Updated March 6, 2019
Russia is one of the countries where access to the internet is severely restricted. The lack of freedom has continued to deteriorate over the years with increased limits on content. VPNs are the recommended tool to restore internet freedom.
Increasing Censorship In Russia
Despite previously having fairly free internet access, Freedom House gave Russia a score of 66/100 in their “Freedom on the Net 2017” report. The report concluded that social media along with political and social websites are restricted in Russia.
LGBTQ+ websites have been censored, and many thousands of other websites have been blocked, often without just cause. LinkedIn was the first social media site to fall victim to censorship. And bloggers need to be extremely careful as their posts have led to arrests.
Judge Made Russian Internet History
Last April, on Friday the 13th, Russian judge Yulia Smolina created a real-life horror story for users of Telegram when she sided with Moscow to block the encrypted messaging app. In less than half an hour, she decided that not providing encryption keys to the government was enough to justify the ban.
The Russian government was quick to implement the ban by blocking IP addresses. Telegram responded by switching servers and this lead to the government blocking large subsets IP addresses totaling 18 million. Many websites like Slack, Gmail, and Pipedrive were made inaccessible.
Russia's Libertarian Party quickly organized a protest with many thousands of concerned individuals showing up. This has not deterred the government.
Russia Might Unplug Themselves From The internet
The government of Russia would like to control its citizens' access to the internet in a way similar to China's Great Firewall.
A new law called the Digital Economy National Program includes measures for Russia to set up their own internet address system. This would allow Russia to remain online if they sever ties to servers outside of Russia.
The Russian government would be in total control over the country's internet with no data going to any computers outside of Russia.
On February 11, 2019, it was reported that Russia would temporarily unplug from the internet. They claim this does not have anything to do with censorship, rather it's “testing cyber-defenses”. However, perhaps this is something the government might consider doing eventually as a means of controlling what residents can see and do online.
The actual “unplugging” requires data that passes between citizens in Russia and organizations to remain in the nation instead of it being "internationally routed”.
The Use Of VPNs In Russia Grows 1000%
While censorship is strict in Russia, residents can thankfully take back some of their lost freedom by using virtual private networks (VPNs).
VPNs permit internet users to hide their true IP address, and have the information sent from the user’s computer encrypted. This means the internet user remains anonymous, even to their own internet service provider.
While Russia has tried to ban the use of VPNs in the country, its popularity has instead grown 1000%.
To bypass the ever-increasing censorship in Russia residents might give consideration to the following top four VPN providers.
Four VPNs To Get Around Russian Internet Censorship
VyprVPN is a good introduction to VPNs as the company offers a free 3-day trial. Safety is second-to-none; with powerful encryption, helping to ensure freedom from censorship and restrictions. Residents of Russia can choose from more than 70 servers worldwide.
VyprVPN developed a technology called “Chameleon VPN” that helps bypass VPN blocking, something that is essential when using in Russia.
The provider offers apps for Windows PC, MacOS, Android and iOS.
If you want to bypass all of the online censorship in Russia, you might want to consider IPVanish. The provider has a no-log policy in place for total protection of your online activities, even to them.
IPVanish has more than 1,100 servers located in over 60 countries, with more than 40,000 shared IP addresses. Security is crucial and the company realizes this and provides protection by way of SHA-256-bit and 256-bit AES encryption.
IPVanish offers support for Windows PC, MacOS, Android, and iOS, Windows phone, Chromebook, Linux, and routers.
ExpressVPN is easy to set up and use. It provides high speed and allows internet users to browse the internet safely and securely while gaining access to any content across the 94 countries they have servers.
ExpressVPN is serious about security giving users protection by way of 256-bit AES encryption, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, an internet Kill Switch, and the company does not monitor the use of the service nor do they keep connection logs.
There are many ways to use ExpressVPN including Windows PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Apple TV, PlayStations, Fire, Smart TV, Android TV box and extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox web browsers.
The motto of TunnelBear is to “claw back online privacy” and the company certainly offers Russian internet users the ability to do just that. TunnelBear's apps are easy to use, the servers are fast, and logging any activity is forbidden.
The server network of TunnelBear is evolving. Currently, they have servers in 20+ countries. While there are not as many servers as with other VPN providers, speed is not an issue and security measures in place include AES 256-bit encryption.
Tunnel Bear offers apps for Windows PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.
By-Pass Censorship And More With A VPN
Thanks to the protection offered by VPN providers it is possible to by-pass censorship in Russia and access blocked content.
Along with providing an opportunity to access restricted content, a virtual private network provides protection from monitoring and hacking, whether using a home computer or while connected to a public Wi-Fi.
Russia will continue to restrict the internet and what people can and cannot see online, but it is possible to fight back by using a VPN.