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Are VPNs legal?

VPNs protect your online privacy and freedom of speech and are legal to use in most countries around the world, including the US, Canada, and the UK. However, a handful of governments heavily regulate or even ban the use of VPNs. Why? Because they see them as a threat to their authoritarian leadership.

Daniel Markuson

Daniel Markuson

Jul 09, 2018 · 4 min read

Are VPNs legal?

Is using a VPN illegal?

VPNs are a thorn in the side of any government that practices online surveillance or censorship. This is because a powerful VPN like NordVPN helps users bypass those 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. In both cases, however, the goal is the same – to prevent people from enjoying the freedom the internet is meant to provide.

But focusing on illegal activities misses the whole point of using a VPN, as its positive application far surpasses the negative. There are plenty of good things VPNs can be used for, such as:

  • Staying secure on public Wi-Fi when travelling.
  • Maintaining online freedom and evading censorship in an oppressive state.
  • Accessing geo-restricted websites and services.
  • Searching for information and communicating securely and privately on sensitive topics.
  • Working with sensitive trade secrets or other important data that must remain secured at all costs.
  • Browsing the internet privately and securely.

You can use NordVPN on up to 6 devices with just one account, for unbeatable security online.

Where are VPNs illegal?

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

  • Part or the entire population of the country is explicitly forbidden to use VPNs;
  • Using a VPN is legal only if it meets government regulations that allow it 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 be planning to do so. One of the best places to monitor potentially changing attitudes is Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report.

If the country you’re visiting or living in ranks low for internet freedom but isn’t featured in our list of anti-VPN countries, it may be worth doing a bit more research to figure out whether you can use a VPN.

List of countries where VPN is illegal

China. Any VPN used in China must meet government regulations, which means backdoor access, logs, and censorship. To date, we haven’t heard of many foreigners experiencing serious issues when using VPN services in China.

Russia. In 2017, Russia banned unapproved VPN providers. Which VPNs get approved? You guessed it – those that agree to log user data and provide it to the Russian government upon request.

Belarus. VPNs and the Tor network are banned in Belarus.

Turkey. The use of VPNs in Turkey is restricted and the government has already blocked certain VPN providers.

Iraq. The country banned VPNs to fight ISIS, but it never had a good reputation when it comes to online freedom.

UAE. While VPNs are not restricted in the UAE, using them for illegal activities or accessing websites banned by the government can get you in trouble.

Oman. VPNs can be used only by institutions or organizations approved by Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

Iran. VPN providers are legal in Iran only if they’ve been approved by the government. Naturally, those approved allow it to censor and monitor users.

Egypt. People attempting to access blocked websites on VPN might face fines or jail time.

Turkmenistan. VPNs are blocked completely, and any attempts to use them are detected and subjected to penalties.

North Korea. North Korea is considered one of the most repressive countries in the world, so strict internet regulation is par for the course. The government prohibits VPN use and monitors internet access.

Are VPNs legal

How are VPN bans enforced?

Countries with oppressive regimes practice the following to enforce bans on VPNs:

  • Require VPN providers to grant access to servers located in that country. VPN providers that have a no-log policy cannot comply with such demands, as that would violate their terms of service. As a result, they cannot have servers in that country;
  • Use deep packet inspection (DPI). This method can be used to trace certain forms of VPN traffic, helping governments control information coming in and out of the country as well as monitor who is using a VPN;
  • Impose hefty fines or even imprison those who are caught using a VPN;
  • Offer free VPNs issued or approved by the government, which compromises your security and defeats the purpose of using a VPN. This is because free VPNs, even the independent kind, 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.

Your rights and VPNs

The best VPN providers, like NordVPN, stand for a free, open, and private internet. We believe that everyone has the right to express their opinion freely regardless of their location or line of work. NordVPN was designed to operate even in adverse conditions, overcoming advanced surveillance and censorship efforts around the world.

NordVPN also believes that everyone should have the right to keep their lives or any sensitive information truly private, be it from repressive entities or hackers. Our dedicated team of engineers works hard to keep NordVPN secure from the latest threats. NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy, meaning we don’t monitor your online activity — your information will stay private and secure.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from — you deserve a more private and secure internet. Try NordVPN risk-free with our 30-day money-back guarantee.