Thinking of Indonesia, one might be tempted to have in mind an exotic holiday destination with locations as varied as large shopping malls to scenic beaches. Unfortunately, living in the country might pose an altogether different scenario given the penchant of its government to carry out covert surveillance activities even on its own residents.
With an Internet Freedom score as low as that of India, it should come as not much of a surprise that there have been multiple incidences there of oppressive government digital activities in Indonesia. From granting itself very broadly defined surveillance powers to the blocking of social media platforms, residents of Indonesia are a perfect use case as those who would benefit greatly from the use of a VPN.
With a population of over 260 million, Indonesia has a relatively low Internet penetration rate of 54.68% and yet has limitations on social media platforms, restricted access to political content and has even seen the arrest of some high-profile bloggers.
With the prudent use of VPNs, much of this can be carefully avoided, especially since VPNs are not illegal there.
Indonesia uses an AI-based crawler to detect content violations
Early in 2018, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) launched what was dubbed Cyber Drone 9. The custom web crawler was designed with two objectives in mind – to seek out what the government deemed ‘negative content’ and then block Indonesians from access to it.
The parameters the crawler works on are still being refined since it is based on AI, but so far, the scope seems rather broad. According to sources, negative content covers the umbrella of “pornography, gambling, depictions of violence, radicalism and discrimination based on race and religion.”
This is further compounded by ISPs which arbitrarily carry out their own blocking activities for various reasons. For example, in 2016 Indonesia users reported that Netflix had become inaccessible via Telkomsel even though it was not on the ban list.
Not only was the situation not resolved to aid users, but the ISP was thanked by government ministries for taking the initiative in blocking a company which it claimed, “was operating illegally without proper licensing.”
Netflix access was only allowed again in 2017 when the company signed an agreement with the largest telco in the country.
Government gives itself broad surveillance powers
Within the government, several agencies have the powers to restrict online content under what is labelled as the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law). The law has been amended several times to increase the scope of powers listed therein.
The ITE Law now not only allows the blocking of content but part of the amendments have allowed authorities to order ISPs to do so. Since then the number of agencies with the authority to filter content has grown.
Uncertainty in Right to Privacy
Although officially, Indonesians are supposed to have their right to privacy protected by the constitution, there apparently isn’t a law designed to help enforce that right. Due to government mandates for companies to store user data though, privacy is somewhat suspect.
This is especially true since some companies have been known to furnish law enforcement agencies with user data when requested. Incidentally, this is one of the key elements of a VPN – the protection of user privacy. Most top VPNs guarantee users that no logs of their activities will be kept, which literally means there is no data to hand over should a request be made.
From a timeline of activities over several years we can see that the government is systematically moving not just to gain arbitrary rights to access user data but is also shaping the environment to enable it to do so easily. The following timeline is one such bracket of implemented scenarios which highlight this;
- 2000 – Government mandates telco customer retention period of not less than three months
- 2012 – Providers of electronic systems offering public services required to build data centres
- 2016 – MCIT forces OTT providers to incorporate locally to facilitate legal interception
While anonymity is not regulated by Indonesia law, these milestones are steps towards the right and capability for government agencies in the country to strip that layer of anonymity.
Arrest and Prosecution of Internet Activists
In the name of national security, Indonesia has also cracked down hard on use of the Internet for various purposes including, but not limited to, defamation, religious matters and content manipulation (“fake news”).
While this may seem very Donald-Trump-esque, the reality is starker and in at least one case an Internet user in the country was arrested for sharing critical content on a House of Representatives speaker. In 2017 three media outlets were also taken to task (Note: Link content is in Indonesian) by a government official who claimed defamation by them.
VPNs are Still legal in Indonesia
While there are ongoing incidences of countries around the world (like Russia and China) starting to pay attention to VPNs and attempting some sort of regulation, at the point of time Indonesia does not seem to have joined that bandwagon yet.
What We Look for in a VPN
1. Privacy and anonymity
As you may realise by now, Indonesia really isn’t the kind of place where you want to be surfing the net without the use of a VPN, whether you are a national or visitor to the country. Because of the factors I’ve shared above and the seriousness of consequences of violating those regulations, it is a good idea to focus on the aspects of privacy and anonymity a VPN offers for users in Indonesia.
With both the government as well as private industry working together as well as independently to monitor and control traffic, a VPN needs to be able to ensure that your data and activities can be kept exactly the way it should be – private.
One of the best ways to ensure this is to keep an eye out for VPNs that not only have strict no-logging policies but that are also based out of countries that are laxer in their data retention laws. This certainly excludes countries in the five eyes and fourteen eyes jurisdiction.
