Russian-based VPN Kaspersky has announced that it is to cease operation and wind down its service in Russia.
Kaspersky announced on its Russian blog earlier this week that the free version of Kaspersky VPN would be suspended from 15th November, meaning anyone that has been using the service in this capacity will no longer be able to access the service from that date onwards.
Subscribers have a little bit more leeway. The paid-for Kaspersky VPN service will remain available for users, either through the Kaspersky website or various mobile app stores, until December 2022.
Those customers who still have an active subscription will still be able to use Kaspersky VPN until either the end of their current subscription period or the end of 2023, whichever is sooner.
After that, Kaspersky VPN will cease to be.
Why has Kaspersky VPN gone to the wall?
The official reasons for the winding down of Kaspersky VPN have not been made clear. They have been approached for comment by Bleeping Computer but declined to say anything beyond the official statement on their blog.
But it is fair to say that anyone who has even vaguely kept up with the news over the past six months can probably hazard a guess.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been clamping down on freedom of speech online for many years now. And since his botched invasion of Ukraine has got many Russians questioning both his sanity and his future, these restrictions have become even more intense.
Back in 2021, the Russian Roskomnadzor wrote to multiple VPNs demanding they comply with the country’s new regulations that stipulated that all data about Russian citizens had to be maintained on Russia-based servers and open for officials to access upon request.
Needless to say, almost all VPNs declined this offer, and many had to remove Russian servers from their service in order to ensure the privacy and security of their users.
Most of these services remained available to Russian internet users, but there were subsequent efforts by the Roskomnadzor, the Russian regulator, to block them. These have inevitably proved largely ineffective.
The sole VPN provider to acquiesce to the demands of the Russian state was Kaspersky VPN.
Doubtless, they were hamstrung by the fact that they are a Russian company headquartered in the country, and therefore refusing to comply would have been a much bigger task than for those providers based overseas.
However, complicity with the Russian state is not a good look for an online privacy and security tool, and the decision will have cost them users both at home and abroad.
The invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia will have cost them yet more users, and it seems likely that the VPN arm of Kaspersky’s business has no longer become viable.
Another possibility is that the Roskomnadzor has demanded yet further access to their customers on the threat of closing them down if they fail to comply, and the bosses at Kaspersky have decided to cut their losses.
What should Kaspersky VPN users do now?
If you are a subscriber to Kaspersky VPN, we would first ask why, since our advice has been for some time, that users both inside and outside Russia have many far better, safer, and more private VPNs available to them than this one.
We would then urge you to move to a different VPN at the earliest possible opportunity.
While subscribers can theoretically use the service until the end of 2023, the same security and privacy issues will remain and will likely grow since Kaspersky will not be investing much, if any, time and effort in maintaining a service they are shutting down soon anyway.
The risk now vastly outweighs the benefits and even if you have paid money to Kaspersky VPN, our simple advice would be to cut your losses now.
There are lots of good VPNs that still work inside Russia despite the best efforts of the Roskomnadzor to block them.
To find out more and read in detail about why we are recommending these three providers especially, take a look at our guide to the Best VPN for Russia.
If you are a user of the free Kaspersky VPN service, you will have no choice but to seek out an alternative service in a few days anyway.
Our advice to free VPN users is always to consider using a paid-for service if you can possibly afford it.
They offer many benefits that you simply cannot get with any free VPN service, and costs are as low as a couple of US dollars a month, depending on which provider you choose.
If your financial situation means even that is too much at the moment, the free VPN to look at is PrivadoVPN.
While there are some limitations that you don’t have with their paid version, they are at least secure and private, which is exactly what most Russian VPN users need right now.
There is a section on free VPNs in our Best VPN for Russia guide too.
If we are being honest, Kaspersky VPN is no big loss to the VPN market.
Hopefully, its demise will see more Russian users switching to secure and private premium VPNs that can let them access the internet unrestricted and learn the truth about the regime controlling their nation and its brutal and barbaric invasion of a peaceful neighbouring country.