Introducing the updated Proton. More services, one privacy mission. Learn more

Introducing the updated Proton. Learn more

           

Are VPNs legal? A country-by-country guide.

Posted on April 19th, 2018 by in Privacy & Security, Security.

 

VPNs keep your online activity private and unrestricted. Some countries with repressive governments have outlawed VPNs in an attempt to maintain control.

Updated October 1st 2021

Using a VPN helps you to evade all but the most sophisticated efforts to regulate the internet and censor information. That is why repressive governments around the world have been making efforts to block or ban VPNs. However, such legislation is generally unpopular and hard to enforce, which steers most countries away from outright bans.

Rather than try to ban VPNs altogether, many countries simply try to block access to known VPN service providers. While this is difficult, it can be done if governments are willing to dedicate resources to the task. 

This post includes a list of the countries where VPNs are banned or blocked, and explores your rights to browsing privately.

How do governments block VPNs?

Blocking ports or IP addresses

When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is protected because it is encrypted and routed through the VPN server, obscuring your IP address. This traffic can be stopped by blocking ports that are used by some VPN protocols, such as PPTP or L2TP or outright blocking the IP addresses of VPN services.

Proton VPN does not use PPTP or L2TP. We only use protocols which are known to be secure OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard.

The most sophisticated tools, like deep packet inspection, can actually identify VPN protocols in packet metadata, allowing countries like China to find and block VPN servers in a more automated and targeted fashion. Countries that are not worried about the economic impact of blanket internet censorship, like North Korea, have simply blocked access to all overseas IP addresses.

Making VPN usage illegal

Other countries that do not have the technology to block VPNs have passed legislation that outlaws VPN services that are not registered with the government. The most repressive countries have made all VPNs illegal and instituted severe punishments for those who are caught, hoping to scare people away despite the technical difficulty of detecting VPN traffic.

Where are VPNs illegal?

VPN illegality isn’t always as clear cut as having a single law against their usage. Countries with strict internet censorship laws, for example, may de facto ban VPNs as part of their restrictive controls on how citizens can use the internet. These countries are listed below as Uncertain status countries.

Other countries may not make VPNs illegal outright, but instead they will block VPN servers or force ISPs to prevent their customers from accessing VPNs. Countries where VPNs are blocked or banned by ISPs, despite not being outlawed, are listed under Countries that have blocked VPNs.

Countries where there are laws forbidding the use of VPNs outright are listed under Countries where VPNs are illegal.

Uncertain status

Certain countries have very strict internet censorship laws, meaning that using a VPN within that country can come with risks, even if there is not a known legal ban. Countries with these kinds of censorship laws include:

  • North Korea
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Vietnam
  • Bahrain

Other countries have taken actions to block and ban VPN traffic, although these governments do not necessarily have full control of their territory and infrastructure. In any case, the governments of these countries can be considered as hostile to VPN use, and citizens may be at risk if they are found to be using them. Examples of these countries include:

  • Syria
  • Libya

Countries that have blocked VPNs

The countries below have placed technological restrictions on their citizens’ ability to access the internet in order to block VPNs or discourage people from using one.

Myanmar

Myanmar has been ramping up its internet censorship in the wake of the February 2021 military coup. This has included restricting internet access for Myanmar’s citizens down to a handful of “whitelisted” websites. The military rulers have ordered ISPs to block access to VPNs to prevent people from skirting these internet restrictions.

Turkey

In 2016, the Erdogan regime began blocking VPN services and Tor. Now Turkey is using deep packet inspection techniques, similar to China, to detect and block VPN and Tor traffic. 

The use of a VPN connection in Turkey can also mark you out as a person of interest for law enforcement. Despite this, VPN usage in Turkey is quite widespread. 

The website Turkey Blocks monitors internet censorship in Turkey.

Uganda

In response to the failed implementation of a tax on social media, the use of VPN services by Ugandans soared. The Ugandan government responded by demanding that local internet service providers block VPN services. 

After scrapping the social media tax in favor of a tax on all internet usage, the Ugandan government also implemented an entire internet blackout during the elections. While there is currently no legislation specifically against VPNs in Uganda, they continue to block VPN servers.

