A virtual private network (VPN) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.
Are VPNs legal?
Every country has a different stance on VPNs, and not all see them as favorable. Currently, a handful of governments either regulate or outright ban VPNs. Those currently include Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, and the U.A.E., to name a few. Still others impose internet censorship laws, which makes using a VPN risky.
Depending on the country, governments may impose fines on both the citizen and the VPN service provider for using an unsanctioned VPN. In addition to laws varying country by country, laws in the U.S. can vary state by state. In some countries, banks and companies are free to use VPNs. Generally, governments justify these decisions as preventing terrorist or criminal activity.
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While virtual private networks may conjure images of illegal activities and mysterious figures on the dark web, in reality VPNs are currently legal to use in many countries, including the U.S. Some VPNs encrypt your connection to the internet, disguise your IP address, and prevent others, like the government or internet service providers (ISPs), from tracking your virtual whereabouts.
VPNs and Illegal Activities
While using a VPN itself is rarely unlawful, certain online activities remain illegal, whether you’re using a VPN or not. These may include:
- Illegal file-sharing
Also known as torrenting, this is where users simultaneously download and upload copyright-protected content (such as music, movies and games) between each other over the internet.
Gaining unauthorized access to computers or networks belonging to other companies or individuals, either to disrupt activity, carry out acts of fraud or steal data, is illegal.
- Buying, selling or downloading on the dark web
The dark web is an under-the-radar area of the internet, where a great deal of illegal activity occurs, such as buying or selling drugs, weapons and other illicit materials, or accessing illegal pornography.
- Cyber stalking
It’s illegal to stalk someone online and cover your tracks using a VPN.
Hers’s Why We Recommend ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN, which comes highly rated by users and reviewers, works on devices including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux and routers. Based in the British Virgin Islands, it costs around $8.32 a month if you take out a 12-month plan. With a network of more than 2,000 servers in 94 countries, Express offers top-notch coverage in Europe and the US. It also works pretty well in Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. It uses its own DNS servers and employs high-end encryption tech to ensure your security and privacy.
ExpressVPN offers access to more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations across 94 countries, alongside maybe the widest platform support you’ll find anywhere.
We’re not just talking about native clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, plus iOS, Android, and even BlackBerry. There’s a custom firmware for some routers, DNS content-unblocking for a host of streaming media devices and smart TVs, and surprisingly capable VPN browser extensions for anything which can run them.
All that functionality could sound intimidating to VPN newbies, but ExpressVPN does more than most to help. An excellent support website is stuffed with detailed guides and tutorials to get you up and running. And if you do have any trouble, 24/7 live chat support is on hand to answer your questions.
The good news continues elsewhere, with ExpressVPN delivering in almost every area. Bitcoin payments? Of course. P2P support? Yep. Netflix unblocking? Naturally. Industrial-strength encryption, kill switch, DNS leak protection, solid and reliable performance, and a clear no-logging policy? You’ve got it.
Downsides? Not many to speak of. The ExpressVPN service supports five simultaneous connections per user (increased recently from three), and it comes with a premium price tag. But if you want a speedy service, crammed with top-notch features, and with all the support you need to help you use them, ExpressVPN will be a great fit. While they don’t have a free trial, ExpressVPN has a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t happy with the service.