Russia Is Blocking VPN Usage As Of November 1, 2017

Filed Under: Travel Technology

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how China is planning on blocking all VPN usage by February 2018. China has what’s commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall,” where they block many sites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Without a VPN in China I really can’t fully work, so this would prevent me from spending time in China as much as possible (assuming this is actually implemented, and that easy workarounds aren’t quickly introduced). For those of you not familiar with VPNs, Tiffany wrote a post about how they work a while back.

In general, using a VPN while traveling can be a good practice, even in places that aren’t as restrictive as China. Using a VPN can help protect your information, especially when you don’t otherwise know how secure of a network you’re connected to.

Well, it looks like China isn’t the only country that plans on cracking down on VPNs. Reuters reports that Vladimir Putin has signed a law prohibiting technology that provides access to websites banned in Russia. As of November 1, 2017, Russia is banning the use of VPNs. The head of Duma’s information policy committee said that the law isn’t intended to restrict internet access for “law-abiding citizens,” but rather only to block access for “unlawful content.”

Like I said, Russia isn’t known to be as aggressive as China when it comes to blocking web content, though they have engaged in quite a bit of censorship over the years. Russia has blocked everything from Wikipedia to LinkedIn to Reddit to porn sites.

So while many of us are more comfortable using VPNs when traveling, I don’t view this as a huge deal for travelers, since their ban won’t be as consistent or widespread as in China, at least as of now.

What do you make of Russia banning VPNs later this year?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. I have been saying for years – unless someone needs to go there for family or work-related reasons, they should stay away from that country. There are so many more pleasant places in the world to spend your money in.

  2. I just booked a trip to Russia for next May.

    Any thoughts as to whether things will deteriorate for American tourists as a result of the sanctions, etc. My visa expires in Spring 2019 so I’d like to go in Summer 2018.

  3. I wonder how this will work for those of us, like Apple and Google employees, who have to VPN into our work networks in order to do any work at all, whether we’re in China, Russia, or the Starbucks down the block.

  4. I do wonder how much longer will VPNs be permitted in the USA. I thought we might have an issue under Bush with the PATRIOT act, then possibly under Obama with the NSA scandal.. Now… it’s anyone’s guess.

    @Rich: Usually these bans are focused on public VPN providers. Even in China, UAE, etc., private corporate VPNs seem to function fine.

  5. Alex,

    I think there would be rioting in the streets if the US government tried to ban using a VPN. However I suspect that they already maintain watch lists of who does use them.

  6. @Vitaleeb, I have been to Moscow (dirty and unpleasant) and St Petersburg (pretty but still far from being my favorite place). No desire to go back

  7. As a Russian and a native Muscovite I must say that this country is rapidly going downhill in most, if not all areas. Things like VPN blockage are very minor in the grand scheme of poor governmental management, corruption, political turmoil and complete collapse of the economy.
    Everyone I know wants to leave Russia for good and never come back. It’s becoming unbearable to live here.
    I seriously advise you against visiting.

  8. Oh and P.S. – you can go to jail in Russia for reposting a picture on social media or liking a post. Fun.

  9. We just got back from St. Petersburg a few weeks ago. We felt perfectly fine there. There are so many bus loads of tourists that a few more won’t matter. As far as safety, you only have to watch out for pickpockets. We got the St. Petersburg card and got our money’s worth out of it. People will tell you don’t go or it’s too dangerous, but if you have the chance to go, do it!

  10. I think people are a bit too hysterical about Russia. It is a beautiful country. I am American, but I have lived in Vladivostok for 4 years, and have visited numerous Russian cities. I highly advise visiting Russia. I live there and don’t even use a VPN, and almost never have issues with blocked websites. Plus, Moscow and St. Petersburg are both more beautiful and MUCH cleaner than places such as New York, London, Paris, and etc. And, the culture is very interesting to experience. Don’t let the biased media deter you from visiting.

  11. This is certainly is a major issue for those of us travelling on duty and being required to use VPN by the corporate network configuration … Arguably, Russia is way down on the list of destinations visited most – China is cerainly more of a concern for my colleagues and me. (And just to add a comment to Rich: I’m not working for Google or Apple … not even in a remote sense …)

  12. Internet and VPN access during travel is a luxury which I see is about as necessary as wearing designer apparel and expecting to eat the comfort foods you are used to eating at home. There is so much more to the purpose of travel.

    When I was out of college, I took a humanitarian aid job, but the travel experience itself turned out to be huge bonus. There was no time to access the internet, and there often wasn’t one available. I stayed in places that were uncomfortable and even health hazards. But that was the whole point: to see what life is like and experience how the local people live.

    I later parlayed that into jobs that involved travel around the world. In 2009, I took my first trip to China, which was a business trip. There was no VPN access, but I was just fine. I could still email friends and family and look things up on the internet. Back then, I had a blog on WordPress that allowed me to post by email, thus getting around the firewall in China. It gave a coolness to the feature, but it wasn’t a big deal either way.

    Nowadays, I don’t even have time to blog. My work has brought me to Venzuela, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Mexico, Ukraine… I have no problem accessing my friends and family while I am travelling, by internet or, hello, even by using the phone.

    I don’t care about VPN, because posting and accessing social media is not a priority. LinkedIn is not accessible in Russia. It’s annoying to see that I have notifications from my LinkedIn app and I can’t see any the notifications. But when I get home and open it, there’s nothing that there that was so hugely urgent anyway.

    Just treat lack of a VPN, aka lack of social media access, as a vacation away from digital distractions.

  13. It’s a good news. China and Russia have to allow more of their people access the forign sites but more under suveilance for the business and country privacy reasons, for that sake only VPN protocol get blocked, but there is a Tor or other, which is not require VPN but the bandwidth only.

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