On the 21st of July, the Russian Parliament moved to outlaw the use of VPNs and proxy services. These technologies were banned due to concerns about the spread of extremist materials. All that remains for this bill to be enacted is for it to be approved in the upper chamber of parliament and then signed by the president.
Banning VPNs and proxies means that encryption is now very much under threat in Russia. It remains to be seen how big companies that rely on VPNs for those that work away from the office will be affected.
As many people that lobby against the use of encrypted services, the main reason was to make sure that extremists didn’t have a safe way to communicate and to make it easier for Russian authorities to keep track and discover extremist activities online.
This has been on the cards for a while now, Russia has not been very subtle in its way of tackling terrorism and this soon to be passed law only serves to prove that. Whilst it may make sense on a surface level, taking away the privacy of the majority for a small minority has never been the correct and ethical way of going curbing illegal activities.
It will be interesting to see to what lengths Russia goes to in order to enforce this ban. Will it be similar to China where they allocate a lot of resources towards a government solution that makes sure no VPNs can make it through. Will it be something they pass to ISPs to deal with, or will it just be an unenforced law that just makes it difficult for VPN vendors based in Russia.
Russia sets a scary precedent, with the UK Home Secretary looking to do a similar thing, it may very well be the case that VPNs may soon be on the hitlist of many other countries around the globe. You will often see politicians state that encryption must be compromised in the name of national security.
We live in a time where the UK passed a bill, with no major opposition, that allows a number of organisations to view anyone’s internet browsing history on a whim. Anything is possible.