Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN, a Russian VPN owned by cyber-security giants Kaspersky, has been confirmed as the first, and as far as we are aware only, VPN to comply with the Russian governments online censorship demands,
Both users of Kaspersky and independent monitors have confirmed that sites which are blocked by the Russian authorities are now also unavailable to Kaspersky VPN users too.
Russia’s online censorship spiral
Regular readers may recall that we have reported before on how Russia wrote to a number of leading VPNs back in March to demand that they comply with the country’s censorship laws or else risk being blocked.
The overwhelming majority of VPNs ignored this demand with many, including ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and IPVanish issuing public statements reassuring users that they would not comply. Some providers decided to pull their Russian servers for fear that their presence could put users at risk.
Then last month, the Russian authorities warned that providers had 30 days to comply or their service would be blocked. Given that the Russian government lacks both the resources and technical ability to block VPNs, as proved by the failure of their outright ban last year, few providers were quaking in their boots.
That deadline has passed and, as far as we are aware, no VPN has been successfully blocked in Russia so far.
But one VPN has begun to comply with the Russian regime’s demands and block access to censored websites inside Russia. That VPN is, unsurprisingly, Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN.
How Kaspersky VPN is censoring the web
Roskomsvoboda [in Russian], an NGO which monitors online censorship in Russia, has reported that it has been contact by a number of Kaspersky VPN users since July 1st.
They claim that users have told them that when they try to access censored websites, they now simply receive a message saying, “this page doesn’t exist”. Others say they receive a message from Russia’s online regulator, the Roskomnadzor, pointing them to a register of censored websites in the country.
Roskomsvoboda also reports that Kaspersky VPN is now keeping a log of every website its users visit. Obviously this goes completely against the reasons for having a VPN in the first place.
VPN users want to keep their online data secure and private. They don’t want an external company to log what they are doing and make the information available to their government.
Kaspersky VPN compliance no surprise
Kaspersky VPN insist they are only abiding by the laws of one of the countries they operate in.
They added rather disingenuously that, “[the] Roskomnadzor requirements don’t affect the main purpose of Kaspersky Secure Connection, which protects user privacy and ensures confidentiality and protection against data interception.”
This is demonstrably untrue for the reasons we have just outlined. They also claim that the new rules do not affect users from outside Russia.
But quite how many international users will be willing to trust a VPN so obviously in the pocket of the Putin regime when other more reputable providers like ExpressVPN are out there remains to be seen.
Few observers will be particularly surprised that Kaspersky VPN have decided to comply with the Russian regimes demands.
As Sarkis Darbinyan of Roskomsvoboda told Radio Free Europe, “Kaspersky was never a company that fought with the Russian authorities. On the contrary, it’s actively cooperated with them. So compliance with Russian laws won’t raise any dilemmas for them.”
Alert readers might recall that back in 2017, the US government banned Kaspersky products from government devices because of the companies close links to the Russian regime.
As a Russian-based VPN they cannot afford to fall out with the government there. But the decision to comply with their government’s censorship demands is likely to see their international user base rapidly decline.
Meanwhile how many Russian users will bother with them when other, better, VPNs like ExpressVPN are still available in Russia, remains to be seen.
Out advice to Russian internet users is that using a VPN should be considered essential. The scale of Russian state surveillance, censorship, and the threat of legal consequences if they get wind of any untoward online activity means VPNs are all but mandatory in Russia now,.
But needless to say, we would strongly advise you not to choose Kaspersky VPN as your provider. If you want to keep your online activity out of the clutches of the Russian regime, you need to choose a different VPN.
At the time of writing, ExpressVPN would be our number one recommendation. But the Russian regime has stated its intentions to block ExpressVPN and most of the other VPNs on our recommended list. It is unlikely they will be able to do this but an outside possibility remains.