Are VPNs Illegal?

Using a VPN in the UK is not currently illegal. VPNs which are used for illegal activity does not make the illegal activity legal, as the sole purpose of using a VPN is to prevent illegal activity – such as data theft – from taking place online.

Discover all you need to know about the legality of VPNs in the UK.

 

What is a VPN?

 
VPN stands for virtual private network and is used frequently to reroute an internet connection through an alternate server. This means that any activity should be disguised as encrypted code, meaning that attackers will be unable to access sensitive information. This is the main advantage of using a VPN, as it makes it difficult for users to have information stolen and accounts accessed against their will as they provide increased security for the users. As a consequence, VPNs are typically used to provide access to employees from large organisations.

 

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VPNs are frequently used by organisations with multiple offices or staff who do not work in office on a daily basis. This is because they allow users to access files and data through a personal login which should be provided by the organisation, meaning that anything accessed should remain secure in spite of the user’s location and device. This can increase the safety for an organisation as logins should only be provided to those affiliated with the company or who need access to specific files or documentation.

It is understandable that many people believe using a VPN would be illegal as activity is not only concealed from attackers, but also from organisations such as the government. In spite of this, it is actually recommended to use a VPN in order to prevent having data or details stolen online. VPNs should be used wherever possible in both the UK and foreign countries, to ensure that the user is not exposed when transmitting data online.

 

Where are VPNs Legal?

 
VPNs are completely legal in the UK. There are no specific regulations currently in place meaning that individuals or organisations should not use a VPN. They are also legal in most countries around the world, with some exceptions being North Korea, China, the UAE and Iraq.

Using a VPN is a legal way in which an individual can increase their security of their internet connection. They also help to legally overcome geo-blocking sites which may prevent people from accessing streaming services not available within their region. The VPN should reveal a different address to the one that the service is actually being accessed from, providing the user with an address in a region that can access the content legally.

Before travelling to a new country, it is possible to check online whether a VPN is legal there, and whether it can be used to bypass geo-blockers. If it is illegal to use a VPN in specific countries, it is advised that those who typically use one do not during the time they will be abroad. Using a VPN illegally can be deemed a criminal offence in some places, especially if it has been used to access restricted or illegal content.

 

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Does Using a VPN Legalise Illegal Acts?

 
VPNs do not legalise illegal acts taking place online. If an individual uses a VPN to engage in illegal activity online, it is likely that the government will have an alternative means to find the criminal through high end technology. Using a VPN does not ensure that users will be untraceable online, especially to larger organisations such as the government.

If a VPN user has committed criminal activity, the government can demand that the VPN provider discloses the details to help with any enquiries. This is according to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 which is in place to ensure that VPN providers cannot conceal the identity of criminals using their services. This regulation will affect all VPN providers who are currently based in the UK and provide a VPN connection to UK citizens or those living or working within the UK.

Providers who do not operate within the UK may be exempt from this act. It is possible to use a VPN provider who are based abroad, however it is important to check the restrictions associated with that particular country in advance of using their server. This does not mean that the government will be unable to track down offenders and using one of these providers does not mean that they will not offer details to the UK government if they are asked to do so.

VPNs should not be used to bypass restrictions and engage in illegal activity online. No pirated content should be downloaded through the use of a VPN as this is highly illegal, and a VPN should not be used to bypass geo-blockers when there are legal restrictions in place prohibiting a user to do so. Using a VPN to access geo-blocked content is not always deemed illegal, so it is advised to check in advance of attempting to access the content.

 

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