Today, a handful of governments regulate or outright prohibit VPNs. These currently include Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia and the United States, A, E. Others impose internet censorship laws, making using a VPN risky. VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea and Turkmenistan.
The use of VPN services is heavily restricted in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. More sophisticated tools, such as deep packet inspection, can identify VPN protocols in packet metadata, allowing countries like China to find and block VPN servers in a more automated and specific way. Countries that aren't concerned about the economic impact of general Internet censorship, such as North Korea, have simply blocked access to all foreign IP addresses. Countries where there are laws that strongly prohibit the use of VPNs are listed in Countries where VPNs are illegal.
China is perhaps the farthest country from banning and blocking VPNs and Tor than any other country. Any VPN service must have a license from the Chinese government. Those that are not will be closed if they are in the country or will be blocked if they are based in a foreign country. China is one of the few countries in the world that has full control of all local Internet service providers, and they use deep packet inspection to monitor Internet traffic entering and entering the Chinese cybersphere.
They can generally identify and block VPN traffic. In trying to deal with the online presence of ISIS, the Iraqi government has gone to the extreme by not only banning VPN services and social media, but also instituting ongoing Internet blackouts across the country. Although the country is no longer besieged by ISIS, its draconian Internet restrictions are still in place. Even before invading Ukraine, Russia had taken strong legal action to control freedom of expression and access to information both within its borders and online.
Since the beginning of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Russian government has tried to block access to all international news and social networks that have criticized the war or presented evidence that counteracts the government's national disinformation campaign. This caused a massive increase in demand for VPN services that could overcome these censorship blocks, prompting the Russian government to do everything possible to block VPN services themselves. Proton VPN is committed to fighting for the right of Russian citizens to access the Internet without censorship and, so far, has largely succeeded in evading efforts to block our service in Russia. This is a difficult and constantly evolving situation, but we will continue to address the needs of the Proton community in Russia.
Turkmenistan is one of the worst countries in the world for Internet freedom. There is a total ban on VPNs in this country, with reports that citizens are required to swear by the Quran that they won't use any before they can have an Internet connection installed. There have also been reports that authorities in Turkmenistan will detain people on the street and search their smartphones to make sure they don't have a VPN installed on their device. Hi Nata, yes, you can use ProtonVPN in Turkmenistan.
However, we don't have servers in Turkmenistan yet, so you'll need to connect to servers in another country. The punishment for using a VPN in these countries can range from a small fine to losing Internet access or even going to jail. Using a VPN in Turkmenistan may result in an unspecified fine and an intimidating order from the Ministry of National Security to hold a “preventive conversation”. North Koreans aren't allowed to access foreign media, so it's no surprise that VPNs are illegal.
Using a VPN is legal in most parts of the world, however, your activity while using the VPN is still subject to the laws of the country in which you are located. DPI can quickly identify the content of a VPN-protected data stream based on a series of preset indicators. VPNs are just one of many tools that digital rights activists have at their disposal to try to get their fellow citizens to see their own governments and their activities in the light of day, and they are constantly fighting to ensure that information flows freely to anyone who wants to access it. The situation really depends on the country, however, there are usually alternative ways for users to connect to the VPN in these countries.
Using a VPN connection in Turkey can also identify you as a person of interest to law enforcement. Yes, UK residents are free to use VPNs, though, just like in the US. In the US, I would recommend users to monitor the jurisdiction. Using a VPN can also violate the terms of service of websites and apps you unblock from abroad.
The government justifies this by claiming that VPNs help users access illegal content (at least, illegal in the United Arab Emirates). Unfortunately (or perhaps, thankfully), Uganda lacks the means to fully impose a VPN block and many users are still using VPNs in the country. These governments don't want their citizens to use a VPN to watch pornography or certain TV shows and movies. Since using a VPN can basically circumvent these prohibitions, the country has declared it illegal to use all VPNs, except for government-approved service providers.