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Is VPN legal?

There is always a general debate around the usage of VPN whether it is legal or illegal to use. Like most of us know, VPN enhances security and comes with certain undeniable benefits. Using VPN in most countries is legal but certain countries ban VPN entirely or partially depending on the purpose of its use.

VPN provides following benefits

If there are so many benefits of using VPN, why do some countries choose to ban VPN?

Though VPN can provide enhanced security and protect users from identity theft, it can also be used for carrying out illegal activities. Traffic on VPN is not traceable and in most cases, VPN vendors do not maintain traceable logs.

These features of VPN are used by several scamsters and hackers for their advantage. This lets them carry illegal activities which can remain untraceable and cannot be detected. Countries with more stringent censorship owing to certain socio-economic or political conditions sometimes choose to make use of VPN as illegal.

Illegal use of VPN

VPN is used by hackers, cybercriminals and terrorist groups to perform unlawful online activities. Since these are untraceable, it puts them at least risk. Few of the illegal usage of VPN are:

  • Hacking: Hackers use VPN to hide their identity and gain unauthorized access to the network. The intention here is to disrupt services, steal data or bring a bad reputation to the organization or government.
  • Cyberstalking: Online stalkers create ruckus by stalking users and at the same time remain safe by being untraceable.
  • Illegal File sharing: Certain files, multi-media content have copyrights associated and are not supposed to be shared or downloaded online. Torrenting is something that most users carry on over a VPN.
  • Dark Web: Dark web is a place which is hidden from most online users. A great deal of illegal activities is carried out over the dark web. Illegal activities involving a trade of banned items such as drugs, weapons are done over dark web using VPN.
  • Illegal content: Illegal content such as pornography is viewed with VPN. Again, keeping the activity untraceable.
  • Cyber-attacks: Cyber-attacks such as spreading malware, identity theft, and catfishing is carried out using VPN.

The above reasons make the use of VPN illegal in certain countries.

Countries where VPN is illegal

Countries such as USA, UK, Canada, and most countries allow VPN and it's legal. However, there are a few countries where VPN is banned and illegal.

Few of these countries are:

  • China: VPN is considered illegal in China. While this is illegal, it isn't completely banned. Few VPN providers can still operate after obtaining relevant license from the government. The VPN provider will have to abide by the laws of the nation and accept government terms and conditions to share relevant data when required.

    This is proactively done to maintain adequate content and internet usage censorship.
  • Turkey: Social media usage in Turkey is restricted or banned. Along with social media websites, the government has also banned VPN services. This makes the usage of VPN illegal in Turkey and requires usage of only government approved VPN service providers .
  • Iraq: Iraq which is under constant stress owing to its political conditions and constant threats from unlawful groups had no choice but to make VPN usage illegal. This, however, has put the ban around complete Iraq on VPN usage.
  • Russia: To prohibit accessing certain websites, the government of Russia made usage of VPN illegal in certain cases. Legitimate usage of VPN is still allowed. Accessing banned content via VPN is considered illegal. While this is not completely illegal, the use of VPN is still controversial around this region.
  • UAE: In UAE, VPN is banned and can result in heavy fines. Unlike other countries, the main intention of banning VPN in UAE is to cut down on the VOIP services. Since this will impact the existing telecommunications market. Owing to this reason, the UAE considers the use of VPN illegal.
  • Turkmenistan: VPN is completely banned. The country has only one ISP and that belongs to the government. This is a step taken to impose censorship on foreign media.
  • Iran: Iran does not completely make the usage of VPN illegal. However, users can use VPN only from government licensed providers. This again is similar to China, where the government would impose restrictions and require cooperation when needed.
  • Oman: Oman has restriction and censorship for internet usage, social media and hence also bans VPN.
  • Belarus: Belarus banned VPN in 2015, though this is similar to Russia and is not a complete ban. The ISP must continuously check the list of banned service providers published by the government. Using a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions can be fined.
  • North Korea: North Korea imposes several internet restrictions and also bans VPN usage for its locals.

China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Belarus and UAE have VPN restrictions and are governed by the government. You can only use VPN services from government-licensed providers. Iraq, North Korea and Turkmenistan completely ban VPN. Based on political and social situation these laws are bound to be altered. Though most countries allow VPN as a legal activity, yet there are a few countries which either fully or partially ban VPN.

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