Sign up to our newsletter
Russian authorities have indicated that VPNs and online anonymizing software Tor could soon be banned for the country’s 143.5 million residents.
Russia already blocks access to a number of blogs, websites and social media networks, but the government is now looking to clamp down on means of anonymity that are growing in popularity. According to Torrent Freak, 150,000 citizens use the TOR network, while 25% of the country’s internet users are now using some kind of VPN.
Speaking on February 5, Leonid Levin, the head of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, said: “One of the factors in the formation of the Internet environment in our country has become the authority for the pre-trial blocking of websites. It allows us to block sites banned in Russia quickly enough. At the same time the pre-trial blocking of anonymizing services deserves attention, such as access to the anonymous network Tor.”
Tor is a privacy network designed for cloaking users’ internet activity and location, giving them access to restricted sites as well as anonymity for campaigning, blogging and whistleblowing for example. Extreme Tech notes that Russia’s attempts to crack down on internet infrastructure demonstrate that governments are aware of the threats posed by online meeting points and viral content.
Shortly after Levin’s speech, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor came out in support of the Tor and VPN ban.
“We strongly support the idea of limiting Russia’s access to anonymous networks, including Tor,” said spokesperson Denis Davydov, as quoted by The Stack. Free speech and privacy campaigners are expected to be concerned with the development, as many see Tor as a force for good to keep their privacy in Internet.
Meanwhile, the Tor project warned of a potential attack on its network in December, claiming it was taking steps to ensure the safety of its users, as reported by We Live Security.
Author Kyle Ellison, ESET