NordVPN is the latest virtual private network provider to announce a shutdown of its servers in Russia, in response to the local media regulator’s demands for VPNs to apply content filters.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecoms regulator, has given VPN operators with servers based in the country a month to respond to a demand to apply blacklists to their networks.
This is ostensibly to prevent citizens from circumventing government-mandated blocks of sites hosting content either deemed unsavoury by, is critical of, or, in the case of terrorist sites, openly hostile to, the Russian government.
NordVPN however says that in order to comply with this, government personnel would need to access its servers, meaning it couldn’t guarantee the privacy and safety of its users – so NordVPN is simply not going to operate in Russia at all.
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“NordVPN provides an encrypted tunnel that makes it nearly impossible to track what you do online or steal your data,” NordVPN’s digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson said in a blog post.
“To comply with Roskomnadzor’s request, we would need to provide outside access to our servers. We wouldn’t control the key to this door once we create it, meaning that we wouldn’t be able to answer for who opens it or what they do with it. Creating this type of vulnerability is unacceptable for us.”
To prevent any leaking of data, NordVPN says that all of its Russian servers will be destroyed by Monday, the 1st of April 2019. If there’s an April Fools’ joke there, the joke will be on anyone trying to connect to the servers.
NordVPN customers currently connected to Russian servers will need to choose a different endpoint before then. If you’ve configured specific devices to connect to these servers, then you will need to change those to continue to be secured.
The Panama-based company is proud of its no-logging policy, and while shuttering its Russian operations means it has one less endpoint country for customers to use, it’s a move that Markuson says is “necessary” to keep NordVPN secure, and preserve that policy.
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A content filter would require us and/or the Russian government to monitor what NordVPN users do online,” Markuson said.
“Not only would this violate our no-logs policy, it would undermine our fundamental dedication to online privacy.”
This news comes in the wake of TorGuard declaring that it too would cease running servers in the country. In a statement, TorGuard said:
“If we feel the legal climate in a country could pose a threat to our customer’s online security, then we will no longer offer servers in that country. This dedication to user privacy is why TorGuard is now withdrawing and removing all Russian servers from St Petersburg and Moscow effective immediately.”
Is NordVPN right to up sticks and shred its Russian servers, or is a mass exodus of VPN providers the Russian government’s ultimate endpoint? Tell us what you think @TrustedReviews.