Given the rise in the number of online threats, Internet users are always on the lookout for applications and tools that will protect both them and their data.
In most countries around the world, online threats are a common complaint among Internet users. It all begins with the Internet service provider tracking and storing the activities of the user. Which is when businesses and everyday internet users like you or I turn to VPN's.
Quick Answer: In ‘most' countries, a VPN is NOT illegal, however, there are some countries such as China and Russia for example that have made operating a VPN both illegal and punishable by law.
Lack of Privacy
Tech companies like Google and Facebook are also quite infamous for collecting user data without consent and selling them to third party advertisers. As if that wasn't enough, government and security agencies are also known to keep a track of Internet users’ activities. We all know James Clapper lied to Feinstein!
In many countries, the Internet is heavily censored and people are allowed to access only certain sites. These are countries that prove big government is frightening. In addition and besides, there are pesky threats like your next door neighbor using your Wi-Fi connection or hackers stealing your data.
Given the varied nature of these different threats, it isn't easy to be safe from all of them. There isn't even any law anywhere in the world to specifically protect internet users against these online dangers.
In the US, there has recently been a lot of uproar surrounding data protection after net neutrality was abolished. Various states including California and Vermont have also passed their own data protection regulations.
But in the end, it is upon people to take safety measures and protect themselves from these threats. And given the rise in the number of threats in recent years, an increasing number of people resort to security solutions for the safety of their data online.
More than a Trend
One of the most popular security solutions right now is the virtual private network, also called VPN. Of late, there has been a spurt in the number of VPN users around the world. Every year the number of VPN users around the world has been increasing by 30 percent.
Years ago, only an anti-malware solution was enough to protect the user from online threats but these days the threats are so complex that only a capable VPN can provide adequate safety.
There has been a lot of debate regarding the use of a VPN to access the Internet. A large number of people use a VPN to remain safe online but there are various countries where such applications are not allowed.
This gives rise to doubts in the minds of internet users regarding the legality of the VPN. Before we discuss whether a VPN is legal or illegal let's take a look at what the application actually is.
What is a VPN?
In the simplest terms, a VPN creates for you your own private network on the Internet. A private network is your own space on the Internet, which no one else has access to. It's quite like individual apartments part of a whole block.
The whole premises are the public network where everyone has free access to, while the individual apartments are private and accessible only by the rightful owners.
When you access the Internet with the help of a VPN no one else on the network gets to know what you are up to. You remain completely private and anonymous.
This is made possible with the help of encryption. A VPN hides your computer’s original IP address by rerouting your Internet traffic through a secure channel between your device and the remote VPN server.
The traffic is normally routed through the server of your Internet service provider, which enables them to view all your activities online.
But when your traffic is routed through the remote VPN server your activities remain hidden even from your Internet service provider. This process is called encryption which makes your data secure and visible only to you and to a remote VPN server.
A VPN is nothing new. It is a technology that has existed for decades and often been used by banks and large corporations for data safety. In fact, VPNs are used on a massive scale by businesses. It has recently gained popularity because individuals have started using it for being safe on the Internet. We have all seen the TV series 24!
When you connect to the Internet via a VPN, all outsiders can see is the IP address of the remote VPN server. They will have no clue what you are doing online, let alone tracking your activities or stealing your data.
Because of the strong protection it provides, a virtual private network is often used by those who regularly use public Wi-Fi. Those making online payments, sharing sensitive data or accessing geo-blocked content also use a VPN.
For instance, if you want to access Netflix India from the US, you cannot do so without the help of a VPN. When you are connected to the internet via a VPN you can choose a server in India to spoof your location. This will allow you to access Netflix India (House of Cards is amazing!).
Similarly, if the Internet in your country is heavily censored then a VPN will allow you to access the internet freely like everyone else. In these countries, the VPN is very popular because it enables citizens to freely access the Internet without the government monitoring the activities.
Are VPNs legal?
VPNs are in use throughout the world and in most countries, they are not illegal. However, countries like China and Russia do not allow the use of VPNs. In regards to Russia, this is one reason why so many Russians don’t even want to live in that country but that is another topic.
In China the use of a VPN is illegal and users can be fined or jailed for this offense. Running and promoting a VPN service is also an offense.
China has its Issues
Over the last few months, China has banned several VPN providers making it difficult for citizens to access the Internet freely. Russia has also blocked several VPNs in recent months. Unless you live in these countries the use of a VPN is completely legal.
However, you cannot and should not commit any illegal activity with the use of a VPN. Even if you use a VPN it does not mean you cannot be traced. Criminal activities committed via a VPN can easily be found. Which is good – there is some bad people out there – the movie Blackhat verified that!
This can put both you and the VPN provider in danger. Aside from this, there are no restrictions on how you can use a VPN to protect yourself and your data. VPNs use a number of security protocols to protect your data online and they are all safe and legal.
How safe are VPNs?
There are two kinds of virtual private networks: free and paid. Although free VPNs are more attractive to those who do not want to spend money on something new, stellar paid VPNs are much more effective at providing security.
Free VPNs are mostly ad-supported and have also been found to collect user data and sell it to third party advertisers.
Also, the encryption protocols used by free VPNs are mostly weak and outdated. Only paid VPN provide the best service because they charge a monthly fee from users and are therefore more responsible towards them.
Not a Quick Decision
If you live in a country where the VPN is legal, you should select an excellent paid provider. Do not forget to read user reviews and do a thorough background check on the company before making a purchase. The right VPN provider is often the key to your online safety, so make sure you make the choice carefully.