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The Internet Censorship Government Privacy Security

Russia's Anti-VPN Law Goes Into Effect (theregister.co.uk) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: A Russian law that bans the use or provision of virtual private networks (VPNs) will come into effect Wednesday. The legislation will require ISPs to block websites that offer VPNs and similar proxy services that are used by millions of Russians to circumvent state-imposed internet censorship. It was signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 29 and was justified as a necessary measure to prevent the spread of extremism online. Its real impact, however, will be to make it much harder for ordinary Russians to access websites ISPs are instructed to block connections to by Russian regulator Roskomnadzor, aka the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. The law is just one part of a concerted effort by the Russian government to restrict access to information online. While Russia does not appear to be going the same route as China -- which has a country wide, constantly maintained censorship apparatus, known as the Great Firewall of China -- it is clearly following its lead. At the same time as Putin signed the VPN legislation, he signed another that will come into effect in January. That law, like a similar one passed by the Chinese government earlier this year, will require operators of messaging services to verify their users' identities through phone numbers. And it will require operators to introduce systems to cut off any users that are deemed by the Russian government to be spreading illegal content.
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Russia's Anti-VPN Law Goes Into Effect

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  • Wikipedia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thereitis ( 2355426 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:07AM (#55468643) Journal
    Wow, Russia really has blocked Wikipedia? What kind of country does that?

    Reminds me of the kind of paranoia ancient kings used to have, thinking everyone was out to get them.

    • Re: Wikipedia (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?

      • I am not paranoid!

        Because if you are, THEY notice!

    • That government regulator has even blocked themselves once.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by FilatovEV ( 1520307 )

      Wow, Russia really has blocked Wikipedia?

      I'm from Russia. Wikipedia is not banned. The claim in the article is incorrect.

      • Thanks for letting us know. I can't imagine such a vast trove of information being wholesale blocked by a modern country.
        • Re:Wikipedia (Score:4, Informative)

          by FilatovEV ( 1520307 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:45AM (#55468861)

          Thanks for letting us know. I can't imagine such a vast trove of information being wholesale blocked by a modern country.

          You are welcome.

          More precisely, Wikipedia was blocked for a brief period of time -- perhaps a day -- in 2015, over some article about a drug. However, very soon the officials backtracked, so not all ISPs have even implemented the ban by the time the block was lifted.

          Using Google translate, you can read the Russian Wikipedia entry about that event [google.com]. Or just can read about that story in some English media, such as Guardian [theguardian.com].

    • Oh please, all the cool dictatorships do it today.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      Reminds me of the kind of paranoia ancient kings used to have, thinking everyone was out to get them.

      History professor or a book author discussing various political leaders during WWII, Hitler and Stalin signed agreement but later Hitler invaded USSR which just prior Germany was receiving many resources from the Soviets (steel, oil, etc). Germany, Japan, and Italy could have coordinated closer which they could have cut off England of oil from Iraq. However, he said dictators tend to be suspicious of each other.

    • If you're the murdering thief, thug despot of a country where the others who have power are murdering thieves and thugs, you hafta do what you can to stay ahead of them.

  • If Putin does it, it becomes much harder for the EU/US to justify crippling VPNs.

    • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:31AM (#55468783) Homepage

      You really haven't been paying attention to the Trump administration, have you?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Germany recently massively expanded their own "extremism/hate speech/for the children" censorship laws, and the EU is trying to get this shit EU-wide.

      If anything they're trying to keep up with Putin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Desler ( 1608317 )

      No it doesn't. The West’s authoritarians are falling over themselves to follow Russia and China’s lead when it comes to surveillance and oppression. And just like Putin, they claim it’s all about “extremism.”

    • by fazig ( 2909523 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:50AM (#55468887)
      You underestimate the fear of "terrorist" and "evil immigrants", which helped nationalistic authoritarians to rise to significant political power once again in Europe. Those fears seen to outweigh any moral high ground that could be gained by doing thing differently than Russia at the moment.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:24AM (#55468749)

    Basically China has show the way

    1) Stop foreign companies operating - ban them, spy on them, drive them out
    2) Force people to use domestic companies, and force those domestic companies to censor and spy on people.
    3) Ban VPNs so people can't see sources outside the country

    Claim it's all to stop 'extremism'.

