New reports coming out of reliable sources in Russia have suggested that there has been a new wave of service issues with various VPN services in the country.
Experts believe that these have been caused by Russian authorities attempting to block VPN services in the country or testing methods locally to achieve blockages more widely.
What problems have VPN users in Russia been experiencing?
Starting from 7th August 7th, there has been a wave of complaints from Russian netizens regarding glitches and technical issues in their VPN services.
These problems appear to be targeting subscribers of major Russian mobile networks such as MTS, MegaFon, Beeline, Tele2, Yota, and Tinkoff Mobile.
Interestingly, according to Security Lab, the situation seems a less problematic and more stable for those using VPNs on fixed-line providers like Rostelecom.
To date, it seems that the problems are not particularly widespread.
Independent Russian media outlet Mediazona says the issue has only been faced by some users in some areas, with most complaints originating from Moscow and St Petersburg and their surrounding areas. Tatarstan is another area where there have been some problems.
What is causing the VPN issues in Russia?
The Russian technical support project Na Svyazi has said that the issue is almost certain to be as a result of actions taken by the Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications authority which oversees the extensive online restrictions and state censorship in Russia.
Interestingly, it has also being reported that the problems have affected a wide range of VPN protocols, including WireGuard, OpenVPN, IPSec, Shadowsocks, and IKEv2.
In addition, the Telegram channel Esher II has stated that the VPN protocols L2TP and PPTP have been blocked in this latest wave of issues as well.
Not all VPN providers have been affected by the new problems at the time of writing. Na Svyazi has claimed that those VPNs that have experienced service issues are:
- VPN Generator
- Urban VPN
- Terona VPN
- Private Internet Access
- Proton VPN
- OpenVPN Connect
- Planet VPN
- Surfshark VPN
- Tunnelbear VPN
The Meduza.io website reports Terone VPN customer support attributing the problems to “another wave of blockages from Roskomnadzor.”
Who is affected and what can they do?
So far, it seems that the latest wave of VPN blockages are only affecting individuals. To date, business users seem to be unaffected.
Speaking to Meduza.io under the pseudonym ValdikSS, who created the block circumvention service AntiZapret said the latest wave of VPN blocks had targeted private servers that users independently configured using foreign providers.
He also noted that this blockage differs from previous Roskomnadzor efforts as it appeared that this time, the Roskomnadzor was using new strategies to evaluate traffic type and blocking connections to help it determine which connections are using a VPN.
This approach suggests that the Roskomnadzor’s objective is to disrupt individual VPN usage without impacting on businesses that are vital to Russia’s flailing economy and which rely on VPNs to get out of the Russian online restrictions and engage with the wider world.
It is believed that in the not-too-distant past, businesses in Russia have been asked about their VPN provisions with a view to ensuring that these were not impacted by any state blocks that might be put in place.
Back in 2021, the Russian Central Bank sent a letter asking exactly that and which ended up leaking online.
Such an approach is ambitious but also doomed to failure as most VPNs will do their homework and quickly work out a way around blocks of this type.
Our advice to Russian VPN users affected by this latest wave of Roskomnadzor censorship is to hang-tight and check in with your VPN to see what they are doing to tackle the problem.