Attention, travelers: countries where VPNs are illegal

[ inspired by article posted on the German version of the CyberGhost blog by Ulrich Brügmann; access the original article here ]

In some countries, topless sunbathing is frowned upon and strictly prohibited. Such a place is Egypt. In other countries, wearing a burqa is not allowed. That kind of place is France. Winter tires are also source for controversy, as using them during summer can lead to certain fines in Italy.

If such things leave room for debate, it comes as no surprise that tools such as VPNs are frowned upon in certain places, especially since they were created to protect our identities online, thus not allowing others to spy on us and maybe to control us easier.

Why are VPNs banned?

The reasons/pretexts for which VPNs are banned vary. The most widespread ones are terrorism, child pornography distribution, spreading malware, committing fraud or other illegal activities. Such a measure may save time and effort when catching certain felons, but it could expose many innocents to various types of cybercrimes.

However, this VPN ban is taken very seriously in the countries which have adopted it. Harsh punishments can be applied to those violating it, including simple tourists.

What forms of punishments are applied?

If you take the following excerpt from the United Arab Emirates’ federal law, you will notice that breaking the VPN ban is in no way regarded lightly:

“Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 [US$136,000] and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000 [US$544,500] of either of these two penalties.”

One could probably say that the law only refers to “fraudulent” uses of a VPN, but how can a person prove they’re not doing anything illegal, while their traffic is encrypted with a VPN?

There are countries where it is illegal to use a #VPN. Find out if the rule applies to travelers too: Click to Tweet

What other countries have VPN bans?

At the moment, apart from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia have made the use of VPN services illegal. Some countries like China will allow the use of approved VPN services.

What’s CyberGhost’s stance on this?

We strongly believe that such restrictive measures are against our basic rights as human beings. However, as digital freedom fighters, we do not encourage anyone to undertake illicit activities in order to bypass these laws, as they will have to go through unwanted consequences. Before doing anything that could be deemed as against the law, inform yourself and act accordingly.

CyberGhost is strongly aware that the identification of VPN connections is a new threat and is working to provide a solution to offer users the best and safest tool for a free Internet for those living in or visiting such countries.

In the meantime, to avoid re-debiting affected subscriptions, the automatic renewal should be disabled in your account management section. In our FAQ, you will find a step-step-by-step guide for the temporary or permanent termination of a prepaid subscription.

Please do not hesitate to contact us via Support for further questions. If you cannot reach us via our website, because the entire CyberGhost network is blocked in your location, try getting in touch with us via social media like Facebook or Twitter.

About the author

Corina Dobre
Corina Dobre

A professional wordsmith, Corina has improved her writing skills through extensive experiences in journalism, advertising and marketing. Curious by nature, she enjoys learning foreign languages and discovering everything, as well as everyone around her.

12 Comments

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  • The rules in China and UAE are seriously haunting. I’m so used to using PureVPN I cannot imagine connecting to a network without it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ian! Have you tried using CyberGhost as well? Unlike PureVPN, we also have a free version which you can try before deciding to purchase a subscription. Cheers and thanks for dropping by!

    • Hi Andres! We’re happy you enjoyed our article. We always post useful privacy-related articles & updates on our blog, so drop by anytime & comment with your input. Cheers!

  • The usage of VPN is not banned in Saudi Arabia or UAE, if it’s, they could force the block of VPN port, even your router has a checkbox to block VPN traffic, some other hardware could inspect the packet itself.
    These laws are just a follow up for banning such similar service as proxy sites, or tight the usage of online calling (Skype, Viber).
    The banning of online calling services is totally economical by the way (dose not mean I support/opposed) & no time to write about it here.

    Your argument of “how can you prove you are not doing something illegal?” has no place acutely, as another could argument: “how can you prove I committed a crime?”. VPN is a well known protocol across enterprise and personal use as well. If Cyberghost worries about being identified as a common VPN gateway it should not hold a private ip sub-range and depends on datacenters provided ip’s, simple.

    I totally understand some of you did not ever travel to Saudi Arabia, or went to UAE and had some chilly feeling.
    But, we are nice as you are.

    • Hi Abdullah! Your perspective is very useful, thanks for dropping by and commenting. We will definitely use your information for further research on the matter. PS: the topic of the article was never about niceness, we only debate matters of digital privacy on our blog and are always open to our readers’ input. 🙂 Cheers and have a good day!

      • Hello Corina, I had a look at the regulation of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE.
        Regarding the above, all the countries in GCC area preserve censorship policy, but here are some facts from Saudi Arabia:
        The “Communications and information technology commission (CITC)” perform the censorship through a commercial list (that is, being paid for) and a local collected list (that is, you could report web address to). Fact from the local list (old {2011}, but you get the picture):
        90% sexual, 4% override the censorship (VPN’s, Proxies), and 3% relates to drugs & gambling. (source: http://web3.internet.sa/ar/content-filtering-in-saudi-arabia-ar/#, there is some drawing of the filtering by the way).
        Is there a penalty for overriding the censorship ? No I know of.
        Saudi Arabia & UAE do block proxies and VPN service website’s, unlike Kuwait which has the exact same filtering policies expect they don’t follow up to service’s that override the policies.
        There is a sub-argument here that said, “If they are filtering aren’t they logging?” a responds would be: “They are blocking what is possible to be logged”, in fact, both Kuwait & Saudi Arabia have a statement to prevent acquaintance of the traffic.
        As for the Cybercrime part, only UAE is mentioning the false use of ip address.
        KSA: http://www.citc.gov.sa/en/RulesandSystems/CITCSystem
        Kuwait: There is no English translation, but you could take my word on this matter.
        A double fact: I had just read the UAE article through the link you provided, and I do recall an incident I responded to, were a website holding a country TLD was hit with a malicious script to spread SPAM. Well, if we replaced that spamming script with a proxy script to hide our initial identity, then we are under the UAE article.
        A conclusion would be, No VPN is not banned in KSA or UAE :).

        Well, I would always drop in good post’s. Thanks.

        • Hi Abdullah and thanks again for the useful feedback and links! I see that you agree that Saudi Arabia and UAE block proxies and VPN services’ websites, so would it be safe to say that they also ban VPN usage? Because if you cannot download the software from the company’s website, it would be quite difficult to get it from another trustworthy source. Is it allowed for instance to download a VPN app from the Play Store or App Store?

          Also, it would be very useful if you could also give us some first-hand input on the matter – for example, have you or someone you know tried using a VPN in UAE and Saudi Arabia, with no legal consequences?

          Thank you and have a great weekend!

  • Using VPN in Russia absolutely isn’t illegal. Some sites providing VPN services are banned and that’s all.

    • Hi Evrusli! Then this leaves the same question as mentioned in a previous comment – if the website is banned, how will most users be able to download a VPN on a desktop device, for instance?

    • Hi radichok! No, our service is available to anyone from any country, unless that country’s law has made VPN usage illegal.

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