Huge Surge In VPN Use In Russia Since Ukraine Invasion To Bypass Internet Control By Govt.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russians are turning to virtual private networks (VPN) to get around the country’s increasing internet censorship.
VPNs may hide a user’s identity and location on the internet, allowing them to access prohibited websites and services.
According to statistics produced for CNBC by SensorTower, the top 10 VPN apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store in Russia saw roughly 6 million downloads between February 24, the day when Russia started the invasion of Ukraine, and March 8.
When compared to the top 10 VPN applications in the prior 13-day period, this was 1,500% more.
For years, Russia’s internet has been censored, despite the fact that major American platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have remained freely accessible, unlike in China, where they are entirely restricted.
These firms, on the other hand, have faced threats of being shut down, particularly if they carry information that is seen as critical of the Kremlin.
President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, has recently sought to strengthen his hold over the internet. Russia passed the “sovereign internet” law in 2019, giving authorities broad rights to try to cut Russia’s internet off from the rest of the world. Russia said at the time that the bill was intended to strengthen its defenses against cyberattacks.
Russia is aiming to severely limit access to international internet platforms as the invasion progresses. On March 4, Meta-owned Facebook was disabled, and access to Twitter was restricted.
According to Top10VPN, a review and analytics website, demand for VPNs has increased by more than tenfold since March 5.
“As various companies have begun restricting access to their products in Russia, VPN apps have experienced a surge in adoption in the market as Russian users attempt to bypass these restrictions,” a SensorTower spokesperson said.
“The installs of VPN apps will likely continue to climb as restrictions continue ramping up. At the moment, marketplaces such as Apple’s App Store and Google Play are still available — however, that may very well change in the future.”
Surfshark, a VPN provider, said that its weekly revenues in Russia had climbed by 3,500% since February 24, with the highest increases occurring on March 5 and 6, when Facebook was blocked.
“Such a rapid surge means that people living in Russia are actively looking for ways to avoid government surveillance and censorship,” a Surfshark spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Twitter has created a Tor-based version of its website, which encrypts internet data to enable users to hide their identities and avoid being tracked.
While Russia has taken steps to ban services, a rising number of IT businesses have opted to halt operations.