Recently, a government agency in Russia demanded that all VPNs with servers in the country must provide access to the Roskomnadzor.
This was in a bid to widen the internet censorship net currently being used to control what Russian citizens can view on the web and increase surveillance.
The Russian government, using agencies like the Roskomnadzor, is known for its notoriety when it comes to surveillance and internet censorship.
However, most of the VPN services mentioned in the report did not comply with the order, even after being threatened that their services would be banned if they did not provide the access.
Instead, a number of them have since taken steps to remove all physical infrastructure- including servers- from the country while still being able to provide their services to Russian citizens.
Why VPNs are immune to government censorship
The Russian case is a classic example of why VPNs occupy a very unique and important spot in today’s internet.
Minus a VPN, governments using well-funded surveillance agencies such as Russia’s Roskomnadzor and China’s State Internet Information Office can implement things like:
Website bans and restrictions
It has been standard practice in some countries to ban or restrict access to popular websites that are deemed not “safe” for their country.
Sometimes, useful websites such as Google, CNN, Facebook and many others are the ones on the receiving end of the ban.
For instance, the Russian Roskomnadzor has over the years implemented partial and complete bans on popular websites such as Wikipedia, the New York Times, some Bitcoin-related websites among others.
Internet communication restrictions
Government agencies often resort to either blocking access to internet communication software or implementing strict surveillance on all chat and communication traffic in the country.
This is often done in collaboration with all internet service providers who have privileged access to your data.
For instance, popular chat websites and apps such as Telegram and iMessenger been at loggerheads with the Russian and Chinese government in the past.
However, such restrictions and bans can be avoided if one were to use a VPN. They are not meant to help you break the law but VPNs can be useful in many ways, among them:
1. Bypass website and geo-restrictions
Sometimes all you want is to access that news article or TV show that is popular in other countries but unavailable in your country.
Through government bureaucracies and blanket internet censorship, sometimes useful websites and content may be banned in your country.
At the same time, some foreign websites may implement geo-restriction protocols to restrict access to users in other parts of the world.
A VPN will open the entire internet to you so that you can access whichever content you need at any time and without fear.
Test the best VPN software for a free trial period to get a feel of what you can access without such restrictions.
2. Protect your internet privacy
You may not have a problem with your government accessing your data but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of private data collection entities on the internet.
You should stop them from harvesting and using your data for commercial interests.
A VPN passes your data through a private internet tunnel so that third-parties cannot see it.
3. Use a VPN internet security
Make your internet activity more secure by using a VPN every time you access your accounts on the internet.
This is especially important if you happen to use unsecured public WIFI hotspots that have become a favorite hunting ground for hackers and data collection apps.
Use a VPN for sensitive communications
It’s unthinkable with the kind of surveillance today for persons who need frequent secure communication to use the public internet without a VPN.
If you are an investigative journalist, politician or any other person of interest, then you should have access to a VPN in addition to other security tools at your disposal.
How a VPN works- a simple explanation
So how exactly does a virtual private network work and how do you use it?
A VPN passes all your incoming and outgoing Internet traffic through a secure private tunnel.
This means that your data will be passed through private servers that are not accessible to any third parties (such as government agencies and hackers).
This is why governments like the Russian government have to demand access to VPN servers if they need to access your data and why VPN providers cannot provide that access.
At the same time, the VPN provider ensures that your data is encrypted while it is in transmission meaning even those who manage to access it cannot make use of it.