United Arab Emirates

In 2016, the UAE revised its laws, making the use of a VPN service “to commit a crime or prevent its discovery” punishable by temporary imprisonment and a fine of up to two million dirham (roughly $540,000).

While there are legal uses for VPNs in the UAE, the country has also placed an outright ban on VoIP calls and numerous websites, including some French TV channels and Netflix. It is illegal to use a VPN to access any of these blocked websites or to place a banned call.

Venezuela

In 2018, Venezuela’s largest internet service provider attempted to block the use of Tor and VPN services, presumably on government orders. However, there are no specific laws against using VPNs in Venezuela at present.

Countries where VPNs are illegal

The countries below have passed laws directly or indirectly prohibiting the use of VPNs.

Belarus

The Belarusian government has worked to restrict its citizens’ access to the outside internet for years. In 2015 it banned both Tor and VPN services, although it appears Belarusians have found ways to circumvent the technological and legal barriers.

China

China has perhaps gone the furthest of any country to ban and block VPNs and Tor. Any VPN service must be licensed by the Chinese government. Those that are not will be closed if they are in-country or blocked if they are based in a foreign country. China is one of the few countries in the world that has complete control of all the local internet service providers, and they use deep packet inspection to monitor internet traffic in and entering into the Chinese cybersphere. They are generally able to identify and block VPN traffic.

Iran

In 2013, Iran attempted to block access to VPNs based in foreign countries, only allowing VPN services that are licensed and registered with the Iranian government. While selling or promoting VPNs is a crime and citizens can be punished for using a VPN, VPN use among citizens and even government officials is still very common.

Iraq

In trying to deal with ISIS’s online presence, the Iraqi government has gone to extremes — not only banning VPN services and social media, but also instituting rolling blackouts of the internet across the country. Although the country is no longer under siege by ISIS, its draconian internet restrictions remain in place.

Oman

In 2010, Oman passed a law that prohibited individuals from using VPN services. Anyone caught violating this law is subject to a 500 rial fine (roughly $1,300). Companies can apply for a permit to use a government-approved VPN, but if a company is found to be breaking the anti-VPN law, it faces a 1,000 rial fine.

Russia

Russia has taken strong legal action to control free speech and access to information both within its borders and online. The Russian Duma passed the Yarovaya Law in 2016, which required that VPN services register with the government and log their users’ online activity. In 2017, the Duma passed another law that required approved VPNs to block their users from accessing certain websites the Russian government had blacklisted. Those that did not were threatened with bans. 

As Proton VPN does not have a presence in Russia, nor do we log information which allows us to establish whether or not we have users in Russia, we cannot and have not complied with these laws.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is one of the worst countries in the world for internet freedom. There is an outright ban on VPNs in this country, with reports of citizens being required to swear on the Koran that they will not use one before they are able to have an internet connection installed. There have also been reports that the authorities in Turkmenistan will stop people in the street and search their smartphone to ensure they do not have a VPN installed on their device.

CountryStatus
BahrainUncertain
BelarusIllegal
ChinaIllegal
CubaUncertain
EgyptUncertain
IranIllegal
IraqIllegal
LibyaUncertain
MyanmarBlocked
North KoreaUncertain
OmanIllegal
RussiaIllegal
SyriaUncertain
TurkeyBlocked
TurkmenistanIllegal
UAEBlocked
UgandaBlocked
VenezuelaBlocked
VietnamUncertain

Where are VPNs legal?

Using a VPN is legal in the vast majority of countries, but using a VPN to break the law is not. So using a VPN to infringe on copyright or for hacking purposes is still illegal, even though the use of VPN itself isn’t.

No countries accept private browsing as an inalienable human right, so it’s important that everyone continues to defend the ability to legally use a VPN, even if you live in a country where VPN usage is unrestricted.

For example, the UK government has repeatedly attempted to block, repeal, or break privacy and security methods, such as end-to-end encryption, and has also implemented the Investigatory Powers Act, allowing them to access citizens’ browsing data. So while VPNs remain entirely legal in the UK, it doesn’t mean they always will be.

