Russia’s telecoms regulator clamps down on popular VPNs

A number of popular VPN providers operating in Russia have a month comply with an order which would force them to restrict access to sites banned by the government. 

The Russian government has cracked down on the use of encrypted messaging service Telegram, as well as other sites which are either critical of the government or host extremist content supporting separatist terrorist organisations.

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Russian citizens have responded by turning to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to circumvent content restrictions.

Now, providers including NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited, have been given a month to comply with the order, issued by Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor, or face being banned themselves.

According to a statement sent to Reuters, a Roskomnadzor spokesperson said:  “In the cases of non-compliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service.”

In 2017, Russia officially banned the use of so-called uncensored VPNs like Tor Browser, suggesting that it will do the same to other VPN providers if they don’t block sites on a blacklist that’s maintained by the Federal State Information System, better known as FGIS (Federal’naya Gosudarstvennaya Informatsionnaya Sistema).

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At the time of writing, none of the VPN providers could be reached for comment, with the exception of TorGuard, which says it’s now pulling out of the country altogether:

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“Here at TorGuard our number one priority is our customer’s security and privacy. It has always been our policy to secure, protect, and enhance user security on the internet. 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.”

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