The internet landscape in Singapore is riddled with restrictions, censorship, and surveillance. Reporters Without Borders published the 2016 index of countries in terms of freedom of speech, censorship, and freedom of information. Singapore ranked dismally low, coming in 154th out of 180 countries. This isn’t surprising, given that many countries across Asia engage in the practice of limiting access to internet content based on religious, moral, cultural, and governmental reasons.
Despite the fact that the Lion City boasts a flourishing economy, and plays host to a progressive melting pot of many cultures, it’s not surprising that there are so many restrictions. Internet censorship is actually rather common throughout Southeast Asia.
Best VPNs for Singapore
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ExpressVPN is our top pick for users in Singapore. It provides more simultaneous connections than the average provider. It’s fairly common for providers to only allow two simultaneous connections, but ExpressVPN allows up to three concurrent VPN tunnels. If you have more devices to secure, or need a VPN to free up blocked content for a media streamer like Roku, there’s always the option of using DD-WRT or Tomato router VPN.
One of the reasons ExpressVPN is my top pick is because it consistently performs well in speed tests and has a 99.99% uptime guarantee. The only thing I don’t like is that it isn’t the cheapest service. The lowest monthly rate is $8.32 per month with an annual subscription, though it does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
As of early 2017, ExpressVPN has servers in 135 locations spread out across 94 countries, so you’ll have plenty of connection options. Plus, it has been operating servers in Singapore since 2011. Furthermore, it does allow P2P and BitTorrent traffic, and it is based in the British Virgin Islands – which is great if you distrust US-based companies on account of the NSA.
- Based outside the US
- Fast speeds
- Servers in 94 countries, including Singapore
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Three simultaneous connections
- A little on the pricey side
IPVanish is my second choice for users in Singapore. It’s fairly comparable with ExpressVPN, though its network is a little smaller. Currently IPVanish runs over 350 servers in 60+ countries, including Singapore. It has servers in other popular locations such as Europe, the UK, the US, and Hong Kong.
Although its network of servers isn’t as widespread as ExpressVPN’s, IPVanish is significantly cheaper. With an annual subscription, the monthly cost is only $6.49. Not only is it cheaper, but IPVanish provides five simultaneous connections per account (two more than ExpressVPN). I also like how the software includes a VPN kill switch, so you don’t have to manually configure a third-party firewall or routing application.
It also permits P2P and BitTorrent traffic. However, IPVanish isn’t perfect. Die-hard privacy purists won’t like the fact that it’s based in the United States, though the service doesn’t log any user activities (with the exception of meta-data). Last but not least, note that IPVanish includes all the standard connection protocols, including PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN.
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Kill switch
- Servers in over 59 countries
- Fast speeds
- No logs
- Based in the US
NordVPN provides many features similar to IPVanish, and it’s the third best option for users in Singapore. It’s a little cheaper than IPVanish – a one-year subscription only costs $5.75 per month – and it’s a great option for families or individual users with a lot of devices. NordVPN allows up to six simultaneous connections per account.
Furthermore, the size of its network is comparable to IPVanish, with over 575 servers in 57 countries. NordVPN hosts servers in Singapore, too. BitTorrent downloaders will love NordVPN, since it permits P2P traffic and BitTorrent usage, and the software client includes a kill switch.
Despite all of these great features, what I really like the most about their service is the fact that it allows more simultaneous connections than just about every other provider. NordVPN allows as many as six simultaneous connections per account, so it’s unlikely that you’d even need to use a Tomato or DD-WRT router VPN to ration active VPN connections. Lastly, be aware that NordVPN is based in Panama, well outside of the United States.
- Seven servers in Singapore
- Based in Panama
- Six simultaneous connections
- Great customer service
- P2P permitted
- Not the fastest provider
VyprVPN is the fourth best option for users located in Singapore. Like all of the aforementioned providers except IPVanish, VyprVPN isn’t based in the United States. Though it does employ developers in Texas, VyprVPN is owned by a parent company named Golden Frog, which is based out of Switzerland. Although VyprVPN doesn’t have a 30-day money-back guarantee, it does have a three-day free trial.
I found it interesting how VyprVPN packages its services into two different plans, and only offers yearly subscription. It’s possible to choose monthly or annual billing, though I’d highly recommend annual billing since it’s so much cheaper. It’s fairly inexpensive as well, only costing $6.67 per month for the premium plan and $5.00 per month for the standard plan. However, the standard plan only allows two simultaneous connections, while the premium plan allows five.
One of the best features of VyprVPN is its strong security. In addition to NAT firewalls, VyprVPN uses a custom VPN encryption mechanism that scrambles and hides metadata found in packet headers. This makes it difficult, if not virtually impossible, for firewalls to perform deep packet inspection and glean information about your VPN tunnel.
- Hard for firewalls to inspect
- Tough encryption
- Proprietary software
- Fast speeds
- Five simultaneous connections
- Does not support P2P
- Keeps some connection logs
Buffered The last good alternative for users in Singapore is Buffered VPN, which is based in Hungary, and is another log-less VPN provider. Although Buffered doesn’t offer a real free trial like VyprVPN, it does have a 30-day money-back guarantee. I think an entire month is more than enough time to decide whether a service is good or not.
