New Cybersecurity Bill In Myanmar Undermines Privacy
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
Civil liberties in Myanmar have been under attack ever since the military regime took control of the country. A year later, Myanmar is looking to tighten its grip on freedom of speech by severely limiting internet access. A new cybersecurity bill seeks to punish those to bypass the government’s strict firewall by using tools like VPN. It is safe to say that the new VPN cybersecurity bill undermines privacy.
Privacy in Myanmar
It has been nearly a year since Myanmar’s military took control of the country through a coup that overthrew the democratic government. Ever since Myanmar’s junta came into power, privacy rights have been a diminishing element in the country.
Reports coming out of Myanmar say that internet prices have been going up in the country, and even Telenor announced its plans to wrap up operations and leave the country when it was approached by the government to install “intercept equipment.”
A new cybersecurity bill has been drafted that seeks to ban the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in the country.
Even before Myanmar’s junta came to power, Myanmar was infamous for curbing freedom of speech. The plight of Rohingya Muslims is a story that the country made significant efforts to hide from the world.
Myanmar Cybersecurity Bill Details
The cybersecurity bill dated January 13 is pending further review. If the bill goes through, it will ban the use of VPNs and penalize those guilty.
VPNs allow users to bypass government censorship and make their internet activities anonymous. It uses encryption to hide data packets so that any third party cannot see what’s inside the data packets. And it also conceals the actual destinations by encryption DNS queries.
Authoritarian governments use Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor the web activities of citizens. The ISP is the gateway to the internet, and whoever owns the gateway controls what can be accessed. Governments set up firewalls to restrict certain websites, such as social media platforms.
Governments do not like VPNs because give unrestricted access to the internet.
The cybersecurity bill proposes a fine of 5 million Myanmar Kyats (roughly $2800) and one to three years of jail time.
It’s not just digital privacy tools that are at risk; Myanmar is also looking to ban cryptocurrency and penalize its use by imprisonment of six months to a year.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are completely digital and decentralized, which means that governments cannot track payment transfers. Cryptocurrencies allow individuals to send and receive money over the internet without an intermediary like a bank.
How to Bypass Censorship
When you open a website, the request is handled by the ISP, who knows you have requested to view the website at that time. The DNS queries give away your web activities and give ISPs the power to block the websites they want.
A VPN anonymizer web activity by simply encrypting everything and passing the internet traffic through a secure virtual tunnel. Third parties like the ISP cannot peek inside the web activity. And because DNS queries are encrypted and handled by the VPN server instead, the ISP cannot filter restricted websites.
As a privacy tool, a VPN is unmatched. FastestVPN combines the powerful security of a VPN with AES 256-bit encryption and the simplicity of accessing any remote VPN server with the click of a button.
There are more than 600 VPN servers in more than 50 locations worldwide that you can choose from. Get convenient and private access to the content you love on any device.
Is Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Banned in Myanmar?
Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are among the top social media platforms with billions of users worldwide. Unfortunately, users in Myanmar were locked out of access to the three platforms soon after the coup.
Authoritarian governments curb freedom of speech because it goes against the state-driven narrative and could entail international backlash.
It is why social media platforms are the first to get blocked. China, North Korea, UAE, Saudia Arabia are some countries where notable websites are banned from access. UAE does not allow VoIP software such as WhatsApp. And China has blocked a good chunk of the popular websites that we take for easy access.
It is expected that the situation will only worsen during the current regime. Telenor plans to sell its Myanmar operations to companies linked with its military. It means that data of all existing Telenor customers in Myanmar will be in the hands of the Myanmar government.
Such factors provide reasons for why you need a VPN. Having a VPN by your side will let you bypass local censorship and access all the entertainment platforms you leave behind if you frequently travel.
In Myanmar, it might even become a problem carrying a VPN app on the phone. Myanmar’s law enforcement has already begun checking citizens for VPN apps on their phones. If you get caught, your phone can be confiscated.