Russia Threatens Non-Compliant VPN Providers with Ban

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on March 28 that they sent letters to the VPN providers asking them to connect their services to a state content-filtering system or face a ban.

Russia has strict Internet censorship and introduced tougher firewall technologies to block websites and apps. The regulators require search engines to delete certain results, social networks to keep users’ personal data on servers within the country and messaging services to share encryption keys with national security services.

In 2017, Russia passed a law cracking down on VPNs. Back then, they did not demand the VPN services to connect to the state system which enforces the country’s online censorship.

According to Roskomnadzor, they contacted and requested a number of VPN services to join a state IT system that contains a registry of websites that are banned from distribution on Russian territory. The VPN services that have been mentioned in the agency’s announcement are the advanced and popular ones in the VPN industry. NordVPN, HideMyAss, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited are included. OpenVPN is not actually a VPN service. They got letters because OpenVPN allows users to create a VPN network. If the owners agreed link their service to the system, their users will fail to access.

“In the cases of non-compliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service,” the watchdog said in a statement. According to one of the top ten VPN services, Russian regulator was likely trying to deal with the problem by first forcing Internet Service Providers to block access to VPN services. They pressure Google to comply with their censorship demands as well. The VPN services that got letters have 30 business days to fulfill its demands. Those companies that do not comply may see access to their services limited in Russia.

Golden Frog states, “Our core mission is to keep the internet open and free, so VyprVPN will continue to provide uncensored access to the Internet.” This company is incorporated in Switzerland and doesn’t plan on complying.

TorGuard made respond in a blog post, “We have wiped clean all servers in our Saint Petersburg and Moscow locations and will no longer be doing business with data centers in the region. Our networking team is currently deploying additional servers in neighboring countries to ensure fast VPN download speeds for everyone in the region.”