In the latest episode of internet censorship in Oman, the Telecom Regulation Authority of Oman has announced its plans to completely ban the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and would require companies to acquire the TRA's permission before they can use them. The new regulation has not been passed yet and has been posted by the TRA online for public consultation.
The use of VPN by consumers has increased over the years as it is the only way for internet users in Oman to use VoIP services – which have been banned in Oman for a number of years now. Some VPN protocols such as PPTP are already completely blocked in Oman and providers of other VPN solutions are increasingly discovered by the ISP and are blocked on individual basis.
The use of VPN in the past has been a gray area in the country as the law does not permit the any unauthorized use of encryption, but the new draft regulations will explicitly make the use of VPN officially illegal for the private use of individuals.
Companies on the other hand will be able to use VPN upon completing a special form to be adopted by the TRA and acquiring its approval. Upon submitting the VPN use form the company would have to provide the following details:
- Details of the user of the VPN. (Not clear if they are asking for details of individual users, or the company).
- Explanation of the purpose for which the VPN will be used.
- Details of the IP address of the source and destination of the communication.
Article 3 of the regulation specifies that the TRA may reject any application without providing reasons for its rejection.
The regulations are now up for public consultation, but it is unlikely for this to result in a change in the core ban specified in it as as the prohibition of VPN is in accordance with Oman's general policy against the use of encryption and the majority of the uses of VPN by private users in Oman are uses which are banned anyway by other regulations such as VoIP or merely avoiding the censorship of ISPs.