    I remember back in the 90's the left in the US and UK claimed that censorship wouldn't work in China and China would eventually be forced to democratize. Now those same left want US social media companies to clamp down more and more on 'hate speech' which in this case means 'speech they hate'. In the UK people have gone to prison for a Facebook posts.

    But hey, at least it's not the government censoring people. Rather it's an unelected oligarchy in tech companies that between them have a monopoly on the means of communication. So it's not violating the First Amendment which means it's fine.

    The US and UK of course don't block VPNs, because they don't need to - most VPNs are US based and the NSA can zap 'em with a national security letter [wikipedia.org] if it needs to spy on them. What about foreign companies? Well the US government apparently wanted a US buyer for Skype. Microsoft - which is US based and thus vulnerable to a national security letter - bought it. At which point Microsoft did this

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Chinese, Russian and United States law enforcement agencies have the ability to eavesdrop on Skype conversations, as well as have access to Skype users' geographic locations. In many cases, simple request for information is sufficient, and no court approval is needed. This ability was deliberately added by Microsoft after they purchased Skype in 2011 for the law enforcement agencies around the world. This is implemented through switching the Skype client for a particular user account from the client-side encryption to the server-side encryption, allowing dissemination of an unencrypted data stream.

    The interesting thing is that when it comes to intelligence cooperation where a company is owned makes a great deal of difference. US companies cooperate with US intelligence. Chinese and Russian ones cooperate with their intelligence agencies. Thus allowing people to use foreign companies is a national security risk. It also runs the risk of political contamination - witness the 'Russians-under-the-bed' paranoia in the US about Russian companies spending a few tens of thousands of dollars during the last US election.

    • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @09:01AM (#55468953)

      It wasn't "the left" that said China would democratize, you jackass. If you claim to remember that, you're either lying or a fool.

      It was corporations like Apple and Google and a bunch of others that couldn't wait to get their hot corporate hands on all that lovely Chinese money. The whole "we'll make them free" argument was just a sop to willfully-credulous Congressmen and Senators on both sides of the aisle who needed an excuse to turn a blind eye while their corporate masters helped build "The Great Firewall of China".

      Those corporations ran their PR-as-news stories in every publication they could beg or bribe to publish it. It works like this: a corporation provides a nice, long article or video, complete with pretty pictures, accurate descriptions of technology and all the bells and whistles, and they do it for free. Oh...and it contains an interview with some techy-looking pseudo-geek who explains how China will have no choice but to let information run free in the Brave New Infoworld they're building. News media owners are delighted to get this crap, because it's free and it looks good. Publish enough of it and you get to lay off a real reporter who might dig down enough to figure out what's really going to happen when you turn all that lovely technology and software over to a brutal totalitarian government.

      No sane person on either the left or the right believed China would do anything but enlist those corporations in their efforts to utterly control their subjects' access to information, and threaten them with expulsion if they even made a whimper about "free information".

      Smarten up

    • So what's your proposed solution to the rotten leadership at Twitter and Facebook? Should the government get into the business of regulating what content private entities can and can't host on their web site? How about Trump or some other even-minded individual purchase a controlling stake in the company? I'm sure it would do better under His leadership. Or, you could keep on voluntarily using these sites and being oppressed in whatever way you feel is happening, and keep complaining about it on Slashdot.
      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        It's far to early for government intervention. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTune dominate the market, but as of yet there's no evidence that competitors can't grow. It's legitimate to rant at these companies for abusing their near-monopoly power to push their political agendas, however - it especially pisses me off as an (indirect) stockholder.

        The right answer is to support any credible competition that doesn't seem to be pushing a political agenda (or, failing that, an opposing bias, but really, can't we ju

    • lets deflect from the issue at hand by using false equivalence, do you work for the Internet Research Agency? geez
    • Now those same left want US social media companies to clamp down more and more on 'hate speech' which in this case means 'speech they hate'.

