Russia To Ban VPN Providers That Refuse To Aid Censorship

from the ill-communication dept

Back in 2016 Russia introduced a new surveillance bill promising to deliver greater security to the country. Of course, as with so many similar efforts around the world the bill actually did the exact opposite — not only mandating new encryption backdoors, but also imposing harsh new data-retention requirements on ISPs and VPN providers. As a result, some VPN providers like Private Internet Access wound up leaving the country after finding their entire function eroded and having some of their servers seized.

Last March Russia upped the ante, demanding that VPN providers like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish, and HideMyAss help block forbidden websites that have been added to Russia’s censorship watchlist. Not surprisingly those companies balked at the request, and now Russia’s moving on to what was the goal from the start: banning these companies from doing business entirely.

“The VPN services in question were given a limited time to respond (30 days) but according to Roscomnadzor, most are digging in their heels. In fact, of the companies contacted with the demands, only one has agreed to the watchdog?s terms.

?We sent out ten notifications to VPNs. Only one of them ? Kaspersky Secure Connection ? connected to the registry,? Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov informs Interfax.

?All the others did not answer, moreover, they wrote on their websites that they would not comply with Russian law. And the law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law ? it should be blocked.”

Again, this is framed to suggest that this is all a very sensible process featuring measured application of the law for the betterment of society as a whole. But Russia’s goal from the beginning has been to effectively ban VPN use… without making too obvious that that was the overall goal. After all, it’s difficult to engage in surveillance of Putin critics and pesky punk rockers if they’re hiding their traffic behind a VPN. Alexander Zharov, head of Russian media and telecom regulator Roscomnadzor, does yeoman’s work pretending to be upset about the course of events:

“These ten VPNs do not exhaust the entire list of proxy programs available to our citizens. I don?t think there will be a tragedy if they are blocked, although I feel very sorry about it,? Zharov concludes.”

But over the course of the last five years or so, Russia has made it increasingly difficult to do business as a VPN provider. Now, unless you’re willing to engage in outright censorship, retain all logs, and be at the beck and call of the Russian government, you’re effectively banned from doing business in the country at all.

Unfortunately for Russia and every other government with similarly oppressive internet pipe dreams (including the US), these efforts usually wind up devolving into an absurd, unwinnable game of cat and mouse that only really advertises how terrified some leaders are of open expression and an unfiltered internet.

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Comments on “Russia To Ban VPN Providers That Refuse To Aid Censorship”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Yes russia will be secure when even web user is being watched and secured and the data is recorded in the government database.
how long till the data is hacked ,
By secure they mean surveillance of all users .
Its like in the novel 1984, any word can mean anything and its meaning
changes over time according to the policys of the government
security services .
its like the old phrase ,first they came for your VPNS and you said nothing because you dont use a vpn,
then they came for your social media id and passwords and so on and on.
Users might get round this by using browsers with built in vpns
and proxy settings .
This law does not help foreign investment in russia,
international business and banks uses vpns as a form of security
and to protect users privacy ,
they might not want to invest in a country where the government
has acess to all user data including business financial data .

Anonymous Coward says:

did the exact opposite

"Of course, as with so many similar efforts around the world the bill actually did the exact opposite…"

yup, well intentioned efforts to give a government more control over the internet eventually backfire on the citizens.
Proponents fail to see the long term dangers of government control and regulation.
Case in point, Net Neutrality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When you do business over the internet, say banking transactions, do you expect the contents to be protected against criminal activity?

Why would you not want to protect your assets from being stolen?

I would like to know what these anti vpn geniuses use to conduct financial transactions these days. Do they walk into the bank and fill out the little slips provided right next to the donuts that little snot nosed kids have handled?

Anonymous Coward says:

anything to take away the right of the people to access what info they want on what is supposed to be a free ‘encyclopedia’! all governments everywhere, regardless of whether they are of a ‘free world, democratic country’ or of a totalitarian, communist or other country are doing whatever it takes to ensure that those in control of all these countries remain so and that the people are stopped from finding out what the fuckers are up to and from spreading that info world wide! this includes, in particular, the ‘5 eyes countries’ of USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada! they are definitely not alone, with every other country following their lead, having the opinion that if it’s ok for these countries to do it, it’s ok for us to do it! all rights to privacy and freedom are being destroyed, not just eroded. the rights of the people that have taken centuries to establish are being systematically removed and the really worrying thing is it started in the very country that is supposed to have these rights built into it’s very existence! it is supposed to be ‘the home of the brave, land of the free’. please tell me what the hell has happened? before it’s too late, things need to be reversed, changed, quickly and drastically or it will be too late to stop the planet being nothing but one giant entity ruled as a dictatorship by those who are so scared of being brought to the fore over what they have done to fuck it up, all in the names of power and wealth!!

Rekrul says:

Frankly, it always amazes me that people think VPNs are some untouchable entity that will never be censored.

The copyright industry has spent years working toward getting blocking regimes instituted in as many countries as possible. Oppressive governments have long censored the net. Yet, people seem to think that this same industry and these same governments will blissfully ignore that people can use a VPN to bypass censorship.

Today it’s Russia demanding the VPNs start blocking the same sites that ISPs are required to, but how long will it be before the copyright industry starts screaming that the countries which already have blocklists, need to get VPNs on board, or they’ll be blocked too?

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