Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

September 29, 2017

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 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 exchange 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.

Best VPNs for Syria: Summary

10.0/10.0

ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 49% off today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Gets around regional restrictions, including Netflix
  • Stealth technology
  • No logs
  • Strong encryption
CONS:
  • Only three simultaneous connections allowed

ExpressVPN has top quality security procedures and excellent privacy credentials. In 2017 the company increased the strength of its encryption for the session establishment phase of a VPN connection. This is because the world discovered that the Chinese authorities were focusing on cracking the encryption used for key exchanges. In response, this VPN company proved that it keeps its eye on developments around the world to ensure it stays ahead of the game. Our ExpressVPN review also found that the VPN is also able to avoid detection by the Chinese authorities, who frequently block VPN traffic. All of these achievements in China - the very worst country for internet access controls - will keep you safe in Syria, which is the second worst country in the world for internet freedom.

The company runs servers in 94 countries, which gives you plenty of options when you're looking for overseas video streaming services. ExpressVPN gets customers into Netflix with ease. The closest ExpressVPN server to Syria is in Israel. However, connecting to that server will give all of your traffic a destination in a state that Syria considers to be an enemy. Therefore, it would be better to use the ExpressVPN server in Turkey.

Get the best VPN for Syria now!

Visit ExpressVPN »30-day money-back guarantee

9.6/10.0

PrivateVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 55 countries
  • No logs
  • P2P allowed
  • Up to six simultaneous connections allowed
CONS:
  • Based in Sweden

PrivateVPN is a Swedish based VPN that has a lot on offer if you need a VPN for Syria. Security is strong, and subscribers get a lot of different encryption options. In addition, the firm provides an outstanding zero logs policy. The software is great and is available for all popular platforms. Finally, it has a good spread of server locations and connection speeds were pretty fast – and definitely good enough for streaming.

9.4/10.0

VyprVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Servers in over 60 countries
  • Strong encryption
  • Chameleon (stealth mode)
  • Kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • No usage logs
CONS:

    VyprVPN is owned by the internet conglomerate Golden Frog. For this reason, it owns the entire infrastructure of servers that it runs the service on. Encryption is very strong and the privacy policy is excellent (but doesn’t permit torrenting). The VPN is fully featured, with a kill switch and DNS leak protection. In addition, it has a very secure stealth mode (called chameleon). Connection speeds are also superb on this Syrian VPN.

    9.0/10.0

    IPVanish Homepage
    PROS:
    • Servers in over 50 countries
    • Socket Secure (SOCKS5) proxy
    • Kill switch and port forwarding
    • Fast speeds
    • Strong encryption
    CONS:
    • Based in US (but keeps zero logs)
    • Customer care not as good as the VPNs above

    IPVanish is a super fast VPN that is very good for use in Syria. Although it doesn’t have a stealth mode per-say, it does provide SOCKS5 proxy, which encrypts traffic as HTTPS on port 443. Encryption is strong OpenVPN (though not as strong as the VPNs above). The privacy policy is no logs, which nicely makes up for it being based in the US. The great thing about this VPN for Syria is that it provides very fast connection speeds.

    Furthermore, the VPN in fully featured, with a kill switch and DNS leak protection. If you want to be extremely secure and want to use stealth mode, then choose a VPN higher in the list. Finally, it also provides a seven-day money-back guarantee.

    8.6/10.0

    PrivateInternetAccess Homepage
    PROS:
    • Seven-day money-back guarantee
    • Automatic WiFi protection
    • Kill switch
    • No logs
    • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
    CONS:
    • Not as fast as ExpressVPN

    Private Internet Access (PIA) has servers in 25 countries. From Syria, your closest options are in Israel and Turkey - you would be best to opt for the Turkish server. This VPN has strong security and keeps no logs on user activities, so it can't shop you to the authorities, even if it's presented with a court order for information.

    If you manage to find a WiFi hotspot in Syria, you need to be especially careful about what you write over such a link - WiFi hotspots are notoriously useful for snoopers. PIA includes automatic WiFi protection, so you can be safe from hackers and snoopers when connected to a hotspot. A kill switch feature prevents any application on your computer from connecting to the internet if the VPN isn't turned on.

    For more information on this provider, check out our Private Internet Access review.

    Best VPNs to Use in Syria: Considerations

    Internet Access in Syria

    Escalating ethnic and religious hostilities throughout the country exploded into a civil war in 2011. With shifting frontiers between combatants, regional control of infrastructure by thugs and religious extremists imposing kangaroo justice, the chaotic situation in the country makes finding a point of access to the internet the main obstacle to freedom on the net in Syria.

    Those who decried government controls on internet freedoms now have a greater threat to worry about. ISIS’s attitude to the internet is far worse than that of the Syrian government. ISIS intends to stamp out private access to the internet. It severely punishes those who defy the ban. Ironically, despite international criticism of its policies on internet freedom, the Syrian government is the only regime in the splintered country at the moment that enables the provision of internet access. An example of this is the retaking of Aleppo by the government in 2015. This was rapidly followed by the restoration of internet access in the city.

    If you want internet freedom in Syria, your first task is to get to an area where the internet actually exists. Remember that this is a country in a state of war. The government has built up strong technical capabilities to monitor all internet and telephone traffic.

    Protect Your Communications

    You need to get full protection for your connections. Unfortunately, all of your communications can only get onto the internet via Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPs in Syria enable the government to block or monitor internet traffic. It is essential that you hide all of your internet communications from your ISP. You can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to achieve this. A VPN encrypts all of the messages that leave your computer and all of the replies that come back to it. The VPN diverts your traffic to a nominated VPN server. Therefore, your ISP cannot see the true destinations of your connections.