The security spiel on VPNs is the same for Indonesia-based users as everywhere else. The ideal balance is known only to you, as a user. Do you opt for 256-bit encryption at the risk of lower VPN speeds or are you willing to lower that bar for increased speed?
Personally, I feel that for the Indonesia market that it would be best to try and keep encryption levels high for two main reasons. The first is that one of the protagonists in the case we are discussing is the Indonesian government, which will likely have more resources dedicated towards attempting to break any encryption encountered.
The second is that because of lower average internet speeds in the country, you are safe to keep encryption levels as high as possible without compromising your overall maximum speeds achievable.
3. Geolocation spoofing
Normally when we talk about geolocation spoofing it would be with an aim of accessing alternative content from mainstream providers such as Netflix US or the BBC iPlayer in the UK. However, Indonesia users have much more to look forward to in geolocation spoofing since there are literally a ton of sites they cannot access.
4. P2P support
One of the categories of sites being blocked from access in Indonesia seems to be torrent sites. Again, this is another area where a VPN would really help. Look out for VPNs that have P2P traffic guidelines clearly spelt out in their terms of service, such as TorGuard or NordVPN.
5. Speed and stability
With an average fixed line broadband speed of just 16.31Mbps in Indonesia, most VPNs should have zero issues matching the needs of users there. Mobile speeds are even lower at an average of 10.45Mbps, so the main concern with VPNs in Indonesia certainly won’t be speed.
Ranked: The Best VPN for Indonesians
As with all my VPN tests, before judging their speed I always judge my own. The following is my actual broadband speed based on a service line of 500Mbps, without a VPN connection active:
As I am based in Malaysia, my speeds will tend to be high connecting to Asia-region VPN servers and slower as I connect to servers in the US or Europe. For this test I connected to an Indonesia-based speed test server to give you an idea of relative speed over distance.
As you can see, a VPN-free connection to a local server nets me a decent speed of 365Mbps. Speeds of course will vary at times, so take this with a pinch of salt.
- Price is based on the currency exchange rate of 1 USD = 14,148 IDR.
- Price shown is based on 12-mo subscriptions. Price can get cheaper when you subscribe for a longer period.
- Offshore privacy
- 148 VPN locations
- Full 256-bit encryption
"Using ExpressVPN can get you an IP address in Indonesia that is fast, secure and allows for streaming media and more."
Because of the many restrictions there It should come as no surprise that ExpressVPN seems to have laid extensive infrastructure allowances for Indonesia. On average, this VPN service offers excellent all-round service from top-notch speeds all the way to comprehensive applications and protocols – ideal for safety, privacy and anonymity. Its security protocols are also the best-in-class for consumer use existing today.
I have tested the service comprehensively and have no hesitation in recommending them as the top VPN service provider for users in Indonesia. ExpressVPN is stable and allows access on a good range of devices as well.
As an idea of how good it gets, I compared my default line speed without a VPN to an ExpressVPN covered test to the same location. With ExpressVPN on and connected to a server in Indonesia, I managed to show a strong 86 Mbps downstream speed.
Read our full ExpressVPN Review for more information!
- No Logs
- Kill Switch
- Supports 6 Devices
"With its sleek interface, stable speeds and fantastic longer-term price plans, Nord is an outstanding choice for any VPN user."
NordVPN takes a strong second place in our Best VPN for Indonesia list for many reasons. One of the first is that they are based in Panama, which is also a good place to be for VPNs. Aside from that, NordVPN has a sterling reputation and is another VPN provider that has a huge number of servers in many countries.
Their strict no-logging policy combines with 256-bit military grade encryption and great price plans to offer almost anyone a deal that is hard to resist.
With a 16Mbps downstream speed, in this round of tests NordVPN showed very stable performance on their Indonesia server. What makes them even more attractive thorough is that they not only allow P2P traffic but have specially optimized servers for P2P traffic!
Read our in-depth review on NordVPN.
- Built for P2P
- TorGuard Stealth Proxy
- Supports 5 Connections
"Using TorGuard is a delightful experience and gives one the assurance their Internet connection is truly safe."
One of the most important deciding factors in TorGuard’s placement is that it is a very P2P-friendly VPN service provider. There isn’t a lot of bling on the user-facing side, but it is remarkable in performance.
The TorGuard interface may seem a little dated when first encountered but there is no doubt that there are one of the most secure VPN service providers around. Even though there isn’t a lot of bling on the user-facing side, performance is quite remarkable.
