Every person that has Internet access in Russia faces its largest threat yet to their online privacy and anonymity. We’ve acquired some very important information that Russia is more than ever, keen to block VPNs by demanding from them to block certain websites. A handful of the best VPNs on the market, have shut down all Russian servers, so they could prove their loyalty to the customers.
Russian government forced to impose censorship a couple of years ago. In 2017, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin has approved the law that bans VPNs as well as other tools which could, later on, be used to speed up Internet censorship in Russia. They weren't making specific actions to enforce this law, up until recently. We will cover a wide range of topics in this article, like what is the real situation of this ban, the best VPNs for Russian users, what does the future of VPNs in Russia hold, and so on.
1. Censorship in Russia: Early and Current Status
The government of Russia has been eager to block access to a lot of websites for quite some time now. The main excuse they are using is that these efforts are made so they could protect the residents of Russia. Everything started to unfold eight years ago, in 2012, when Russian authorities made a blacklist of blocked sites. Those websites were full of extreme content like involving material that promotes extremists and drugs as well. The ban on those websites seemed pretty reasonable at the time, but as the years went by, the reasons ban was more and more unjustified.
Back in 2014, authorities made a brand-new law that concerned every blogged in Russia that had over three thousand visitors per day. These bloggers had to register with the online regulator of Russia, known as Roskomnadzor. Also, Russian authorities forced major telecommunication companies such as Rostelecom, MTS, and Beeline to store personal info of all Russians. Back in 2016, surprisingly, LinkedIn was on the list of blocked websites as they were not cooperative with authorities that have demanded from Linkedin to log personal data of their users.
In the last couple of years, Russian citizens have seen some events that were a clear indicator of how does the Russian government stand when it comes to controlling the web. Here are just a few, but very notable events:
- On January 29th, 2020, the Russian government has announced that they are blocking ProtonMail. This is a well-known e-mail encrypted service that has millions of happy customers. Russia made this decision because cyber-criminals were using ProtonMail to send fake bomb threats. Today, there are still Russian users that have access to ProtonMail, but many of them continue to struggle when it comes to having access to this e-mail service.
- Not so long ago, it was discovered the Russians want to make their own "Sovereign Internet" system with the excuse that this system will successfully protect the citizens of Russia from any potential foreign threat.
- The Russian authorities were also adamant that the famous social platforms, Twitter and Facebook, move their servers tp this country. This only shows how Russia is determined to control the online activities of their own residents.
2. Why are VPNs being attacked by the Russian government?
The popularity of VPNs has risen over the last few years, as people are discovering that VPNs are a great tool for protecting their online privacy and providing them anonymity on the Internet. A lot of people that use the Internet realize that a VPN service can offer them a lot of benefits.
As you probably VPNs allow their users to connect to their encrypted servers, so their online activities would remain unnoticed. You can connect to a VPN server by using any device of your choice, whether it is a laptop, PC, smartphone, or tablet. A VPN provider provides you with another IP address, so it would appear like you’re from a different country. Thanks to the VPN, even your Internet Service will be unable to see what you’re doing online.
So, when the authorities blocked certain VPNs and demanded from them to give out personal data of their customers, VPNs basically became a tool that is unable to bypass censorship. Since VPN is a pretty good tool for avoiding censorship, blocking them was quite a big win for the Russian government.
3. What is happening with VPNs today?
Even though Vladimir Putin has approved the law that bans VPNs, in 2017, only now the government has begun to enforce the law. The online regulator, Roskomnadzor, ordered that ten VPN providers connect their systems to the list of blocked websites so that the users will no longer be able to watch forbidden content of any kind.
Here are those ten VPN services, which are quite popular on the market:
- VPN Unlimited
- Kaspersky Secure Connection
In late March of 2019, all those VPNs had to implement the "blacklist" of blocked sites by April 30th of 2019. Otherwise, these ten VPNs could be blocked in the whole of Russia. The response of these VPNs was incredible. All of these VPNs were against complying with the request Roskomnadzor. Also, the majority of these VPNs removed physical servers from Russia. One thing is certain, these VPNs will always protect the privacy of their users and fight against these Russian VPN ban measures, so remember that if you want to use either of these ten VPNs.
Blocking websites is something that every VPN fights against. To be more clear, VPN providers fight for online freedom. Unfortunately, the ten VPNs mentioned above have lost that battle in Russia. Now, VPN is something that the Russian authorities use to control the Internet, solely for protecting their residents.
4. Best VPNs for Russian Internet users
We picked out the best VPNs that you could use if you’re a Russian citizen. The following VPNs are proven to be efficient in protecting the privacy of their users and for unblocking geo-restricted content. Here are some high-quality VPNs, which we highly recommend to the Russian VPN enthusiasts.
If you want to access blocked sites, and you live in Russia, Surfshark should be your go-to VPN. It has pretty affordable pricing plans, and the cheapest one is $1.99 per month, which is a pretty low price. It was founded two years ago, in 2018, in the British Virgin Islands. This VPN is also excellent when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content. You will be able to get full access to some of the most popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, as well as Amazon. Surfshark is available on many operating systems such as Windows, Android, Linux, iOS, etc. This VPN has more than 1000 servers scattered across 60 countries.
