It’s no secret that the Putin regime in Russia is not a fan of VPN providers. Now, the country is making an effort to compel VPN providers to block access to websites it wants restricted. These measures are just the latest in Russia’s ongoing attempts at Internet censorship. What do these new regulations mean for those who might be planning to travel to Russia in the near future?
Russia’s War on Your VPN
On November 1, 2017, the Russian government announced that it would require all VPN providers to put blocks on any websites that Roskomnadzor insists be censored. Roskomnadzor is the state-controlled agency that serves as a sort of watchdog on all communications in the country. The agency is able to blacklist access to websites on its own authority and can do so without warning.
A way around the censorship of Roskomnadzor is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network. Using a VPN masks a user’s IP address and replaces with an IP address of a server in another country. In other words, individuals in Russia using a VPN could make it appear that they were in the U.K. or United States. This would allow them to access websites that have been restricted to Russian citizens.
This new legislation is powerful and will undoubtedly make it difficult for individuals to use a VPN successfully if they purchase service when they are in Russia. The only question seems to be whether or not the VPN providers will honor the censorship requests of Roskomnadzor.
Can VPN Providers in Russia Refuse to Obey Roskomnadzor?
There is a slim chance that VPN providers will refuse to obey the Russian government and implement the requested restrictions. Roskomnadzor has stated that any VPN provider refusing to implement the Russian VPN ban will find themselves also blocked. According to the Moscow Times, VPN providers must register with the agency within 30 days and install the restrictions to remain compliant with the new law.
VPN technology is very popular today in Russia because of the strict nature of the government. The measures taken against VPNs in Russia follow another government mandate which required that search engines remove blocked websites from their search results. Last year, Putin signed legislation which would greatly expand the government’s control and regulation of the Internet through the year 2030.
What this all means is that some VPN providers are likely to succumb to the pressure exerted by the Russian government. This will make it much harder for individuals to find VPN service in the country once they arrive there for work or a visit.
Is the KGB Involved in the Russian VPN Ban?
It has also been speculated that the KGB was involved in pushing for this VPN ban. The ban also includes some nefarious measures that were slipped into the legislation. One of these is requiring all instant messaging services to collect and store the phone numbers of their users. These phone numbers would have to be turned over upon request to the KGB.
There are those who claim that this ban is an effort by the KGB to remain relevant in a time when the agency feels it has become less important. Essentially, the KGB needs to reassert its strength and the Russian VPN ban was a way for the intelligence agency to flex its muscles.
How to Evade the Russian VPN Ban
It is still possible for individuals living and working in Russia to evade the VPN ban. The key to this is purchasing VPN service before arriving in the country for an extended stay. Once there, access to VPN websites may become impossible.
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