There is one key difference between TorGuard and many competitors in that it allows you to choose what level of encryption you prefer. This means that for P2P users, you can turn down encryption a notch and enjoy faster torrenting speeds anytime!
Aside from that, TorGuard has many other redeeming qualities, such as stable speeds, multi-platform capability and the ability to bypass VPN blockers.
Unfortunately, TorGuard has no servers located directly in Indonesia so users will have to choose one out of the country. The closest would be in either Singapore or Malaysia – through which it showed strong speed performance.
As one of the top three best VPNs for Indonesia, TorGuard of course met certain speed requirements and especially given that they would have to connect out of the country, 77 Mbps is very good. The only downside is that for younger users who are used to the sleekness of modern applications, the TorGuard interface will look like something from the past.
Find out our in-depth review on TorGuard.
- Offers data compression
- Ad blocking
- Supports 7 devices
"CyberGhost is based out of Romania but it has paid attention to the needs of Indonesia users by steadily increasing its server count in the country."
CyberGhosties are happy with them and they have certainly tried to be hip and upbeat in their marketing. This is another of the more well-known names in the VPN industry but personally I feel that they just might be a tiny bit overhyped.
Specification wise CyberGhost talks the good talk but having gone through test with them I advise a small pinch of salt. Do keep in mind though that this is a ranking list, so my expectations are quite high.
Users in Indonesia need to take note that most of CyberGhost servers are in the EU zone, but thankfully, they have some in the Asia region as well. Indonesia seems to be an exception though and they have established at least eight known servers in the country.
Overall, we managed to get very useable speeds of 15Mbps which is still enough to steam media on.
- Forced 256-bit encryption
- Unlimited P2P
- Supports 10 devices
"Great for the Paranoid but perhaps won’t be top of the list for Indonesia-based users, IPVanish is highly marketed but poorly supported."
IPVanish has suffered greatly in recent times due to its embroilment in certain …shall we say, unfortunate incidents. Yet aside from that, take note that they are under new management and hopefully such things will become just speed bumps in their past.
Moving those incidents aside, they remain a VPN giant in the field and boast speeds that are impressive. Luckily for that, since if you have any complaints about their speed, there isn’t much you can do as they force 256-bit encryption on everyone without exception.
Again, IPVanish isn’t one with a local presence of servers in Indonesia so the closest were in either Singapore or Malaysia. On the Malaysia link I manged to establish a downstream speed of around 3Mbps which is barely useable. For those willing to experiment you can always try other servers in the region which may give better results. Still, the connection was stable and more than enough to stream media on.
- Easy-to-use apps
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Supports split tunneling
"PureVPN is certainly one of the leaders in a completive industry thanks to a solid network of servers."
Hosting over 2,000 servers located in more than 140 countries around the world, PureVPN certainly has the infrastructure needed to show itself as an industry leader. It complements this with excellent enterprise-grade security features to protect its users from intrusion or detection.
One big benefit of trying them out is that they are one of the few in the market now who are allowing access to the WireGuard protocol – a next-gen protocol that is supposedly lightyears ahead of OpenVPN. It is a little limited in coverage though, with a presence in only around five countries.
Connecting to a Jakarta-based PureVPN server I was able to get speeds of around 4 Mbps, again, quite lacklustre.
- Optimized servers for P2P
- Allows server hopping
- Supports 10 devices
"FastestVPN isn’t the fastest but it certainly offers a value proposition that is hard to challenge."
FastestVPN isn’t the fastest I have tested but neither is it the slowest. It offers more limited countries run your connection out of compared to many top-tier VPNs but at prices from as low as 83 cents a month it is a steal. They also have P2P optimized servers which makes them good for that as well.
The low prices do come with one serious drawback and that is the limited performance in overcoming geo-blocking. At last we discovered, FastestVPN can’t allow you to access either Netflix US content or the UK’s BBC iPlayer – bummer!
Do I really Need a VPN in Indonesia?
Speaking seriously, Indonesia seems to be one of the countries I have been increasingly concerned about due to various factors. If it were as simple as plain regulation intended to prevent crimes from occurring, things would not be so bad.
However, the privacy and security scene in Indonesia seem to be chaotic and the government apparently does not care much about Internet freedom. This combined with the will to detain and prosecute puts an immense pressure on Internet users in the country.
I feel that the use of a VPN should rank quite highly on most user’s agenda there. This goes doubly so for foreigners who are in Indonesia for work or leisure – you certainly don’t want to run afoul of legislation and end up in an Indonesian jail – for unspecified reasons.
To recap, here are the top 3 VPN for Indonesia:
SECURITY & PRIVACY