Furthermore, it also permits up to five simultaneous connections per user account, and is available on all the major platforms including iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. Unfortunately, Buffered VPN isn’t the cheapest provider. You can expect to pay as much as $8.25 per month with an annual subscription. In addition, its network of servers isn’t as big as I had expected, with operational servers in only 37 countries.
Nevertheless, it seems that Buffered VPN is still expanding its network, and operates servers in Singapore. It also provides a generous five simultaneous connections per account, and is friendly with BitTorrent and P2P traffic.
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Two simultaneous connections
- Servers in over 60 countries
- Based in Hungary
- Available on all major OS, including Linux
- A little pricey
2013 Anonymous Attacks Against Singapore
Singapore has been the victim of several attacks initiated by the hacktivist group Anonymous. I’m sure you’ve heard of Anonymous before. Anonymous uses the mask seen in the film V for Vendetta as a symbol for the organization (a Guy Fawkes mask). Most recently, this group has been active against the terrorist group ISIS.
Back in 2013, some Anonymous member(s) using the pseudonym “The Messiah” attacked Singaporean internet resources as a response to tightening web restrictions and regulations. Targets of the attacks included the People’s Action Party’s Community Foundation and the Ang Mo Kio Town Council.
Furthermore, an Anonymous member posted a threatening message on YouTube in response to the government’s new licensing rules and website restrictions. In the video, the Anonymous member threatened to target, attack, and disrupt the Singaporean internet infrastructure.
Accessing Singaporean Content Abroad
Accessing content hosted within Singapore when you’re abroad isn’t as difficult as accessing content that’s been blocked for residents of Singapore. However, you may find that some of your favorite websites or necessary web resources (such as an employer’s website or corporate networks) are not accessible from outside the country.
In this situation, it’s a simple matter of restoring access. All you need to do is fire up a connection with a VPN server that’s hosted in Singapore. However, I imagine that the situation is much more dire in the reverse direction. So, let’s take a closer look at the types of content that are banned in Singapore, why they are censored, and how to unblock them.
Domestic Singaporean Censorship
It’s tough to know just how deep the censorship endeavors run in Singapore. The internet is extremely dynamic, and new websites are being discovered and blocked every month. Unfortunately, the Singaporean government doesn’t publicly disclose its blacklist of websites, so we can’t be certain of the quantity of censored pages.
The only real way to know if a website has been blocked is by trial and error. The government has, however, made the details of legislation and acts public, to shed light on the types of websites that are banned. Even so, there is some degree of ambiguity in the way the laws are worded, which gives the government the power to make judgment calls in this gray area.
Two of the most obvious areas of censorship revolve around content and services that are related to gambling and obscene materials. It’s common for these two types of content to be blocked throughout Southeast Asia. They are also blocked by Singapore’s northern neighbor, Malaysia, due to cultural and religious influence from a predominantly Muslim population.
But what exactly constitutes obscene material? Pornography is certainly one offender, but where does one draw the line on pornography? Does a model’s website with headshots count as obscene material?
As far as gambling is concerned, I wouldn’t try to access a gambling site in Singapore even with a VPN tunnel, because the offense is punishable by jail time.
In addition to obscene materials and gambling-related websites, the Singaporean government also blocks websites that infringe on copyrights. In fact, the government has blocked numerous BitTorrent portals, such as the Pirate Bay, in an effort to thwart P2P downloaders and those who would infringe copyrights.
We don’t know what content the government might decide to block in the future. Whether it’s social media, news outlets, or blog content, the good news is that you can easily unblock censored materials with a VPN tunnel. Because VPN tunnels mask your IP address and make traffic invisible to ISPs and the government, you can digitally tunnel out of Singapore to grab the information and data you need.
However, I must issue a warning. I’m certainly not an advocate of breaking the law, because the consequences could be dire. Though if you do decide to access controversial material, use good judgment and don’t do it in a public place like a coffee shop. Even something seemingly innocuous like a movie streaming site (Hulu, HBO, Netflix, and so forth) should be enjoyed in private.
Singapore may be a wonderful city that is growing financially, but it does have its drawbacks. The Reporters Without Borders survey ranked Singapore incredibly low, showing just how necessary it is to use a VPN tunnel within the country.
A myriad of content is blocked, such as gambling websites, obscene materials, and websites that infringe upon copyrights. Part of the problem is that the laws are loosely defined, leaving the final judgment call in the hands of the government. These regulations have been met with protests – some peaceful, and some menacing.
Anonymous protested harsher proposed internet regulations back in 2013 by actively hacking into websites and web resources. With so much turmoil running through Singaporean internet lines, you can’t afford to forgo the use of a VPN tunnel. Even if you don’t want to access censored content, you should still use a VPN tunnel to ensure that the government can’t intercept and read your data communications.