Similar anti-privacy moves are being made by governments around the world, including in countries where VPNs are legal.

Why are VPNs illegal in some countries?

If there is a commonality among all the countries on this list, it is that their governments want to control the information their citizens have access to. These governments are afraid that if they had to compete in the marketplace of ideas, they would lose. Instead, they have resorted to the 21st century equivalent of shutting down newspapers and burning books.

Our mission is to provide an internet that is free and secure. Until that day arrives, we will continue to offer a free and unlimited VPN service to support those who do not have other means to access the information they need.

Prior to joining Proton, Richie spent several years working on tech solutions in the developing world. He joined the Proton team to advance the rights of online privacy and freedom.

46 comments

  1. Ahmed Ariyan Khan

    I’m from Bangladesh. Is VPN (virtual private network) illegal in Bangladesh? Please answer.

  2. Douglas Crawford

    Hi Ahmed. The government in Bangladesh has invested heavily in technology that can detect VPN use, but does not block them. VPN use is not illeegal, per se., but what you do when using one might be.

  3. H M

    “As ProtonVPN does not have a presence in Russia, nor do we log information which allows to establish whether or not we have users in Russia, we cannot and have not complied with these laws.”
    What do you mean by that? You do offer VPN access to russian servers so how are we to understand this statement from the article? Thanks.

  4. Douglas Crawford

    Hi H M. We don’t run any servers in Russia. People in Russia can use our service by connecting to servers located elsewhere, but since we don’t log where our users are connecting from, we have no way of knowing how many of them are connecting from Russia.

  5. International User

    Hello. Thanks for your great services!
    I’m a user from Iran. In 2019 I could connect to internet from any proton servers but in 2020 I can connect from some limited number of proton servers, these are exactly the ones that I occasionally used them in 2019 and other servers are blocked. How could explain this? Thank you very much.

  6. Richie Koch

    If you share which servers you connected with our Support team (https://protonvpn.com/support-form), they can look into what issue could be and help you connect to other servers.

  7. natan

    Hello! I would like to know if I can use proton VPN in Turkmenistan?

  8. Richie Koch

    Hello Nata, yes, you can use ProtonVPN in Turkmenistan. However, we do not yet have any servers in Turkmenistan, so you will need to connect to servers in a different country.

  9. Nareth

    There are loads of ProtonVPN servers in EU, N. America, and some in Africa. But not one protonVPN server in Southeast Asia, at least I have seen anything yet. Could you tell us the reasons why?

    Thx.

  10. Richie Koch

    Hi Nareth,
    We do have servers available Southeast Asia, in both Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore is one of our larger data centers. You can see where are all our servers are located here https://protonvpn.com/vpn-servers.
    Cheers

  11. stellan reef

    hi i am from china please help me to access google and youtube and how to bypass vpn restrictions from this country

  12. jack

    Hi,
    so what are those ways in which we can use VPN from Vpn-banned country?

  13. Ben Wolford

    There are risks involved with using a VPN in a country where these are illegal. If you need assistance, you can reach out to our support team: https://protonvpn.com/support-form

  14. Kazi Ahmed Abdullah

    Saudi arabia is also in the list

  15. Ahmed Nabil

    hello i live in egypt…and 4 month ago or something like that i was using proton without np but now when i try to connect to any country it won’t allow me for some reason i dont know i tried for few months now is my country banned proton or whats going on regarding egypt?

  16. Ben Wolford

    Hi Ahmed, I’m sorry you’re having trouble connecting. Please contact our customer support team, which should be able to help you: https://protonvpn.com/support-form Thank you!

  17. Honkr

    Is a VPN in Montenegro legal?

  18. Ben Wolford

    Yes, VPNs are legal in Montenegro as of now.

  19. Anonemolga

    Can the USA be added to the list? The Trump regime is using COVID-19 and the BLM protests as an opportunity and justification for outlawing Internet privacy and requiring everyone to accept government surveillance.

  20. Umar

    add Pakistan to the list.