      You mean like athletes kneeling during their national anthem.

      But hey, at least it's not the government censoring people.

      It is in the case of Trump actually. The free market couldn't convince the NFL to take a unified stand, but the threat to revoke their tax status quickly got the job done. It's like the constitution never even existed.

      witness the 'Russians-under-the-bed' paranoia in the US about Russian companies spending a few tens of thousands of dollars during the last US election.

      A few tens of thousands of dollars? Really, I thought the current tally was at $300,000 + 247,000 (by Russia Today) + tens of thousands of dollars. And what about Paul Manafort, he may have been the unpaid Campaign Manager of the Tru

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "The US and UK of course don't block VPNs, because they don't need to - most VPNs are US based and the NSA can zap 'em with a national security letter if it needs to spy on them. "

      In the West a person can think they have freedom but their VPN use can be well understood by the security services with efforts like TURMOIL, APEX, POISENNUT GALLANTWAVE, VALIANTSURF, MALIBU.

      Inside the NSA's War on Internet Security (Dec 28, 2014)
      http://www.spiegel.de/internat... [spiegel.de]
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Basically China has show the way

      1) Stop foreign companies operating - ban them, spy on them, drive them out

      The first premise in your argument is completely wrong, the rest of your ill thought out post is even worse.

      China does not force foreign companies from operating, quite the opposite, they encourage it as long as China is benefiting (either through access to technology they aren't able to replicate or by financial incentives). Lots of honest, god-fearing western companies use china to get around those pesky environmental or workplace protection laws. As long as a palm gets greased and they dont rock the b

  • The people must want this or we'd see an uprising which we don't.
    • If you sat down and talked to them about it one on one, they would tell you they don't want it. But there are many who are ignorant and wouldnt know until you talked to them. Or they may vaguely know things like this go on, but they have no idea what a VPN is, and so can't parse why this, specifically, is important. Of those who know, and those who care... Most have more pressing concerns that they will devote their effort to.
      • People don't know how to effect change. The system doesn't give them any legitimate avenues to do it, and the alternatives like armed revolution or leaving the country have pretty high costs.
  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:31AM (#55468779)

    I can see the deep thought behind it; just like they killed the Lycos MP3 search engine and napster and gnutella p2p - no one shares files anymore. If you can do that to file sharing why not VPN? -BAN ALL VPNs!

    I'm just tunnelling this information via encrypted link end to end. TOTALLY DIFFERENT TO VPN.

    Time to start using MAID - encryption via mutli-port-multi-protocol distributed means. VPN is a joke.

    Thank you to China for starting this process and for Russia to accelerate it. I hope more countries follow suit.

    What's the point anyhow? Putin throws whoever he wants in jail regardless of wrong doing and makes rich people "share" their wealth with him. -call it the loving embrace of a bear.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I guess I'm wondering how they're implementing this.

      Blocking PPTP / L2TP? Fine. I'll use OpenVPN on port 443 - go ahead and block all secure HTTP and see what happens to your economy.

      Using some kind of deep inspection to find out that it's OpenVPN traffic? Ok, I'll just set up an SSH tunnel on any arbitrary port I want to and use Docker to put up a SOCKS5 proxy to pass all traffic from my local network through that tunnel. Good luck.

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        And with https://github.com/yrutschle/s... [github.com] you can run https and openvpn on the same port (443), further hiding your openvpn server from prying eyes, although MITM could still happen, but openvpn would likely flag that immediately if you have it set up right. Although I'm sure traffic pattern analysis could still flag such a setup.

    • The point is, VPNs are an existing technology that is directly supported in pretty much all computer OSes, and is easy to use. If you ban them, sure, there are workarounds - but they require a lot more effort. They don't need to make things foolproof; they just need to make them hard enough, that most people don't bother.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When Russia enacts laws to censor the internet it's bad (no argument here).

    When EU countries do it, suddenly liberals are cheering and it's the best thing ever (because they know these laws are being used to silence their opposition).

