus advocates a total ban on VPNs. It has been blocking VPNs since 2015 to improve the status of telecommunication over services like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). However, what’s strange is that the Belarusian constitution deems censorship illegal itself. The law levies a fine on the use of VPNs.
Yet another authoritarian state that outlaws the usage of VPNs is Turkey. The effort started with banning Tor (The Onion Browser) in 2016. Two years later, the government decided to deem VPNs illegal. The reason given behind the ban is the fight against terrorism. The country actively blocks VPNs, and only a handful of providers seem to work within its borders.
The Islamic Republic of Iran bans VPNs outside any government institutes. The law has been effective since 2013. Also, the country is amongst the harshest in dealing with offenders regarding VPNs. Fines are inconsequential, as offenders can face a year of prison time if found accessing a VPN. Iran is not new to censorship, as it already blocks over more than the world’s top 500 websites.
The Arab Spring witnessed the ban of VPNs. Although the United Arab Emirates bans VPNs, it is only for individual purposes. Corporates and banks can employ VPNs without worry. The law enacted in 2012 cites the telecommunication violations as the reason for the ban. The advent of VoIP with the aid of VPNs was burning a hole in the pockets of telecommunication vendors. Thus, the law got legislated to subterfuge the audience.
The anti-VPN law clearly states that:
Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address, by using a false address or a third party address by any other means to commit a crime or prevent is discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than DHS 500000 and not exceeding DHS 2000000, or either of these two penalties.”
If you didn’t know, DHS 500000 amounts to roughly $136130!
Iraq and Egypt
Iraq issued a blanket ban on VPN use in 2014 with no exception. The government declared it would aid their fight against ISIS.
Egypt heavily regulates the usage of VPNs. Similar to the UAE, the primary concern is the advent of VoIP that can prevent telecommunication giants from making bank.
The Sultanate of Oman has banned VPN extensively. The law was enacted in 2010 and declared the use of VPNs illegal. Although institutes can apply to the government for VPN access, any private and personal use of VPN is not open to debate. Similar to the UAE and others, the Telecom Regulation Authority was behind this law. They did it to ensure telecom companies profit. A curious aspect of the law is that any person visiting the state should also fall under the jurisdiction. A fine of $1000 is in place to ensure compliance.
Turkmenistan has a single ISP, Turkmenet, which oversees the internet activity within the nation. To prevent the spread of foreign media, it banned VPN use in 2015. Furthermore, the country strictly filters the various content on the internet. The internet is barely a decade old, with individual access granted in 2008.
Uganda partially blocks VPNs. However, the government didn’t ban the internet. Instead, it levies a tax on the usage of social media. Although the tax is meager, users did use VPNs to circumvent it. It resulted in the partial banning of VPNs.