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5 Best VPNs for Syria That Work in 2017

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).

Best 5 VPNs for Syria

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. PrivateInternetAccess
  3. HideMyAss
  4. Mullvad
  5. CyberGhost

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

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ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
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  • 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.

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2. Best VPN for Syria: PrivateInternetAccess

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.

3. Best VPN for Syria: HideMyAss

HideMyAss Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in more than 210 countries, including Syria
  • No logs
  • Kill switch
  • Automatic WiFi protection
CONS:
  • Only allows two simultaneous connections

HideMyAss has a very large server network, with a presence in 210 countries. That gives you access to more countries than the ExpressVPN network. Plus, this service is cheaper. Although the company has servers in Israel, you should avoid those. Try the servers in Iraq, Jordan, the Lebanon, Palestine, or Turkey instead. The company even runs servers in Syria. However, even though HideMyAss keeps no logs, there's no knowing what screws the Syrian military could turn on the company's employees, should they decide they want your activities traced. Thus it's probably better to avoid the Syrian servers if you want to engage in subversive chat.

This service has good speeds, which makes it a viable option for video streaming and internet telephony applications. Security measures include a kill switch and automatic WiFi protection.

4. Best VPN for Syria: Mullvad

Mullvad Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Three-hour free trial
  • Complete account anonymity
  • No logs
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
CONS:
  • Small server network

Mullvad has servers in 25 countries, but the only one close to Syria is in Israel. You would be better off connecting to the next closest location, which is Bulgaria. Mullvad has a special business configuration, which helps preserve your anonymity. It doesn't collect any payments and you don't need to enter any personal information to open an account - not even an email address. You're identified on the system by an account code. You pay credit into that account through a separate payment collection company. Privacy is further assured by the payment system - you can mail cash to the company, mentioning your account number.

You can install the Mullvad VPN client on devices that run Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. The company allows each account holder to connect up to five devices at any one time.

5. Best VPN for Syria: CyberGhost

CyberGhost Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free version
  • Cool interface
  • Optimized settings for streaming and downloading
  • Can improve connection speeds
CONS:
  • Can't get into Netflix

CyberGhost operates similar account anonymity procedures to those of Mullvad. The result of this is that CyberGhost holds no identifying details about its customers. The company is based in Romania, which has very strong data privacy laws and no data retention requirements, so CyberGhost keeps no logs at all.

The company operates servers in 27 countries. The small server network might be the one factor that puts you off using this service in Syria. There are four servers in Israel, but you should probably avoid connecting to those. The nearest server location after Israel is Romania. In some circumstances, this VPN is able to speed up slow international connections. It also offers a free version.

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

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