The Russian government has passed a new bill, arming itself with a legal window to ban VPN networks, the dark web Tor, and other proxies.
The Russian government's new law may be its way to declare a war on VPN networks and internet freedom, but it is not clear how it will be implemented.
The Russian government has often been brutal while responding to terror threats, protests, and demonstrations, but its latest legislation could turn out to be the final nail in the coffin of internet freedom in the country.
The government's decision to an all virtual proxy networks as well as Tor signifies that it aims to control everything that takes place on the Internet. The move comes soon after China announced a crackdown on VPNs, of which the French Embassy in Beijing was also a victim.
Our restrictions target service providers without licenses or operating illegally. Law-abiding individuals and businesses won't be affected," said Zhang Feng, spokesman for China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Russia may be an orthodox socialist regime with the government firmly in control of everything, but it is no China. Soon after the VPN-culling bill was passed, Internet users in Russia were up in arms. NordVPN, a popular VPN service provider with thousands of users, made it clear that it will continue to strive for internet freedom.
"NordVPN stands for freedom of speech and free access to the Internet, and we don't agree with Internet censorship by any government," said Marty P. Kamden, CMO at NordVPN to The Inquirer. He added that in countries with authoritarian regimes, VPN offers anonymity and freedom to political activists and other citizens who have no other alternatives to express their concerns.
"As with China, it's not yet clear how the Russian government is going to implement the ban from the technical point of view. However, we at NordVPN will do everything within our power to enable our users to continue enjoying the Internet freedom," he added.
Considering that a number of VPNs are still running in China thanks to their use of innovative techniques to obfuscate their traffic, it is unclear how Russia will ban all VPNs and other proxies since it doesn't have the kind of digital infrastructure that China possesses.
“Russia’s VPN ban is futile. If China with its powerful censorship technology hasn’t been able to completely block cleverly-obfuscated VPN traffic, what hope does Russia have with its manual approach?” said Simon Migliano, Head of Research at Top10VPN.com
“Nevertheless, it’s yet another example of governments around the world, both authoritarian and supposedly democratic, intensifying their efforts to control the internet. Freedoms that we have come to take for granted are under increasing threat,” he added.