Russia to Block All VPNs by November 1, 2017

Jul 31, 2017

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It’s soon going to become harder for those traveling in Russia to access certain websites, as the Kremlin has shared that it will be cracking down on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which allow internet users to access websites that are blocked by firewalls, usually imposed by governments.

The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin and passed by the Russian Parliament last week, will go into effect on November 1, 2017. Additionally, the Russian government will be outlawing messaging apps that allow users to chat anonymously with the each other as of January 1, 2018.

Russian officials say the new law is only meant to block “unlawful content” and won’t affect law-abiding citizens. However, the Russian government has a history of internet censorship — in 2015 the government blocked all access to Wikipedia and Reddit after articles on drugs were posted on the sites. LinkedIn was blocked in 2016 after it didn’t comply with a Russian law requiring foreign internet companies to store data on Russian users within the country.

VPNs act as internet proxies and make it seem like you’re in a different country while browsing the internet. This allows you to get around government-imposed firewalls and access the internet as you would normally at home. They also make it harder to be tracked, helping hide your online footprint.

Earlier this month China announced that it would be blocking all VPNs by February 1, 2018 — meaning those who use VPNs to access popular websites like Google, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be out of luck since they’re on the list of banned websites/internet services in China.

According to Quartz, Russia hasn’t censored content on the internet as harshly as China and users can still access sites like Facebook, Google, foreign media pages and Apple services. Since Russia’s internet landscape is relatively more open, the blocking of VPNs won’t cut off access to those sites (at least initially), but it will be more difficult for those who want to remain as anonymous as possible online.

H/T: BBC

Featured image courtesy of Matt Dunham via Getty Images.

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