Virtual Private Network (VPN) use is becoming more common across the globe. Once a tool for the tech savvy to communicate in secret via an encrypted connection, VPNs are now drifting into regular households everywhere.
In countries where the internet is heavily censored and widely monitored—and where online dissent is punishable by steep penalties—the use of VPNs to conceal online activities is highly desirable for citizens.
Whereas in Indonesia, one might use a VPN to access blocked Vimeo or Reddit content, in China you’d need to use one just to access even Google or Facebook.
Though not typically illegal, countries will go to lengths to keep their citizens from using VPNs. Who bans VPNs around the world? Here’s 5 of the biggest.
1. North Korea
People will not be surprised with this entry on the list. North Korea, long known to oppress its people (particularly as related to the dissemination of information, has only an intranet style setup (with a few thousand approved sites) for citizens, and full internet access (with some blocked content) for only a selected few. As you can imagine, the use of VPNs in N. Korea is banned.
Iran is known as one of the most highly censored countries on the planet, and this certainly extends to internet access. Iran blocks around half of the world’s most popular websites, and have been marching towards an internal intranet (just for Iran) for some time now. The recently launched National Information Network, a countrywide intranet, is seen by some as a move towards locking down networks to internal systems for good.
Turkey has developed a habit of throttling in recent years. During times of political instability internet, users may find social media and other services blocked. However recently the government has taken even further steps, by cracking down on the tools citizens use to circumvent regular blocks – by decreeing ISPs block VPN and Tor traffic.
4. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE has recently amended laws that make the use of VPNs illegal. While the law itself may strike fear into the hearts of the everyday user, authorities stress that it is the misuse of VPNs that will be targeted—however, this is open to interpretation.
With some of the most severe online censorship on the planet, China has recently tightened its internet restrictions, allowing only VPNs approved by the government. Since the new restrictions came into place, some users in China have reported their regular VPNs no longer work, or have very slow traffic.
In Chongqing, anyone found to be using tools to access blocked content—that includes VPNs—is issued a warning and instructions to log off. Second-time rules violators can be fined between 10,000 to 15,000 yen (up to $133USD). In Xinjiang, mobile users who have accessed a VPN have found their mobile service cut, with directions to seek police help to reconnect to the network.
Of course, the above stats were broadcast by the Chinese government, and it’s probably wise to be sceptical of any information they release.
A VPN gives access to the full and non-censored internet
Just because certain countries ban VPNs does not mean that you cannot physically use one. You may still use VPN software to access restricted content. However, some VPN providers may not service these areas. You may need to choose a VPN that offers protection against Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), one way that countries can see that you’re using a VPN.