We also chose this VPN with super-fast connection speeds, as a service that is ideal for Internet users in Russia. This VPN has budget-friendly pricing plans that start at a super low price of $2.75 per month. If you want to have high-quality service for a reasonable price, CyberGhost would be the right choice, for sure. This is a Romanian VPN that was established nine years ago, in 2011. The great thing about this VPN is that you will be able to use up to a max of seven connections at the same time, but only if you use the same operating system. If you’re not happy with the services of CyberGhost, which will probably not be the case, you can freely choose the 45-day money-back guarantee option.
Ivacy is one of the finest VPNs that you could use if you’re a Russian citizen. This VPN was founded in Singapore, back in 2007. This VPN is very easy to use, and you will be able to use it on numerous operating systems like iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, macOS, and so on. Once you subscribe to this budget-friendly VPN, you can use up to a max of five connections at the same time. The pricing plans are more than affordable, and they go as low as $1.50 per month. Your privacy will be completely protected with the no-logs policy that will not store your logs, traffic, or your IP address. If you're into streaming, you will be more than delighted to hear that Ivacy unblocks BBC iPlayer and the well-known Netflix.
The registration process only takes a couple of minutes, and it is one of the most affordable VPNs for Russia. PrivateVPN offers a wide range of servers, over 150 of them in sixty countries. It has only one location in Russia, but it has many locations in countries that are neighbors to Russia. You will be heavily secured with the fantastic encryption protocol IPv6, and with a built-in kill switch, that will surely come in handy. You will be able to use a max of six connections at the same time. PrivateVPN is also equipped with optimized servers that will make your torrenting easier than ever before. If streaming is your thing, you will get full access to streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO GO, BBC iPlayer.
VyprVPN is basically created to overcome censorship. It will give you an additional layer of security with the 256-bit AES encryption, and it also has Chameleon technology that will prevent your ISP from blocking your traffic. Also, you will be able to visit any website of your choice. This VPN has over 700 servers in 65 countries. It has a NAT Firewall that will block cyber-criminals from stealing your personal data and using it for criminal purposes. You can choose the 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not happy with VyprVPN, which is highly unlikely. You can also get access to many streaming platforms like HBO GO, Netflix, etc. This VPN is compatible with many operating systems, some of them being Windows, Android, Linux, and so on.
One of the most reliable VPNs is definitely Windscribe. It has malware protection as well as split tunneling on every app. This VPN is also ideal for bypassing censorship. It has something called Stealth Protocol that will give you an extra layer of security by masking your VPN usage, which is great. This VPN provider has servers in Russia. Overall, it has over 300 servers in more than 60 countries. It is compatible with a lot of apps like Windows, iOS, macOS, Linux, and so on. You will also get full access to geo-restricted content on Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and so on.
There are many other VPNs like AnonymousVPN, ProtonVPN, FastestVPN, VeePN that have servers in Russia, but the ones above are the best on the market.
5. Will Russia Block Every VPN in the Near Future?
Only ten VPNs that we’ve mentioned before were requested to block certain websites by the online regulator, Roskomnadzor. Will all VPNs be blocked? Maybe, maybe not, we’ll see. All of those ten VPNs are reputable and trustworthy VPN providers that all have a strict no-logs policy. Even if the authorities order these ten VPNs to hand out personal data about their users, they will not be able to do that, since they store no logs.
Possibly, Russia started with these brands because they are quite famous, and they want to see how this whole situation will unfold. All of these VPNs removed Russian servers and made the decision of not complying with the request of Roskomnadzor. Things will probably go different in the future, and they’ll surely change their approach in the near future.
So, will Russia ban every VPN, in the end? We all know how VPNs function, so banning them completely is very unlikely to happen. A country that is great when it comes to regulating is definitely China. With the Great Firewall of China, they’ve successfully found the way of controlling VPNs and not banning them completely.
Russia will probably do something similar. They will probably not ban all VPNs, but they will find an efficient method to control them.
Russian authorities are very keen on banning all VPNs in the future, but until they do, you should fight for your online freedom. If you’re an Internet user from Russia, pick a VPN brand, and protect your online privacy. Russia's communications watchdog has threatened to block access to popular VPN (virtual private network) services that give Russian Internet users access to websites outlawed by Moscow. Russia’s strict Internet laws require search engines to delete some results, messaging services to share encryption keys with law enforcement, and social-media networks to store users' personal data on servers within the country.
A VPN can allow users to make Internet connections that aren’t monitored by authorities or to reach banned or blocked websites and that is exactly what Russia would like to regulate.
Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor asked the owners of 10 VPN services to join a state information technology system that contains a registry of banned websites.
If the VPN services link to the system, their users would not be able to reach banned or blocked websites or be able to use the banned Telegram messenger service.
The Internet censor said that it had sent notifications to NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection, and VPN Unlimited:
"In the cases of noncompliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service," it said.