Vietnam ranks dismally low on the Reporters Without Borders ranking index. In fact, they are ranked 174 out of 180 countries in terms of Internet freedoms. And that really isn’t atypical for countries in this corner of the world. A lot of countries in Southeast Asia are known for heavily censoring and monitoring their Internet infrastructure for various political and religious reasons. And the government certainly has their hands full as the try to police communications. Social media and blogs are under heavy scrutiny by the government, and you need to be especially careful about the content you try to access. Even if you don’t post offensive content yourself, simply liking, sharing, or reposting that content can get you into big trouble if the government deems it as offensive of blasphemous. They take especially great care to stamp out any ideas that could potentially create political dissent.
However, the country does not employ deep packet inspection, which is a way to try to peel back the layers on encrypted communications to garner more information about data transmissions. Please note that if your data is encrypted, there really isn’t any way for them to break the encryption protocols and access your data. But one of the real problems is that citizens don’t know every facet and factor that the government uses to determine if content or communications should be censored or intercepted. Much of these reasons originate from loosely worded laws, and in the end, it is really up to the discretion of the government.
Internet Censorship in Vietnam
You should understand that the nation as a whole has undergone some stark changes in the last few years, and they are transitioning to a more western economy instead of a more state-planned infrastructure. Having said that, the country is still run by the Communist Party, and they make great efforts to protect their image and control. They see the Internet as a danger because it exposes people to new ideas, and they think that an uncensored Internet could cause disruption. For that reason they heavily censor political messages and comments on social media that could be misconstrued as offensive.
Surveillance Capabilities of Vietnamese Authorities
Not only does the government censor content, but they also heavily monitor what people are saying and doing online. This is done under the Ministry of Public Security and furthered by citizens who make reports on their peers. Furthermore, the majority of their DNS servers run surveillance and monitoring software that helps them watch over what sites various IP addresses access. If they notice an IP address accessing sites that have made their ‘naughty list,’ they usually take action against those individuals. In fact, there have been many bloggers – as many as 35 – that have been sent to jail for long term sentences lasting as much as 13 years for messages and content they have posted online.
Using a VPN
Because otherwise harmless messages could easily evoke the attention of the government, you need to take your Internet security extremely seriously in Vietnam. While VPNs are incredibly useful for unblocking content that is only available in other countries or content that the government has censored, you should be much more worried about the government intercepting your transmissions and tracking you online. There is too much at stake to get caught viewing a site that you didn’t know had ‘offensive’ material, and a VPN tunnel will help stop the government from keeping their eye on you. Whether you are a traveler, an expat, or a citizen, a VPN tunnel is a necessity in Vietnam.
VPN for Vietnam – Top Picks:
VyprVPN is a great choice for users in Vietnam who distrust information services based in the US. They are actually owned by their parent company, Golden Frog, who is based out of Switzerland. The Swiss government has some of the most attractive Internet regulations in the world, meaning that VyprVPN has one of the best no-logging policies. They have a moderate presence in Asia and Southeast Asia, and to date the operate servers in over 50 countries.
Unfortunately, they only allow 2 concurrent device connections per account, but they make up for that disadvantage with other useful benefits and features. Additional perks include up to 50GB of cloud storage, unlimited data usage, a NAT firewall, and top it all off, they even provide a free trial of their service. Also, know that they are reasonably priced at $6.25 per month with the pro version of their service.
PIA VPN is extremely attractive for two reasons: they are extremely inexpensive and they allow up to 5 simultaneous connections per account. With a 1-year subscription, their monthly rate is lower than just about any other VPN service at only $3.33 per month. Despite the fact that they’re so affordable, PIA VPN offers a high quality service with 3,100+ servers in 24 countries. In addition, they have a 7-day money back guarantee, though you won’t likely need it since their service is fast and reliable.
Additional features of their service include 24/7 customer support, DNS leak protection, P2P and VoIP support, and unlimited bandwidth. Also, note that they provide the strongest security available with protocols such as OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec. Last but not least, they cover all the major operating systems including Linux, Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS.
PureVPN ranks as the third best VPN for Vietnam, and they offer the greatest number of global connection options among the best providers. In fact, to date they have 500+ servers in over 181 locations in 140 countries scattered around the globe. They too offer a 7-day money back guarantee, though they lack a free trial.
As you would expect of any other leading VPN service, they offer the latest and greatest encryption algorithms to make it impossible for others to see what you are transmitting online. Another attractive advantage of PureVPN is the ability to connect up to 5 devices concurrently with the same VPN account, so you can rest assured that all your devices are secured and protected. Lastly, their pricing model is also enticing. An annual subscription makes the cost only $4.16 per month.
ExpressVPN is well-known in the VPN industry as being a leading provider, and they are a good fit for users in Vietnam. Though they are priced a little more than other providers at $8.32 per month with an annual subscription, the cost of their service is justified by its quality and they have a 30-day money back guarantee. Not only do they have servers in 78 countries to give plenty of global connection options, they also maintain servers in Asia and Southeast Asia. The best features of their service include extremely strong security via AES-256 encryption, fast and reliable servers with guaranteed 99% uptime, and ‘round the clock 24/7 customer support. However, two of their drawbacks is that they are a US-based company and they only allow 1 computer and 1 handheld device to connect simultaneously per account.
VPNArea is our last pick for the best VPNs for Vietnam, and they have a moderately well-rounded service that is moderately priced. They maintain servers in 51 countries to give users plenty of connection options, and they even have a 7-day free trial. As opposed to ExpressVPN who only allows 2 simultaneous connections per account, VPNArea allows 5, making them a great fit for users with family, friends, or a lot of personal devices that need strong security. Another attractive benefits of their service is an anti-DNS leak feature, so you won’t accidentally make potentially incriminating DNS requests that will allow an ISP or government to see what sites you are accessing. Lastly, they are pretty reasonably priced at just $4.92 per month with a 1-year subscription.