The Russian government has taken drastic measures to tighten its grip on the internet, aiming to enhance control over online content and secure the country’s cybersecurity. A recent report sheds light on the extent of Russia’s crackdown on Virtual Private Network (VPN) services and email providers, as well as its efforts to block popular protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. This article delves into the details of the monitoring and blocking system deployed in Russia, the associated costs, and the companies involved.
I. Unmasking the VPN Blockade:
Russian authorities have implemented stringent measures to thwart access to VPN services, which enable users to bypass censorship and protect their online privacy. Former FSO officer Sergei Khutortsev, a key figure in Russia’s ‘sovereign internet’ project, confirms that 167 VPN services are currently blocked within the country. This significant crackdown intensifies the government’s control over the flow of information and stifles dissenting voices.
II. Escalating Measures Against Protocols:
In addition to the assault on VPN services, the Russian government has increased its efforts to neutralize popular protocols that facilitate anonymous internet access. OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard, which are widely used for secure internet connections worldwide, are now being targeted. This latest move significantly limits the options available to Russian citizens seeking secure and private online communication.
III. Exposing the Russian Monitoring/Blocking System:
An in-depth report published by TheIns.ru has provided critical insights into the monitoring and blocking system employed by Russia. The report offers details on the components used, estimated costs, and even the names of companies involved in supplying the technology. Documented evidence reveals that Russia has allocated 4.3 billion rubles ($43 million) in 2020 and plans to allocate 24.7 billion rubles ($247 million) in 2022-2024 for the implementation of the system.
IV. Protocols Initially Intended for Blockage:
Revealing leaked documents, the report exposes the protocols Russia initially targeted for blockade. These include older VPN protocols such as IPSec, L2TP, and PPTP, as well as the popular BitTorrent protocol, which remains widely utilized even today. The inclusion of these protocols underscores the Russian government’s attempts to silence dissent and curtail online freedom.
V. The Technical Infrastructure:
The report highlights the technical infrastructure behind Russia’s monitoring and blocking system. It discloses the usage of Intel chips/chipsets in 965 servers manufactured by Huawei, which have already been acquired by Russia. Additionally, plans are underway to procure over 2,400 servers by 2023/24. These revelations shed light on the significant investment Russia is making to reinforce its control over the digital landscape.
Russia’s aggressive crackdown on VPN services, email providers, and popular protocols represents a significant setback for online privacy and freedom of expression within the country. The revelations from the in-depth report published by TheIns.ru provide a sobering glimpse into the extent of Russia’s digital iron curtain. As the government invests billions of rubles into enhancing its monitoring and blocking system, the implications for Russian internet users and their ability to access a free and open internet become increasingly concerning.