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:47AM (#55468869) Homepage

    Well, we had a good run, 30 years or so for the old-fashioned global internet. But having that much information available is simply too threatening to powerful people. We the commoners are supposed to keep our heads down and do their work for them, not crowdsource cases of corruption and essentially solve them, nor correctly point out where the ruling class is totally full of shit.

    Right now, all of that is happening on Youtube/Facebook/Twitter/etc. Trump's election was a severe shock not just to American elites but to ruling classes the world over. The writing on the wall is clear: if you want to remain ruling class, don't let the proles know the real story. Youtube is ruthlessly demonetizing, Facebook is censoring, Twitter is deleting accounts and governments are blocking off the outside world. The future will be national networks with limited access to the outside, like China's today. In February a VPN ban will go into effect in China and that will be the end of that. So there will be a Chinese network, a Russian network, and increasingly fragmented networks the world over that don't really connect to each other. Good try internet, you did some good there for a while, but you were just too threatening to allow to continue to exist.

    • Pull yourself together man! The government just wants you to think they're in control. If they want a fight they got one.
  • much harder for ordinary Russians to access websites ISPs are instructed to block connections to by Russian regulator Roskomnadzor

    Whereas the "Great Firewall of China" may be considered a tragedy, Roskomnadzor's efforts are the proverbial farce that follows: the agency has blocked itself [bloomberg.com] — apparently, on more than one occasion...

  • by WheezyJoe ( 1168567 ) <feggNO@SPAMexcite.com> on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @08:53AM (#55468903)

    First, see what kind of social and economic mischief you can carry out in the West by way of "anonymous" activity on the Internet - do it cheap, like get kids to help out [dailymail.co.uk], and take note how hard it is to trace back to the culprit.
    (in parallel, see how much actual damage [wired.com] can be carried out, using Ukraine as a guinea-pig [npr.org]).
    Next, notice well it all worked, beyond all reasonable expectations, even to the extent of swaying elections of public officials in the U.S. (they're holding Congressional hearings about us!), and encouraging open revolt against the state [businessinsider.com] and inflaming street unrest [cnbc.com].
    Third, in view of the fact that Russian officials do not tolerate street unrest and open revolt against the state, conclude that this "research experiment" has proven without question that the Internet is a danger to the Motherland and its beloved leader, Valdimir Putin.
    Fourth and finally, take pre-emptive action based on this valuable research to crush this threat and make sure it don't never happen here (Russian military take note... could be useful someday; continue research).
    P.S.: President Xi says to Putin in his heavy Chinese accent, "way ahead of you."
    P.P.S.: Kim Jong-un says it was all my idea [news.com.au].

  • That's censorship of course. But unfortunately not enough people have the technical awareness to mass protest (unlike if it was soda, or Nutella).
  • Soviet Union 2.0 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @11:05AM (#55469791) Journal
    That's what Putin wants, and if you can't believe that at this point in time then you're either not paying attention or your powers of denial are wizard-level strong. Putin wants to bring back the Soviet Union, resurrected in his own image, and denying his own citizens as much free access to the Internet outside of Russia proper is just one item on his to-do list.
    • It's more people are using Putin as the foreign boogeyman. Russia really isn't that threatening. They are in demographic collapse, their economy is the size of Italy and shrinking, they have a huge border they can't defend, and they are surrounded on all sides by hostile bases. But we're undergoing a second Red Scare. People are seeing Russians under the bed. A sense of proportion is called for.
      • *shrug* I think you're dead wrong. It's been called another version of 'cold war', but it is what it is, and Putin isn't just going to sit back and be the despotic ruler of Russia until he dies (either by natural causes or someone slipping polonium into his food), he show all the signs of wanting to build an empire. Look deeper.
        • I am *not* dead wrong. Russia has a terrible position. They're no Soviet Union. They're surrounded, where are they going to go? The US won't allow anything to happen to its captive vassal states in Europe. China is on the other border, and worthless central Asia in between. There are NATO bases in Kyrgzstan, for fuck's sake.

