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In Russia to block anonymizers and VPN. The end of free Internet?

In the state Duma a bill that requires the VPN services and search engines do not give access to blocked Russian sites. In the edition of the Daily Afisha conducted a survey of experts to determine feasibility.

The document says “information and telecommunications networks, information systems, or programs for electronic computers, which can be used on the territory of the Russian Federation to bypass access restrictions”. There are restrictions also affect VPN and Tor browser.

In addition, the document requires the search engines not to show links blocked in Russia sites. Search engines will provide access to the register of banned sites, and if they refuse to take them out of the issuance, the company will be fined for 500-700 thousand rubles. Perhaps this is done so that Google could not find the forbidden site, copy the link, and then use it via VPN.

Why you need a VPN

With VPN services you can bypass the blocking of sites that do not work in Russia (e.g. Spotify). But that is not why they are needed. Remote workers and branch office employees connect via VPN to corporate services, thus they don’t put company data at risk. People who access the Internet via public Wi-Fi and are afraid that their data intercepted, also use VPN to protect ourselves from intruders.

Usually if the computer connects to the Internet through the server provider, VPN service configures a tunnel between your computer and the remote server. So you go online in a roundabout way. All the data inside the tunnel is encrypted, so the ISP and hackers don’t know where you go for a VPN connection and what you are doing on the Internet. The sites do not see the true IP address of your computer, because you are working under a false address. VPN (Virtual Private Network) creates a secure private network within the Internet unprotected.

As it will block?

According to the draft, Roskomnadzor is going to find VPN services such as TunnelBear, for example. After that he will ask the hosting company to contact the owners of TunnelBear. If hosting send contacts (he should do it in three days), the Roskomnadzor owners TunnelBear writes a letter in which requires close to the Russians blocked access to Russian websites. For this procedure the given month. If the service agrees, it opened access to the registry of banned sites, if he refuses, his website (and possibly infrastructure) blocked in for two days.

When the start lock?

The project says that the law will enter into force 90 days after its official publication. If the bill will consider and adopt until the end of the spring session of the State Duma, the law will take effect until Nov. The first lock can occur before the end of the year.

Artem Kozlyuk, head of the public organization “Roskomsvoboda”:

“Everything goes to the fact that the law will be adopted on an emergency basis. Most likely, the end of the spring session. It is now undergoing approval by the Duma committees was endorsed in the legal Department, approved in advance by the Committee on infopolitics, 19 June, on which, no doubt, it will be finalized. Of course, the meeting will be held with beneficiaries of the bill, primarily with Mediacommunications Union, in the depths of which was born the original project document.

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This trend of the last five years. Almost all of these laws were enacted in ultrashort time — from two weeks to a month, without taking into account the views of the industry, not to mention the fact to take note of public outcry. In calculation is not accepted by the government. In the text there is a note that the implementation will not require expenditures from the Federal budget. Therefore, the opinion of the Russian government on the bill is not required. The government sometimes does things rationally, making critical comments on the text. But nobody takes into account because I do not want the members and beneficiaries.

You will wonder if the first reading does not pass until the end of June. But if not in the spring session, at the beginning of autumn session it will take. When will it take effect? If you take this year, it is likely that early next year we will live by new rules”.

Sarkis Darbinyan, co-chair of the Association of Internet users:

“The experience of recent years has shown that even the most savage of the initiative for regulation of the Internet may be adopted in the State Duma. Because of legislative initiative are known mediamobile the pre-Internet era, Roskomnadzor and some individuals who are not averse to earn some money. So they have a very large resource which can be used for the adoption of the law”.

Is it possible at all to block VPN?

Sarkis Darbinyan: “The simplest thing will make Roskomnadzor will make in the register all domain names and IP addresses of official sites of popular VPN services where you can purchase the product. However, this does not mean that users will not be able to obtain the installation files of VPN applications on the forums, the mirrors, by post or by messengers, or configure the tunnels on their own. If there is a genuine desire to announce a large-scale RAID against VPN and the fundamental ability to connect to remote machines outside of Russia, will have to incur huge costs. All operators will be forced to buy the certified DPI equipment, which is made in China. Only it is able to identify VPN traffic and to distinguish it from otherwise encrypted HTTPS traffic”.

