Last month, Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Telegram for not providing encryption keys that would seriously jeopardize user privacy.
After Russia banned IP addresses associated with Telegram, the messenger simply switched over to new IPs. Roskonadzor then moved to block around 20 million IPs belonging to Google Cloud and Amazon in an attempt to prevent it from shifting its infrastructure again. After around twelve days of struggle, the plans to ban Google Cloud and Amazon were abandoned.
Now, Russia is clearly “taking the next step” by shifting its attention to preventing people from utilizing VPNs to access blocked services.
Russian authorities have banned access to more than 50 proxy and VPN services just a couple of days ago. TASS, the Russian news agency, was the first to report the raid, but we still do not have a full list of services affected by this action.
Some speculate that Google caved to Roskonadzor’s demands, which is additionally corroborated by the fact that “domain fronting” was dropped three days later. This was a technique used by encrypted service such as Telegram to move around the censorship attempts at the state level.
Telegram is still not completely blocked in Russia, but accessing it is becoming more and more difficult. Blocking proxy and VPN services is most likely Russia’s next move, but we are yet to see the final outcome of this “crusade.” TASS has also reported that Nikolai Nikiforov, the head of the Russian Ministry of Communication, has hinted at a similar ban action on Viber.