Iran Cracks Down on ‘Unauthorized’ VPN Use

Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska Senior Editor
Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska Senior Editor

Iran has banned the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) unless you have a “legal permit,” a move that underscores a heightened crackdown on online freedom in the country. The country’s National Virtual Space Center issued the new rules as part of a resolution that was issued last week, which was approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran banned the buying and selling of VPNs in 2023, but the Supreme Council of Cyberspace now says that using “refinement-breaking tools,” with no selling or buying involved, is prohibited except for those who’ve obtained a legal permit.

That’s the Iranian government’s latest term for VPN, which is an online privacy tool that allows a user to connect to a server in a different country. These tools are widely used by Iranians to bypass the country’s stringent internet restrictions.

In Iran, all major social media platforms such as Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, and Telegram, along with thousands of other websites, are officially banned. Despite this, they continue to attract tens of millions of users from the country and one of the only ways to do that is to rely on tools for getting around these restrictions.

“By making unauthorized VPN usage illegal, the regime is not only violating the basic human right of freedom of expression, but also isolating the Iranian people from the rest of the world and depriving them of the benefits of the digital age,” Azam Jangravi, Information Security Analyst at CitizenLab and women’s rights advocate, said.

Jangravi added that the new resolution is “a clear sign of the regime’s fear of the power of the internet and the potential of the Iranian people to challenge its legitimacy and demand change.”

The new directive also calls for other regulations. Among other things, it asks the culture ministry and the economy and information and communications technology ministries to work together on a plan to incentivise businesses and content creators to focus “strictly on local platforms.”

“Any advertisement by legal entities on foreign platforms is illegal,” the directive said.

About the Author
Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska
Senior Editor

About the Author

Penka Hristovska is an editor at SafetyDetectives. She was an editor at several review sites that covered all things technology — including VPNs and password managers — and had previously written on various topics, from online security and gaming to computer hardware. She’s highly interested in the latest developments in the cybersecurity space and enjoys learning about new trends in the tech sector. When she’s not in “research mode,” she’s probably re-watching Lord of The Rings or playing DOTA 2 with her friends.

Leave a Comment