Almost two years ago, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning virtual private networks (VPNs) and other tools that could be used to circumvent the country’s extensive censorship of the internet.
However, the Russian authorities haven’t done much to enforce the law. Until now.
On Thursday, Russia’s online regulator, Roskomnadzor, said it had written to 10 popular VPN services to demand they connect their systems to the watchdog’s blacklist of banned websites, so their users are no longer able to view the forbidden content.
They were given 30 days in which to do so, failing which, “Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to the VPN service.”
The notified services include NordVPN, Hide My Ass, Hola VPN, OpenVPN, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection – the only Russian VPN on the list – and VPN Unlimited. Similar obligations are placed on search-engine operators, including Google, which reportedly started playing ball last month after being hit with a small fine for noncompliance.
SEE: Can Russian hackers be stopped? Here’s why it might take 20 years (TechRepublic cover story) | Download the PDF version
In response to the request, TorGuard said in a blogpost it had “taken steps to remove all physical server presence in Russia,” wiping its Moscow and St Petersburg servers.
“We would like to be clear that this removal of servers was a voluntary decision by TorGuard management and no equipment seizure occurred,” it wrote.
“We do not store any logs, so even if servers were compromised it would be impossible for customers’ data to be exposed. TorGuard has not disclosed any information to the Russian authorities and our legal team has been notified of this request.”
TorGuard apologized for the sudden location removal and said it was rolling out additional servers in neighboring countries to “ensure fast VPN download speeds for everyone in the region.”
Because most of the services are not based in Russia, it could make them tricky to ban in an effective way. Roskomnadzor has a spotty record when it comes to blocking services based elsewhere – its haphazard attempt to block the Telegram messaging service springs to mind – though that is perhaps why lawmakers are keen to make the Russian internet (Runet) separable from the wider internet.
SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)
Of course, a ban wouldn’t be necessary if the VPN providers played ball. But Roskomnadzor may not have much luck on that front – TorGuard isn’t the only one that’s planning to resist.
“The strong censorship and oppression of the Russian regime was the main reason for us to avoid locating any of our servers inside Russia,” said VyprVPN operator Golden Frog in a blogpost.
“Our core mission is to keep the internet open and free, and therefore, we will continue to provide uncensored access to the internet in Russia and around the world. We will not cooperate with the Russian government in their efforts to censor VPN services.”
Panama-based NordVPN told a concerned user on Twitter: “Rest assured, compliance is not something that we will consider.”
OpenVPN tweeted a link to an article about Roskomnadzor’s threat, saying: “OpenVPN is committed to our users and customers by protecting them against cyberthreats and providing secure and private access to their information from anywhere in the world.”
More on Russia and the internet
The Real Reason Michael Burry Bet Millions Against Apple
Wright explains that Buffett is a long-term investor while Burry shorts stock on short-term plays. Buffett is not in the business of predicting company stock prices but invests in companies that he believes have business value down the road. Burry, on the other hand, is looking at what Apple stocks will do in the near future. Inflation, supply chain issues complicating the technology sector, China’s COVID-19 lockdowns, and the performance of NASDAQ are bound to affect Apple stock in the short term.
Burry has been open about his vision of the market, assuring that “the greatest speculative bubble of all time in all things” is inevitably leading to the “mother of all crashes” with investors piling up on cryptocurrencies (via Business Insider). Burry’s put options on Apple stocks give him the right (but not the obligation) to sell shares at a certain price, at a certain time. “If Apple doesn’t fall beneath a certain price by that time, the put options would expire worthless,” Billy Duberstein explains in a separate post for Fool.
Benzinga adds that Burry’s bearish position is valued at around $36 million if he exercises it. It is the largest position in his portfolio. Apple stock had a big run, quadrupling its stock price since early 2019. However, by May 2022, Apple stocks are down 20% year-to-date. The company from Cupertino saw a 16% drop in the stock price in this past quarter alone. Burry’s portfolio reveals his confidence in the U.S. market. He slashed it from 20 holdings to just six in the third quarter of 2021, with a value that dropped from $140 million to $42 million. In the fourth quarter, he swapped three of his remaining six holdings, lifting his portfolio to $74 million. “Short sellers on a stock have nothing, zero, zilch, nada, to do with the success or failure of the underlying business,” Burry tweeted on April 27.
The Real Reason America Banned The Land Rover Defender
The 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 was sold in the United States, but it was extensively modified to meet the safety regulations required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Unlike the models that were sold abroad, the U.S. version of the Land Rover Defender 110 was fitted with brush guards, a roof rack, an external roll cage, and an air conditioning system (via Autoweek). The Land Rover Defender 90 was introduced to the North American market the next year to replace the 110 models.
As fate would have it, Land Rover’s dream to continue selling the Defender 90 in the United States was cut short in 1998 when new airbag regulations came into effect. As per the regulation, all new vehicles sold in the United States were to be fitted with airbags on the front passenger and driver seats. Ironically, Land Rover installed dual airbags in other models that were available in the North American market, like the Discovery (via the IIHS). The Defender wasn’t given the same treatment, so it was ultimately banned because it couldn’t meet the safety regulations.
The Incredible And Controversial Evolution Of Elon Musk’s Neuralink
During a 2021 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Musk outlined his desire to put a Neuralink chip in a person at some point in 2022. During the interview, Musk described the device as “safe,” “reliable,” and “something that can be removed safely.” Musk again confirmed the first patients the device would be tested on would be people who suffer from serious, debilitating spinal cord injuries such as quadriplegics and tetraplegics (people who have lost the ability to voluntarily control the movement of multiple limbs). The world’s richest man went on to say he is “cautiously optimistic” about Neuralink’s chances of success.
Although Neuralink is still waiting for FDA approval, some of the company’s direct rivals have been given the green light to proceed with human testing. New York-based Synchron Inc., which has been around since 2012, got the go-ahead in 2021 and announced the enrollment of their first patient in early May 2022 (via Businesswire). Like Neuralink, Synchron is developing a product that will allow the human brain to interface with existing electronic devices. Synchron also intends to use its device to improve the lives of people with debilitating medical conditions. So Neuralink may one day change the world, but there’s a good chance another company will get there first.
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