Russian court refuses to unblock British VPN as authorities turn to DPI in Telegram crackdown

A British VPN company has seen attempts to get its service unblocked in Russia refused by the Russian courts.

Private Networks, a small VPN provider based in Scotland, had decided to take the Russian communications watchdog, the Roskomnadzor, to court after their VPN server, TgVPN, was blocked in Russia.

TgVPN’s Russian block to continue

TgVPN is a VPN service designed to work alongside the encrypted messaging service Telegram. Regular readers will recall that earlier on this year, Russian authorities attempted to block Telegram across the country after they refused to hand over their encryption keys to Russian authorities.

Their efforts were farcical, with countless websites becoming unavailable in Russia as heavy-handed officials blocked millions of IP Addresses in an attempt to take Telegram down.

They failed, and Telegram remains available in Russia, with the help of various tools including VPNs. Aware that the availability of VPNs was making them look stupid, Russian authorities then attempted to block VPNs to close this loophole.

Their efforts on this front were largely ineffective too, but they did have some success and one of the affected services was TgVPN, a VPN service dedicated to Telegram, which had initially proven to be a popular choice for Telegram users in Russia.

The owners of TgVPN, Private Networks chose to go down the legal route rather than simply attempt to get their service back online by finding a technological solution to the block.

VPNs remain banned in Russia

It always looked like an optimistic approach.

VPNs are technically outlawed in Russia following a law change last year. And while it is generally acknowledged that Russia has neither the technical know-how or resources to enforce this ban on all providers, they were always unlikely to agree to unblock one of the few providers they have taken offline.

In their appeal to The Moscow Arbitration Court, Private Network’s called the Roskomnadzor’s blacklisting of their domain names and IP Address illegal and requested they be removed.

Inevitably, the judge in the case “completely refuse[d] to satisfy the claims.” As a result, TgVPN will remain blocked in Russia for the foreseeable future.

The case also sets a precedent whereby VPNs can now know for sure (if they ever doubted it) that Moscow is determined to clamp down on their activities as and when they can.

Russia’s Telegram ban getting more sophisticated

Russia is now also trying to tighten up its attempts to block Telegram to remove the huge collateral damage that was caused by their blocking of IP Addresses. It has been reported by Reuters that they are now trying to switch to Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to prevent Russians accessing the service.

DPI is a much more precise science than the scattergun approach of trying to block IP Addresses. It involved analyzing the precise data of internet traffic to identify whether Telegram is being used and then blocking individual links.

To date, they have only enjoyed limited success with this approach too, but their determination appears undimmed.

Since beginning their botched attempts to block Telegram, Russian authorities have only served to push more and more people onto VPNs in an attempt to get around their block. If they do start to enjoy more success with their DPI approach, this trend is likely to continue.

For their part, Telegram has apparently tried to compromise with Russian authorities. Last month, Telegram lawyer Pavel Chikov confirmed that they had changed their confidentiality agreement to reflect an agreement to hand over information about suspected terrorists to Russian authorities.

This is not likely to include the contents of messages sent by subjects, however. Telegram has repeatedly stressed that it has no access to this data and explained that the way their app encrypts user data means that there is no ‘encryption key’ which can be used to unscramble messages.

Despite this, their willingness to compromise with Russian authorities could unnerve some users and again many may turn to a VPN to protect themselves.

There are plenty of VPNs which are still available in Russia and ideal for the job. Our recommended providers for Russia are IPVanish and ExpressVPN.

You can learn more about which VPNs work best in Russia by reading our article on the Best VPNs for Russia.

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