Despite protests inside the country and amidst widespread condemnation from the international community, Russia has become the first country in history to ban VPN’s, Proxies and the Tor network outright. While countries like Turkey have temporarily banned Tor before, and countries such as the United Arab Emirates and China currently ban some VPN service providers, Russia is the first country to completely ban them all simultaneously.
As reported by The Daily Proletariat this past April, Russian lawmakers had been working on a new piece of legislation that would ban or restrict access to cyber security companies that could allow Russian citizens to bypass blocks imposed on the internet by their Government. At the time, I reported how Russia wasn’t “going to ban VPN’s or Proxies outright,” rather, they were simply going “to present companies with an ultimatum. These companies can either restrict access to all the same websites the Government of Russia bans, or face being banned from the country themselves if they do not.” However, now that the legislation has worked its way through the chambers, it has become clear that Russia isn’t willing to compromise any longer and has instead chosen to ban all of these companies entirely.
As reported by The Hacker News on July 26th 2017, “The Russian Federation Council has just approved a bill that would outlaw the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), the Tor anonymity network, anonymous mobile messaging services and internet proxy services, citing concerns about the spread of extremist materials.” Adding that “The bill to ban VPNs and proxy services has been passed by the lower house of Russian parliament, the State Duma, on Friday, and only needs to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. Once become law, the bill will force the country’s internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to any providers of proxy or VPN services.”
Depending on which source of “news” you read, anywhere from 800 to 10,000 activists gathered in the streets of Moscow yesterday to protest the passing of this law. Despite the criticisms however, Putin is fully expected to sign the bill into law any day now.
Coincidentally enough, the passing of this law comes one day after the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to impose added sanctions on the Russian Government for their alleged meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. This is significant because, as previously reported in an article earlier this month, “similar to the economic sanctions imposed upon them by foreign countries such as the US, Russia blocks off their internet from the outside world in order to make it harder for foreign companies to do business in their country. By restricting their internet in this way, it gives Russian businesses first opportunity in the Russian market.” Essentially, the passing of this new law serves as a Russian sanction against foreign companies all the same as sanctions imposed upon them.