Syria is one of the most censored countries on Earth. While it doesn’t have a country-wide Firewall like China, Syrians don’t really have much online freedom at all. According to the human rights group Freedom House, the Syrian internet landscape mirrors its real-life counterpart in being as dangerous a place as any.
Both the Syrian Government and the Islamic State have been known to monitor communications, social media, personal blogs, and even internet habits in general. Websites related to human rights groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, anti-government content, Kurdish activism, and regional politics are blocked inside Syria. Syrian citizens are known to self-censor their communications online for fear of being arrested.
In other words, you really need a tool that can keep your data secure, keep your connection private, and keep you anonymous while online. Enter VPNs.
VPNs encrypt all of your data and re-route your traffic through their own secure servers. When this happens, your public IP address automatically changes to match the address of the server you’re connected to. Not only does this make you anonymous online (mask your IP, mask your real location), but it also allows you to access geo-blocked and restricted content.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably considering a trip or a move to Syria. While the country is still mostly war-torn, many activists, Human Rights organizations, and volunteers regularly make the trip. Read on to find out why you’d need a VPN in Syria and which VPNs you should be using.
Why You Should Be Using A VPN In Syria
The authorities in Syria heavily control monitor and manipulate internet access. The human rights advocacy group, Freedom House, ranks countries by their controls on internet access. These figures are compiled into an annual report, called Freedom on the Net. The 2016 edition of this report put Syria in joint second place for the title of the least free nation in the world. It ranked alongside Iran and just after China (Freedom House doesn’t monitor North Korea).
Most Middle Eastern countries restrict access to porn sites, sites that cover gay rights, foreign news sites, and internet telephony applications. In Syria, things are a lot more complicated. Syria’s autocratic government, which the Ba’ath party permanently controls, is not fundamentally moralistic or repressive. Syria is home to a patchwork of cultures and religions. The governing party modeled itself on secular communist regimes to avoid the question of religion becoming a political issue. Thus many of the Islam-inspired bans on entertainment and information that dominate internet availability in the region don’t exist in Syria. The central tenant of the Ba’ath Party is that access to information is good, as long as that information comes from the government. All other sources of information must either toe the government line or be destroyed as enemies of the state. The advent of the internet presented problems for the government. In response, from 2008 onwards, the Syrian state developed technical methods to control the medium.
Using a VPN in Syria means that your ISP (and thus government agencies) can’t tap into your transmissions. The VPN’s total encryption of internet communications means your traffic is utterly inaccessible. Although ISPs can store all passing communications, your messages are meaningless in their encrypted form.
A 2011 study revealed that the Syrian government used a US system produced by a Symantec Division, called Blue Coat, that scans for keywords in the names of the sites and pages you request and the content that is returned. Blue Coat allows the government to store the communications of internet users, and block access to websites that contain blacklisted keywords. Further, it can throttle bandwidth to make access to political video streaming sites impossible. However, since the Syrian government’s use of the software was revealed, Blue Coat has vowed to stop providing software updates to the Syrian government’s installation.
The involvement of the Russian government in the Syrian conflict came with a transfer of technology in the field of internet controls and cybercrime. The Syrian government provides access to social media sites, but it also harvests user credentials and frequently breaks into Facebook and Twitter accounts that are accessed from within the country. A VPN disables this strategy because no one intercepting passing traffic can see the addresses of the sites you request or the contents of the responses.
The Best VPNs For Syria
First, I do want to make a few points about VPNs in general. Keep these in mind when you’re looking for your new service provider:
- VPNs will slow down your internet. There is no way to get around this. Since VPNs re-route all of your traffic, they have to slow your internet down. This isn’t a problem if you subscribe to a top-tier VPN, as they usually optimize their servers for speed.
- Free VPNs are very dangerous. They don’t really do what a VPN should be doing, protecting your privacy, and instead make money off of your data. Stay. Away.
PureVPN is a great choice for users in Syria as their global network is more expansive than most other providers. They boast a staggering 500+ servers in 181 locations in 140 countries (there are only 196 countries in the world), and you will easily be able to find a country nearby to connect to. They also surpass most other providers by allowing you to connect more devices per user account. Currently they allow 5 simultaneous connections per account, and they even offer a 7-day money back guarantee. Another attractive feature of their service is their price, which comes down to $4.16 a month with an annual subscription. That’s a very reasonable price considering the value their service provides.
Private Internet Access is amazing for Syria and one of the biggest perks of their service is the monthly cost of an annual subscription – which comes out to be $3.33 per month. This is a lot cheaper than the vast majority of other providers. Furthermore, they have extremely high server capacity owing to their 3,100 servers located in 24 countries. Like PureVPN, they offer a 7-day money back guarantee and also allow you to connect as many as 5 devices per account.
VyprVPN is offered by internet data storage provider, Golden Frog. It has over 700 servers located in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. VyprVPN provides its subscribers with both VPN protection and CYPHR encoding of messages. It’s not by chance that VyprVPN is registered in Switzerland, the securities laws of this country reflect the importance data protection.
Features of VyprVPN:
- top-notch Chameleon VPN technology for censorship bypassing;
- 200 000+ IPs for no restrictions while surfing the internet;
- unlimited server switching;
- apps for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows devices, routers and TV;
- no limits of speed or bandwidth;
- extra security with NAT-Firewall;
With VYprVPN you can make use of flash-like US servers, and free shared IP addresses, to access popular American shows even inside of Syria.
ExpressVPN is one of the best providers on the market – a fact reflected in their premium cost. Though they do cost more than many other providers, you’ll find that their price is justifiable given the quality of their service. In addition, they have phenomenal 24/7 customer support to help you out when you run into technical problems – no matter the time of day. Though they lack in the number of connected devices they allow you to use per account, you are restricted to one computer and one handheld device, you will find that the speed and reliability of their network outpaces the majority of competitors.
As a technologically advanced user, you stand to gain immensely by subscribing for this VPN service. With IPVanish you will access geo-restricted websites and channels. You will also be able to bypass all government censorship, giving you the opportunity to accessing the internet as the rest of the world does.
With IPVanish you can enjoy access to over 1000 high-speed servers located in over 60 countries. Your protection is assured by the SHA-256-bit authentication and the 256-bit AES encryption. In addition to this, there are zero logs so no data leaks will happen while using the service. Plus, there’s a 7-day money back guarantee
Features of IPVanish are:
- 1000+ ultra-high-speed servers all around the world;
- Strong encryption protocols;
- Multi-platform compatibility.
Gaining Internet Freedom In Syria
Accessing the internet with complete freedom in Syria is only possible through a VPN service, but there are plenty of risks in using a VPN. You need to take extreme care to not get caught.
As the usage of internet is heavily monitored and censored in Syria, you will have to dig deep into the reviews of each of the VPN service to find the one the most suited VPNs for your time in Syria before signing up for an account. If you are planning to freely express yourself on social media or talk about politics in this country, then you need to do so under the cover of a reliable VPN service provider for Syria. This way your identity will be completely secure, and no snooping government agencies will be able to track you down.
If you are finding it difficult to make up your mind for the most suitable VPN for you to use in Syria, look for services that offer a host of servers, unlimited bandwidth and speed, 3 to 5 simultaneous connections, P2P and bittorrenting, zero logging policy and self-managed servers.