In Russia, VPN services are being blocked more and more often. One can often meet an opinion online that the situation will worsen up to the total VPN ban. Is it possible? It is hard to tell now as there are arguments for and against it.
Briefly about VPN
VPN is a virtual private network. It creates a connection between a device and a resource via the Internet. How it happens: user data are sent not directly to the site they visit but through the intermediary — VPN. The user’s IP address is encrypted over the network connection, so information about it is kept secure.
Initially, a VPN was created as an internal network between devices to share information. Companies used it so that their employees could exchange data securely. This model is still relevant; however, now, VPNs are usually used to bypass blocks or as a tool for personal data protection online.
How do blocks work?
Russia has started blocking VPN server protocols since 2022, and this trend continues.
How does it happen?
TMCT — technical means for countering threats — is used. It is a software and hardware complex restricting access to resources banned in the Russian Federation. Although not as effective, the technology is being upgraded and gives better results. For example, previously, individual IPs and domains used to be blocked, and now, the entire protocols are blocked. This means that several VPN services fall under attack.
Moreover, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media also resorts to other methods of operation restriction — forces ISPs to install DPI equipment. It operates on a higher level than ordinary block by IP addresses. DPI can recognize and block particular traffic types in real time, for example, text messages, videos, and audio recordings.
Is everything really moving to total blocks?
It seems like it. There are more and more means to do it, and not as many ways to counter it. The policy of Roskomnadzor also indicates the intention of total restriction of VPN operation: previously, blocks used to be targeted, but now, the authority is closer and closer to systematic attempts to “suffocate” such rental services completely.
In 2022, when Russian authorities blocked Instagram, the press secretary of President Dmitry Peskov claimed publicly that he also used a VPN to use the app. It seemed that there would be no problems. Later, Roskomnadzor started actively blocking servers, arguing that foreign companies could steal data from their Russian users. Later, the following statements of representatives of the Russian authorities appeared:
Senator Artem Sheykin reported that “from March 1, 2024, an order will come into force, according to which VPN services that provide access to sites banned in Russia will be blocked by Roskomnadzor on all markets.” Roskomnadzor representatives added that “Roskomnadzor will independently make decisions on the inclusion of the Internet pages containing information about ways and means of bypassing blocking in the Unified Register of Prohibited Information. After receiving the appropriate powers, Roskomnadzor will develop and approve by departmental order criteria for evaluating materials on the Internet containing such information.”
All these statements fit into the essence of the Law on Sovereign Internet. It allows the use of VPNs that do not grant access to resources blocked by Roskomnadzor.
Is it possible there will be no mass blocks?
Nobody gives precise forecasts; however, it is quite possible that Roskomnadzor will not have the resources to block new VPN services constantly. DPI technology improves, but traffic obfuscation methods also do not stand still.
Obfuscation is VPN data masking to make them look like regular traffic and thus confuse DPI systems. Major services have already been implementing this technology into their services.
One more argument against the total restriction of the VPN operation: software creators constantly develop upgrades and updates for apps. New apps appear instead of the blocked ones. So, the installation of several apps should become a good habit.
See the list below. The VPNs that are not blocked in Russia:
- Free Planet VPN
- Private Internet Access (PIA)
Remember this list, as well. The VPNs that are blocked in Russia:
- Cloudflare WARP
The third argument against: mass blocks can have a heavy toll on the country's economy. Large corporations and even state institutions use VPNs like ordinary users to create secure communication channels. It is believed that only services willing to cooperate with the government will remain; however, it is a huge reputational risk companies usually do not want to run.
As a result, there will be ways to enter the blocked sites, but it will be more difficult.
Nobody can guarantee that even the most relevant VPN services will operate uninterrupted. So, we suggest considering several options for traffic encryption to not depend on shutdowns, blocks, or any other circumstances. Here are the means that can help you with this.
Tor is a browser created to maintain privacy and access to blocked sites. Tor uses onion routing technology: traffic is routed through random retranslation servers owned by other browser users. Almost 3 million users from all around the world share addresses, so disclosure of information about a particular person using this Tor becomes hardly possible.
This software was initially developed for the American military, but Tor became a free browser available to all in 2004.
One of the browser pros is that currently its operation is not regulated legally in any country.
However, it has some cons: Tor replaces user IP, but sites still see when users use this browser. Some servers and providers block the access of Tor users to their information. Some companies even forbid browser users to enter their resources and use their services.
Moreover, Tor is an open-source software, and hackers can attack it. It will require large amounts of power and resources, but the possibility remains.
Smart DNS is a system of domain names. You enter a site address, and the DNS server searches for the IP connected to the resource URL address. DNS intercepts its request and routes you to the proxy server for you to choose the region. Thus, the site you visit sees the proxy server request and reads it as a query of the user from the location you selected.
It is pretty easy to set up the DNS system. For example, for Windows, you just need to configure the required parameters in The Network and Sharing Center and restart the device. You do not have to install any additional apps.
The disadvantage is that DNS does not grant almost any privacy. You will visit sites via a proxy server that will hide some data, but the provider will see the sites you visit, the data you downloaded, etc.
SSH tunnels establish protected communication lines between the working unit and the remote server that hides the proxification. So, it is harder to detect SSH tunnels than VPNs.
How are they different from VPNs:
- they create a channel with a single entry point. While VPN can transfer data in any direction, SSH tunnels can do it only one way
- you can use only TCP protocols
- browser used to create a tunnel must be open. If you close it, the connection will cease to exist
- SSH tunnels live only for 12 hours
The convenient way to configure an SSH tunnel is with Google Collab. There is a lot of detailed instruction on how to do it online.
VPS/VDS virtual servers are an isolated (virtual) part of the physical server. It has its software, operating system, and data. A virtual server operates similarly to a physical one. It has available technologies of protection against DDoS attacks, and it also allows the creation of backup copies so as not to lose data.
Virtual servers are placed on one hosting but operate fully autonomously, and use different IPs. A dedicated server owner becomes an administrator and can set up the server for any needs — even changing the operating system. However, a certain level of knowledge is required to work with the VPS/VDS servers: this method will not work for those looking for simple VPN alternatives.
Proxy is an intermediary between you and the site/app you want to visit. The server issues an IP address on behalf of which you send your request to the Internet and changes your geolocation.
Proxy setup is simple and does not require downloading software or changing anything in the operating system. It can be used for particular sites (for example, only for Facebook, Twitter, Steam, etc.), thereby reducing the cost.
The Proxy-Store is a European service of proxy rental. We have been on the market for over seven years. We offer a wide selection of servers in various price ranges and for legal purposes.
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