Recently, Russia made another bold move towards censoring the internet by banning the use of messaging app, Telegram. Now, Russians are searching for ways to bypass this. But is this even possible, and if yes, how?
One of the fundamental human rights is the right to privacy, and it should be respected and applied no matter where you live. This means that you have the right “to be left alone” and have your personal information protected from public scrutiny. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to enjoy this. In this Digital age, where the internet is widely used and incorporated into our lives, people living in oppressive regimes have difficulties accessing some of the most used and handy apps and websites. This problem is real and very serious.
This is where Virtual Private Networks (VPN) come to your rescue. They provide a way to privately access the internet, allowing people from all around the world to access content from any part of the world. . It’s simple, you use different IP addresses that allow you to hide your real location and access blocked content. Besides this, a VPN provider serves many purposes, but today, we are going to talk about something slightly different. What if your only solution to a free and unlimited internet is restricted as well?
Russia and Internet censorship
Four countries around the world completely banned VPN providers, some have strict regulations when it comes to this, and many others have no internet at all. Russia can be found in the second mentioned category. The government regulating which VPNs can be used by their citizens.
It all started back in July 2017 when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed a law that just deepened the government’s censorship of the internet. The law imposed restrictions on proxy avoidance tools, which include VPNs as well. For a long time, Russians bypassed internet censorship by using these providers, mainly to reach sites such as Reddit, LinkedIn, Wikipedia or some certain Facebook pages that have been blocked by the government. But with this law coming into force since November 2017, questions were raised.
Russia doesn’t have a strong ban such as the Chinese Great Firewall that is a combination of legislative actions and technologies that censor the internet for Chinese citizens. However, they do have their own rules and regulations that might endanger you if disobeyed. This law was intended to block access to the pages showing “unlawful content” and according to authorities, it has no intentions to impose restrictions on their law-abiding citizens. But, with each website blocking people become more and more enraged.
The ban on Telegram
The final straw was the recent ban on Telegram, a messaging app that has over 200 million users worldwide per month. This came after the company refused to hand over encryption key to its messaging service to the Russian government. Apparently, Russian authorities have been demanding access to this information in order to control Telegram’s use among terrorists, after the tragic events in April 2017, when a terrorist attack killed 15 people in St. Petersburg. However, the demand was technically impossible so Telegram was banned.
Interestingly enough, this ban resulted in a massive consumption of VPN services. Some of the best providers reported that they have an increase of Russian users, even 300% more than usual.
Despite popular belief that all kind of VPN services cannot be accessed in this country, this is not the case. They do have a blacklist of VPN providers, however, the law does not directly ban the operation of VPNs, but it restricts access to the mentioned banned websites from the providers. Combined with the Russian Yaroyava Law – that implies data collection and mandatory deciphering in the telecommunications industry – this means that your privacy is far from safe.
How to bypass it?
With all this said, the most important question is whether it’s possible to bypass these regulations, and how.
Fortunately, in this freedom vs. censorship fight for the internet, VPN providers have a slight advantage. As a matter of fact, the ones that truly care for its customers have made everything in their power to outsmart these restrictions. Many providers struggled with the law and eventually decided that it’s for the best to remove servers from Russia and focus on other countries instead. But, some have continued the fight believing that everyone has the right to privately access the internet.
In order to bypass the ban of Telegram, first of all, you need a secure provider, one that does not keep usage logs and ideally keeps only a small amount of connection logs. Moreover, you need the best protocols and encryption keys guaranteeing a secure connection. One of the most important features for the users should be the kill switch as well as a wide range of servers. An advantage would be if the provider has split tunneling or a dedicated IP address.
In terms of safe providers that can easily bypass even The Great Firewall of China, we can recommend a few. As one of the best VPN providers in the industry, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and VyprVPN are three of the best VPNs that offer this kind of solution.
In terms of affordability, ExpressVPN is slightly more expensive, but it’s just a small price that you have to pay for enjoying an unrestricted Internet experience. Unfortunately, there are no free VPN providers that might help with this issue as they are not reliable for such complex problems. However, with these three VPN providers, you get 30-day money-back guarantee, which is a great advantage.
Given the circumstances, for Russian citizens and people traveling in this country, strong VPNs are the only solution. While we don’t know what the future holds and how far this war on censorship will last, for now, it’s safe to say that with the help of a Virtual Private Network, people can enjoy their right to a private and unrestricted internet connection and easily use Telegram again.