Skyrocket demand for VPN in Russia after Facebook, Instagram block

As Russia blocked access to Meta Platform Inc.’s flagship social media platform, Facebook and Instagram, demand for tools to lift restrictions from Internet users has skyrocketed, according to data from a watchdog.

Instagram access to Russia was cut off from Monday in response to Meter’s decision last week to allow Ukrainian social media users to post messages such as “Death to Russian invaders”. Facebook was already banned for what Moscow said was a ban on Russian media access.

In the run-up to the Instagram ban, demand for virtual private networks (VPNs) that encrypt data and obscure where users are located was 2,088 percent higher than the average daily demand in mid-February, according to data from the watchdog Top10VPN.

Russia has been targeted by unprecedented Western sanctions for its activities in Ukraine and is fighting to control the flow of information, slowing down traffic to foreign social media companies and direct bans on Facebook and Instagram.

Demand for this specialty has grown significantly as a result of recent cyberattacks on Russian and Ukrainian websites.

Russia banned several VPNs last year, but failed to completely block them as critics stifled Internet freedom as part of a wider campaign.

An analysis of Top10VPN’s data on more than 6,000 entries in the central registry of blocked Russian websites shows that 203 news sites and 97 foreign exchange and crypto sites are currently blocked in Russia.

State communications regulator Roscommonadzor said on Monday that the number of cyber-attacks against the Russian government’s IT systems and infrastructure had risen sharply since February 24.

It warns criminals that cyber attacks can lead to criminal consequences.

Thomson Reuters 2022

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