VPN: a necessity in Russia? How to avoid restrictions.

With increasingly restricted access to web content from outside Russia, the demand for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) has increased by almost 2000%.

The use of VPNs is exploding in Russia. According to data compiled by one of the VPN providers, in recent days VPN installs have jumped over 1900% in the country.

Many Russians fear that in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, their internet access will be curtailed. This is already the case since many major international web players have announced sanctions, cuts and other restrictions.

Another fear for these Russians who equip themselves with a VPN: that the Kremlin itself restricts access to certain sites and services, in particular with the desire to control information. In the past, the Russian administration has already operated service restrictions on the Internet, or triggered arbitrary speed limits, among others.

VPNs are closely watched by the Russian authorities

According to the same report, the increase in subscriptions and installations began to be very clear on February 16, the day of the first organized cyberattacks against Ukraine. Interest, however, has increased considerably after this, too.

A VPN allows the user to change his IP address, and to have access to certain restricted sites in a specific geographical territory. It also encrypts his online activities.

Therefore, these software allow unrestricted access to news sites like the BBC’s and social media like Facebook and Twitter, most recently restricted by Russian internet regulator, Roskomnadzor.

Russia already demanded access to VPN providers’ servers

Since 2019, Russia blocked six VPN providers, these software allowing access to sites prohibited in Russia (such as those linked to the opponent Alexeï Navalny).

Until now, the blocking policy had affected Hola!VPN, ExpressVPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, Nord VPN, Speedify VPN, IPVanish, and more.

Roskomnadzor clarified that it will allow Russian companies using these VPNs in their IT technologies to continue to do so, if it is determined that these companies are not in violation of the law.

Also, Roskomnadzor had asked major VPN providers to connect to the central state information system. Only Kaspersky had complied.

Since then, several waves of banning of VPN services have taken place, although the use of this technology remains legal at this point.