As a Malaysian netizen, there could be plenty of reasons you would find the use of a VPN important to you while surfing the Internet.
It might be that you are frustrated with the increasing Internet censorship laws of the country and would like to unblock restricted websites.
Or perhaps you heard the controversy regarding the Malaysian government’s involvement in spyware purchase to monitor citizens, so you have turned to a VPN’s help to safeguard your privacy.
Either way, you could just be interested in subscribing to a VPN service but given the grey area surrounding our Malaysian laws, are not quite sure on the legality of using a VPN in Malaysia.
On the topic of VPNs in Malaysia, it is only customary to mention the current condition of Internet freedom in the country. In the 90’s, the Communication & Multimedia Act was signed to give citizens right to Internet freedom and the ability to share information online freely.
In 2011, Najib Razak, Malaysia’s then Prime Minister, promised that our country would never censor the Internet when he famous/infamously said “Malaysia will never censor the internet.”
However, Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit NGO that defends freedom of information and freedom of the press, ranked Malaysia 144 out of 180 countries in the 2017 world rankings. And even the BBC regards Malaysia to have some of the toughest censorship laws in the world, due to strict media control.
Internet censorship and freedom of speech in Malaysia might be somewhat of a taboo topic at the outset. At some point, you may have even had a friend who has warned you to watch what you say on the Internet or it could lead you to trouble.
Of course it is understandable with all these uncertainties you may not know what is right or wrong in the eyes of Malaysia’s law. So how do you know if using a VPN in Malaysia is actually legal?
A VPN in itself is perfectly legal. After all, a VPN is designed first and foremost with your security and privacy in mind (at least here at BolehVPN it is!)
On the other hand, it is what you choose to do with a VPN that is entirely your responsibility. Similarly, it is legal to visit a website blocked by your Internet Service Provider as there are currently still no Malaysian laws which prohibit citizens from accessing an ISP-blocked website.
However, it is what you do on those websites that could be illegal. For instance, downloading copyrighted contents without paying for it.
Besides that, VPNs are used extensively by companies in Malaysia so that employees can connect to remote datacenters of the company’s network in order for employees to access the company’s network resources, applications, printers and services.
In general, a common way censorship programs are carried out when blocking websites is by blocking a website’s DNS (DNS is what translates a website’s domain name to an IP address).
Fortunately, this makes it easier to unblock restricted websites with a VPN tunnel. Generally, Malaysian ISPs like TM, Celcom, Maxis and Digi do support VPNs as long as the VPNs are operating in accordance to the law.
Perhaps to begin with you might want to stop to ponder on what qualifies a website to be blocked in the first place. Why was it censored? Was it something fundamentally illegal? To prevent access to pornography?
Or are you only exercising your rudimentary right to access the content in question? Right to knowledge? Right to academic freedom?