  21. ariel

    will u get hardware ban on fortnite using proton vpn

  22. Omar Ghali

    Hi I would like to know if I can use proton VPN in Egypt, because I think the government is trying to block it.

  23. turkmen

    Hi I live in turkmenistan. Here all kind of vpns are blocked except psiphon. Also psiphon does not work on mobile data

  24. Asif khan

    I like it

  25. loudzx

    hey ProtonVPN Team
    am trying to connect from Egypt but doesn’t work , failed
    any other method to work it out

  26. Anonymous

    Please do something about Indian administrated Kashmir, where Government has put firewall against VPN’s.

  27. Syafizi

    Hi,
    If I were to travel to these country and forgot to switch off my always-on VPN, would it cause me trouble with the authorities?
    Regards,
    Syafizi

  28. Qwerty

    Not working in Kashmir ☹️

  29. Ahmet

    there is no such a thing as Erdogan regime,, Turkey managed with democracy and fair elections. Erdogan took over 50% votes.. and Over 90% applied for voting..

  30. Ahmed

    Nowadays India is trying to block the VPNs in indian occupied kashmir (IOK) but they failed 🤣🤣🤣

  31. Polish Lap Dog

    Polska, baby. We ain’t banned.

  32. Masanori

    Hi sir. Can i use protonvpn in saudi arabia, many apps seems have been banned or limited in use. However, i’d like to bypass this through vpn but I wonder if it safe for me since i’m a foreign worker here. Please repond thank you very much

  33. Yo

    Yo I heard vpns were banned so I used a VPN to acees vpn

  34. Analnymous User

    greetings from belarus!

  35. Richie Koch

    Hello!

  36. Maria

    Is VPN banned in Aleppo Syria? Thank you

  37. ProtonVPN Admin

    Hi, Maria! Unfortunately, Syria is one of the countries that might be blocking VPN connections and have restrictions on it. However, there is a possible workaround for this, so please contact our ProtonVPN support team at the following link: https://protonvpn.com/support-form. If you cannot open the support form link, please send a message to contact@protonvpn.com. I

  38. mon

    i am in the UAE and was wondering if proton VPN can bypass the VPN block here

  39. ProtonVPN Admin

    Hello! Unfortunately, UAE is one of the countries that are blocking VPN connections and have restrictions on it. However, there is a possible workaround for this, so please contact our ProtonVPN support team at the following link so we can provide you with other connection methods: protonvpn.com/support-form

  40. rob

    How could you connect to a vpn using other means if the country is blocking the normal protocols for vpn access?

  41. ProtonVPN Admin

    Hello! There is a way to bypass the ProtonVPN block in certain countries. Could you please tell us from which country are you coming from and what device are you using?
    Please note that according to the protocol used, there are different ports needed for the VPN connection. For instance, the IKEv2 protocol is using the ports 4500 and 500. We are using IKEv2 protocol on our native Android, Mac, and iOS applications.
    For the OpenVPN connection method, there are different ports used according to the UDP/TCP protocols. Therefore, if the IKEv2 ports are closed, you can try the OpenVPN connection method as the connection will be established via different ports which may not be blocked.
    If you need further help, please get in touch with our support team directly: https://protonvpn.com/support-form

  42. kiki

    Does it mean people located in these countries cannot use Proton VPN services too?

  43. Richie

    Hello! Not necessarily – it is a list of countries which governments want to control the information their citizens have access to. The situation really depends on a country, however, usually there are alternative ways for users to connect to VPN in these countries.

  44. Nikolai

    Greetings from Mother Russia! ^_^

  45. Daniel

    You guys are fighting the good fight. Keep it up!

  46. francisca

    thank you for this article.

Comments are closed.

Secure
your internet

Get Proton VPN
Get Proton VPN

For customer support inquiries, please submit the following form for the fastest response:
Support Form

For all other inquiries:
contact@protonvpn.com


-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
Version: OpenPGP.js v4.10.10
Comment: https://openpgpjs.org
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=ueTT
-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

You can also Tweet to us:
@ProtonVPN