    You need a VPN that has strong encryption, can avoid detection, has good speeds, and has servers near (but not in) Syria. Your chosen VPN must have a total commitment to privacy. It should keep no logs of user activities. We applied these criteria to a study of all the VPN services in the world. The result is the above list of the five best VPNs for Syria. You can read more about Syrian internet controls and how VPNs defeat them later on in this guide.

    Internet Controls in Syria

    Critics of the Syrian government claim that it makes the internet available to encourage its enemies to reveal their plans. Digital surveillance is now the government’s top priority.

    A 2011 study revealed that the Syrian government used a US system produced by a Symantec division, called Blue Coat. This software allows the government to store the communications of internet users. It also allows it to block access to websites that contain blacklisted keywords. Furthermore, it can throttle bandwidth to make access to political video streaming sites impossible. However, since its supply of equipment to Syria 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 conflict in Syria allowed a much more useful technology transfer in the field of internet controls and cybercrime. The Syrian government allows access to social media sites. It then harvests user credentials and frequently breaks into Facebook and Twitter accounts that are accessed from within the country.

    VPNs for Syria

    Using a VPN in Syria means that your ISP (and thus government agencies) can’t break into your transmissions. The VPN’s total encryption of internet communications means they are utterly inaccessible. Although ISPs can store all passing communications, your messages are meaningless in their encrypted form. The Blue Coat web filtering system scans for keywords in the names of the sites and pages you request and the contents that are returned. A VPN disables this strategy because no one examining passing traffic can see the addresses of the sites you request or the contents of the responses. The VPN encrypts all of the traffic that comes into your computer, along with the requests that leave it.

    The Syrian government discourages access to video streaming sites by selectively slowing down (“throttling”) that type of traffic. ISPs use software to try to detect traffic types. If they spot streaming video, they switch the traffic to a slower line. VPNs defeat this action. The inability of the software to read through the VPN encryption means your streaming requests come through at a bearable speed.

    If you’re new to VPNs and want to know more about how they work, check out our beginners guide to VPNs for everything you need to know!

    Unblock Netflix in Syria

    Syria is one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t have a Netflix service – the other is North Korea. Netflix, like all video streaming services, imposes regional restrictions on people overseas who try to access its service. These controls are due to the constraints placed on video streaming services by their contracts with copyright holders, and by content censors in different countries.

    VPNs can get around regional restrictions on streaming services. However, the task isn’t easy. Streaming services scan incoming requests for signs of VPN activity and refuse to serve them. Only a few VPNs can get through these checks. The VPN detection system at Netflix is one of the most stringent in the world. If a VPN can get through Netflix’s checks, it can get through just about any block in the world.

    Check out our guide to unblocking Netflix for a more detailed look into getting around regional restrictions anywhere in the world.

    Best VPN for Syria: Conclusion

    The five best VPNs for Syria that we’ve recommended provide the strongest security and privacy procedures in the industry. These procedures enable the VPNs to mask their traffic and avoid being identified.

    Any of our five recommended VPNs will protect you when you find a working internet access point in Syria. The VPN will prevent the Syrian authorities from capturing your login details to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, don’t be overconfident – the authorities are still able to read any statements you make on public forums. Control your urge to object and criticize the government while you’re in the country. Also, try to refrain from identifying friends and associates – they might get into trouble for the things you write.

    Keep safe, and use common sense when accessing the internet in Syria. Above all, use a VPN.

    Best VPN for Syria: Side-by-Side Summary

    Image Credit: Millenius/Shutterstock.com

    Stephen Cooper
    April 10th, 2018

    Stephen Cooper is a techy geek with a social edge. Downshifting from a successful IT career in Europe, Cooper moved to the Caribbean and now keeps up to speed with Internet technology poolside.

    3 responses to “5 Best VPNs for Syria That Work in 2018

    1. lilo says:

      As a syrian living in syria , I couldn’t help but laugh at this completly false statement which obviously comes from reports inspired by a propagandist organization mostly funded by the imperialist/plutocracist amercian government and includes several members of the same government.
      The syrian government has not even suppressed the regime-opposant channels on TV. Same for amercian news channels.
      Believe me , in Syria you can enter facebook, youtube, instagram , gay sites or sites supporting gay rights, porn sites and more than 90% of syrians use whatsapp or viber , I even have an telephonic application that allows me to phone someone abroad when they are not connected for a far more better price than the ones our government offers us.
      It’s funny to say that unaccessible websites were blocked by the syrian government when in fact these own websites display a message saying that their censorship is due to US and European sanctions on Syria.
      And why would the syrian gorvernment censor so many websites that have nothing to do with politics , religion or ethics like health websites.

      ” Freedom House ” has been criticised by many politicians for mostly criticising governments that are considered to be ennemies by the US government and thus , many believe it to be not credible. Yes, the United Nations do take a look at those reports just like they do with other important organizations from different countries but do not take their word for it when they write their own report.

    2. Mareck Romani says:

      How current is this article? Any updates?

      1. Douglas Crawford says:

        Hi Mareck,

        I wrote this article back in August 2013 (before all hell broke lose.) It is therefore not in the slightest bit current, and with the situation in Syria changing so fast, I don’t think I would dare try to update it now. That said, VPN remains a good way to evade censorship and government monitoring, and the recommended providers are still good suggestions. If using VPN in Syria is likely to get you into trouble, please be very careful (and perhaps consider using Tor rather than VPN). For added safety, Tor and VPN can be combined.

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