          You should really check out the current real strengths of the European armies and Russia. [imgur.com] The European Union is already strong enough to defend against Russia, an opponent not eve

          • by WheezyJoe ( 1168567 ) <feggNO@SPAMexcite.com> on Wednesday November 01, 2017 @03:37PM (#55471833)

            I am *not* dead wrong. Russia has a terrible position. They're no Soviet Union. They're surrounded, where are they going to go?

            Uhh, Crimea [bloomberg.com], for a start? They have Syria [reuters.com], too.

            The US won't allow anything to happen to its captive vassal states in Europe.

            I think the people of Ukraine would disagree with you [forbes.com] on that.

            The European Union is already strong enough to defend against Russia

            So far, they've been strong enough to impose some sanctions [europa.eu] over the invasion of Ukraine and the taking of Crimea. But it's kinda over... nobody believes Russia is going to just pack up and leave. Re-draw the maps: Crimea is now part of the Russian Federation [wikipedia.org].

            Don't fall for the old "blame the dirty foreigners" line, it's the oldest trick in the book.

            Unless the dirty foreigners are actually playing dirty. They play dirty in Ukraine, they play dirty in Syria [theguardian.com]. They play dirty on the high seas [go.com]. They have vast oil wealth [wikipedia.org], hold real estate interests worldwide [reuters.com], and maintain the largest nuclear stockpile in the world [newsweek.com], which Putin said (over dinner) could destroy America in a half-hour or less [businessinsider.com].

            And then there's that whole internet hacking thing. If the shoe fits, wear it.

            • You've pretty much beaten the guy up all by yourself so I'll leave that be, but I'd like to add:
              Just because Putin/Russia isn't outwardly strong doesn't mean he can't be a troublemaker. What I see is Russia covertly influencing all sorts of things to destabilize NATO countries, NATO being the main roadblock to Putin invading other countries. We here in the U.S. sure feel 'destabilized', don't we? Did anyone think that Russian influence was because Putin like Trump or something? LOL no, the U.S. is one of t
              • The NATO countries have been demanding we leave for decades. Stop playing world police has been shouted loudly and often. "Ami go home" is spraypainted outside every US military base. Do we really have something to lose as Americans if we pull back our external activity? The Cold War is over, and it seems the more fingers we have in pies like NATO, the Middle Eastern countries, and so forth, the more problems we create.

                Let Europe defend Europe. They are not incapable nascent and fragile democracies anym

                • If we'd taken that attitude in past decades instead of what we actually did, we'd all be speaking either German or Japanese by now. Bullshit attitude rejected. The world is now TOO SMALL to be isolationist, and it's far too late to just throw hands up and say "goodbye".
            • Ukraine isn't a part of NATO and thus not a US vassal state. Crimea had a free and fair vote to join Russia - the same kind of vote a lot of people would like to have in California to see if they want to join Mexico. You appear to be beating the drums of war and making Russia out to be some gigantic scary threat when in fact the US has the problem well in hand already. Russia a long time ago lost its place as a superpower. Now it's a regional power with nukes.

              The biggest threat to world peace is American

              • Ukraine isn't a part of NATO and thus not a US vassal state.

                ... and therefore open to be invaded and annexed by Russia. Sucks to be them, right?

                Crimea had a free and fair vote to join Russia - the same kind of vote a lot of people would like to have in California to see if they want to join Mexico.

                Do you hear yourself? Free and fair [quora.com]? and Californians want to secede to Mexico? You got a cite for that? Your credibility has dropped to zero with that one.

                The biggest threat to world peace is American imperialism and NATO is merely their tool.

                What imperialism? What country is the U.S. attempting to annex, militarily or otherwise? Imperialism suggests that "vassals" pay to the emperor state. If NATO is paying so much, where's the fucking money?!?!?!? why the FUCK is the U.S. in DEFICIT if its world-wid

                • A substantial number of Hispanics in California wish to join their part of the state politically to Mexico. Northern California becomes the state of Jefferson. Just hold a plebiscite, composed of all residents. Doesn't matter about citizenship, just the people on the territory. This is standard UN practice, it's how East Timor got away from Indonesia.

                  I feel you don't understand international relations very well, or more likely never had any interest until a year or so ago. You have a very surface und

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