Russia may be trying to block websites that offer VPNs, but that’s not slowing down their popularity. According to a recent analysis, VPNs have 400,000+ new Russian subscribers every day.
The Kremlin is forcing Google to delist thousands of URLs associated with VPNs. Despite this, ordinary Russians contine turning to VPN technology to hide their internet usage and access government-censored websites.
Russian censorship is nothing new. Over the past two years, the Kremlin has ordered Google to remove over half a million links related to anti-censorship tools. The largest spike of requests came in the second week of the war with Ukraine, when the Kremlin also banned various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Notably, the spike coincided with an unprecedented increase in Russian VPN uptake.
Rushin’ For Cover
Another wave of VPN installs in the country began on March 11, after the Russian communication agency Roskomnadzor announced it was banning Instagram. Several different sources confirm demand for VPNs rose substantially on March 13, compared to the daily average demand in mid-February.
Mobile analytics company Apptopia has also marked the surge. “More than 400,000 Russians a day are downloading a top 5 VPN app,” company VP Adam Blacker tweeted. “Apple and Google should not shut these people off from the outside world. They need information,” he added.
On March 14, certain VPN installs in Russia reached an all-time high, surging 11,253% beyond their normal levels according to TechRadar. The swift uptake in VPNs these past weeks among Russians is the largest ever recorded. It’s even bigger than the Chinese VPN uptake of May 2020 following the Hong Kong security law announcement. That surge, at only 700%, was only a fraction of the Russian spike.
No Longer a Luxury
Most of us view VPNs as cheap software that lets us watch movies online for free. Yet, in Russia, you now need a VPN to do even the most basic things online, from accessing their online banking and social media to getting unbiased information on current affairs.
The surge in VPN downloads means that ordinary Russians in their numbers are desperate to find ways to avoid being cut out of the global internet and to bypass increasing government surveillance and censorship.
Pick The Right Protection
Fortunately, most VPNs aren’t yet blocked in the country, so Russians can continue to use these tools to access information on Ukraine and other sensitive topics.
That said, finding the right VPN for Russia can be tricky. This is because most key payment processors have abandoned Russia, and Russia has forced many VPN services to block select websites for Russian users.
Here’s what Russians should look for in a VPN:
- Strong Security. Most importantly, your VPN provider needs to have excellent security to keep your activity hidden from surveillance. Look out for uncrackable encryption like AES 256-bit. See what tunneling protocols your VPN uses, and find the most secure ones like OpenVPN and Wireguard®. This way, no one can track your online activity, not the Russian government, internet service providers, or hackers.
- Russian Servers. Many VPN providers have shut down their servers in Russia, so if you’re looking to access Russian sites from abroad, you’ll need a VPN that still operates servers in the country. That said, you also want to check that the VPN doesn’t comply with Russia’s censorship demands. Otherwise, they’d be blocklisting several sites and you’re back to square one.
- Strict No-Logs Policy. The VPN provider should prioritize your online privacy and have a strict No-Logs policy in place. That ensures the service doesn’t keep any records of online activity, so they could never betray you and give your data to Russian authorities.
- Fast Servers. Look for unlimited bandwidth and no data caps. The government is throttling internet speeds, and many ISPs are leaving the Russian internet. The last thing you need now are slow, patchy VPN connections. Instead, opt for a VPN that can offset some of these issues and bypass content-based throttling.
- Crypto Payments. Many traditional payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal have withdrawn from the Russian market, with convenient payment methods now unavailable to Russian users–abroad and in Russia. This means you’ll need a VPN that accepts other forms of payment , like cryptocurrency.
Even after the Ukraine conflict comes to an end, it’s likely the Kremlin will continue to block citizen access to the global internet. This means VPNs will remain the only way for Russians to access uncensored information and communicate with the outside world.
CyberGhost VPN is one of the best options for Russians looking to access information on both sides of the cyber iron curtain. We have 132 servers in Russia as part of our global server network of 7800 VPN servers located in 91 countries. We’ll hide and replace your IP address to keep you connected to vital digital services like freelancer platforms, online banking, and critical information sources from anywhere.
Your activities will remain safely hidden behind military-grade encryption, so no one, not the government, your ISP, or any other snoopers can track you online. Our strict No-Logs policy means we’ll never betray your confidence.
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