Less than six months from now all Russian citizens who are using a messaging app will be required to reveal their real identity in order to be granted access to their app. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister in early November 2018 signed a decree that only deepened the ongoing problem this country has with online freedom.
The document legally forces Russian mobile operators to verify the registration of every user who will try to log into a messaging application. Basically, once you download the app and try to log in, you will receive a message from your operator.
The mobile operator must provide subscriber information to the messaging application within 20 minutes. Unless you do this in the specified time, you will not be granted access to the messaging app, and the verification will be invalid. The information you provide will be stored by the mobile operators into their databases. This includes the specific identification codes.
In case you switch operators, you will have to go through the entire verification process again.
In other words, your mobile operator, thus the government, will know exactly which messaging apps you are using and store this information in case it is needed.
People have been fighting to gain complete online freedom for as long as the internet has existed. However, countries such as Russia are not on the same page when it comes to this. Many governments around the world tend to have a large control over their citizens, including in what can or cannot be done or seen on the internet.
Let’s take a look in Russia’s history with freedom of the internet.
Russia’s war against online freedom
According to a 2018 report by Freedom House, Russia is not a free country when it comes to the internet. For many years, ever since he was elected president, Vladimir Putin has urged for tighter security policies for internet users in this country, without sugarcoating them to the public.
In a series of events that happened in 2017, the internet freedom from moderately censored went to severely endangered. Before that, ever since 2012, the Roskomnadzor (Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) made a blacklist of domains known as the Single Register, through which they block websites and content that they do not want their citizens to access. The Internet blacklist law started as a measure against child pornography, advocating suicide, and illegal drugs, but soon became a way for the government to justify their censorship on various websites and applications that were a thorn in their side.
In June 2017, in one of the more severe moves against internet freedom, Virtual Private Networks were required to register with the Roskomnadzor, and basically became a part of the government’s scheme. VPNs are used to ensure netizens with maximum internet freedom, away from the prying eyes of the government and other third parties. So, this law that came into force in November 2017 was ordering VPN providers to do the complete opposite of this. If VPNs don’t comply, these proxy services will be blocked.
This is why it’s so hard for people to access VPNs in Russia, and use them to bypass censorships and restrictions. Many VPN providers are definitely not trustworthy, and the remaining are extremely hard to access.
Fast forward a few months and some minor events, and in April 2018, the Russian government completely blocked the use of the messaging app Telegram after the company refused to hand their encryption keys over to the Russian authorities. To do this the Roskomnadzor blocked millions of IP addresses, a move which negatively influenced other messaging platforms, airline ticketing systems, online stored, banks etc. More than 10 million people were using the app and this was definitely a repressive move from the government.
There are other popular platforms that were blocked in Russia, including one of the best business platforms, LinkedIn.
How to get around the new ban
The obvious answer would be a Virtual Private Network, but when it comes to Russia the solution is slightly more complex. As previously mentioned, many of the VPNs, especially the more popular ones, were blacklisted and forbidden to use. If you get caught using a VPN that has not been sanctioned by the government, you can get serious fines.
But it’s not all that bad. Despite having strict policies and regulations, Russia is not even close to what some countries have done to prevent its users from accessing VPNs and blocked content.
For example, China has created one of the strongest Firewalls currently in existence. The Great Firewall of China keeps VPNs away and makes their access a real nightmare. Only the best of the best can bypass this Firewall.
Russia is not there yet at least for now. However, you do need to use a more advanced VPN provider, one that focuses on the privacy and security above all. If you get caught using a VPN, you might get in serious trouble, so if you decide to take a risk, at least make sure that you know what’re doing.
Best VPNs for Russia
Many Russian internet users are disagreeing with the government and the controversial moves they made over the years in order to cement their position and be in total control of the internet use in the country. So instead of reducing the use of VPNs, the government managed to achieve the complete opposite result. Namely, ever since the ban on VPNs was announced, enhanced with the ban on Telegram, the VPN usage in this country grew for 1000 percent.
Nevertheless, if you want to avoid getting fined and stay out of trouble, the best thing is to choose a VPN that can truly protect your identity and keep you undercover. Some of the best VPNs for Russia currently are the following:
As the leader in the industry, government will have to try harder and keep ExpressVPN away from helping internet users regain their online freedom. This advanced provider has everything that you need, from excellent speeds on its numerous servers, to some of the best security features. This will be more than enough to stay hidden from prying eyes, including the Russian government and Internet Service Providers.
NordVPN is an excellent choice for first time users. It’s easy to use, yet it has an advanced performance. With the double security and the no logs policy, you will stay protected from major online threats. Besides, with NordVPN you can easily bypass any restriction and access the wanted content while enjoying in a private and unrestricted internet experience.
VyprVPN is fast, secure, and can bypass any restriction, whether it’s censored content from the government, or blocked streaming platforms with your favorite movies and TV shows. It’s a trustworthy VPN provider, affordable even for people on a tight budget.
Overall, by choosing the correct VPN, you will get to enjoy in a total internet freedom, without restrictions and censorship, not only in Russia but in any other country in the world.
If you have questions on the topic or you have experience with another VPN that works best in this country, feel free to leave a comment below.