Artem Kozlyuk: “Will put a spoke in the wheels of those who for some reason doesn’t want to connect to the registry of banned websites and to restrict access for clients. Will block IP addresses technical domains, not just sites. This is now happening with the messenger lock: locks not only web resources, and technical capacity of the application. Sometimes it works, but then a messenger comes to life again. It depends on the owner of the resource, which came under the lock, whether he is ready to provide customers with the updates to the service working again. I assume that 80-90% of services remain available to users from Russia. Some very small, you may die, but most will have to stay”.

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Karen Ghazaryan, General Director of the Institute for Internet studies:

“Technically, it’s a game of cat and mouse. As we know, China has a sophisticated intelligence system to block such apps, which analyzes the traffic. The system is very, very expensive and will work only when you centralize access to the Internet. But, as we again know, with access to Western services in China is no particular problem — not all catches system. In Russia, however, it would be that trivial to blacklist download applications. What will you do with app stores or built-in operating system tools is a separate issue.”

Marcus Saar, the head of the VPN service

“If there is a blocking of the website, it does not affect the operation of the VPN, so, those of you who are already clients of the service, will not notice any changes for yourself. He VPN, in contrast to the site to block is extremely difficult, and require deep insight into the principles of each separate service, network structure, etc., and services such all over the world more than one hundred and there are always new. At the same VPN service can quickly restructure the network and all will need to do it again (and the procedure can be automated). No such things in practice does, even in China.”

Roskomnadzor can interfere with Tor?

Karen Ghazaryan: “it is Theoretically possible to make host addresses in the black list, but complete it very quickly. Although, given the ongoing circus with the system’s “Revizor” and sending “white” lists of providers — it is unclear how they do something is going to block”.

Artem Kozlyuk: “to Complicate the work possible, but it requires huge power and big money from the budget.”

Sarkis Darbinyan: “With Tor is even harder. You can block the output nodes and to calculate the intermediate relay. But after that China began to fight with Tor, application developers are taught a system to lay bridges with the help of hidden relays. The bridge feature was specifically designed to help people use Tor from places where access to Tor is blocked”.

Do VPN users are the alternatives?

Karen Ghazaryan: “VPN services there are lots. I doubt that the Roskomnadzor will really affect their performance. Not to mention the fact that to raise your own VPN on a rented foreign host — a question of ten minutes and five dollars.

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Artem Kozlyuk: “to Make a personal VPN easy. It requires a small monetary investment of about 10-30 dollars a month. You can buy a place on the foreign server, up the tunnel and to make a personal VPN of preference and girls. It can be shared — it depends on the bandwidth and the money invested. These tools also will evolve, I think, many resources will write instructions on how to make a personal VPN. Competition in this market is very high — these tools thousands. To block them all is impossible, at least for a short time. Block one will be ten analogues”.

Sarkis Darbinyan: “There are numerous ways available to people to study the issue and easily set up your own VPN to use other solutions, such as Psiphon, Tor, turbo browsers, plug-ins, buy another VPN service that cares about the customers and taking swift action”.

What will cause a lock?

Artem Kozlyuk: “Almost the entire business is tied to the VPN. Under threat up virtual private networks of any enterprise, from small to large. Failures in the VPN can happen at any time due to incorrect work on the enforcement of the new law. We again see Roskomnadzor to comply with these laws. First, they are wrong written on the technical side, and secondly, in the enforcement process Roskomnadzor increases that technical ignorance to a whole new scale”.

Marcus Saar: “still not clear how will be verified and monitored. VPN, unlike forms of anonymizer, is a closed network and to access it you must purchase a paid subscription and install software. And some services no, and you must configure the connection manually using the configuration files, keys and certificates. The second question is how efficiently “bit” tech-savvy users who came to use VPN, Tor and other tools. After all, if they once found the strength and desire to get around censorship, then do it again and again.”

Sarkis Darbinyan: “Lock operators VPN traffic will mean huge damage to the whole corporate sector, the digital economy and the reduction of protection of Russian citizens in a global digital environment the face of foreign intelligence services, corporations and hackers using the vulnerability to surveillance and theft data. Close to 100% the ability to transmit and receive information about VPN, nobody has managed, even in Asian and Muslim countries with repressive regimes. Among the providers there are IP lists the most popular VPN that they are with some frequency and update the block. But the VPN traffic also have learned to disguise. The VPN provider can create new IP addresses at least every minute (plus infinite IPv6), so it will be harder and more expensive.”

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