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VPN providers pull Russian servers as Putin’s ban threatens to bite

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Russia opens case against Facebook and Twitter over data-localization law
Facebook and Twitter are in breach of laws requiring personal data to be kept on Russian soil, say the authorities.

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.”

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Ram unveils limited 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 (RED) Edition

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The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX is getting a trio of limited-edition models with custom features and unique exterior appointments. The 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, 1500 Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 Ram (RED) Edition recently made their first appearances at the State Fair of Texas. The latter is particularly worth mentioning as Jeep, Fiat, and Ram cemented with U2 frontman Bono’s (RED) organization to fight global health crises.

“Ram customers demand even more, and our new models deliver that with a selection of exterior and interior appointments and content for greater personalization,” said Mike Koval Jr., Ram Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis.

The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX Ignition has the TRX Level 2 Equipment Group. The package includes custom Ignition paint and body graphics, a panoramic sunroof, a spray-in bed liner, a bed step, cargo tie-downs, a cab-mounted LED brake light, and bespoke 18-inch machine face black wheels. Under the hood is the same 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 motor pumping out 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

Other goodies include orange interior stitching, embroidered TRX logos on the seatbacks, copper carbon fiber trimmings, a heads-up display, and an orange center console badge. The Ram TRX Ignition starts at $91,585 (plus $1,695 destination), and only 875 units will arrive at US dealerships near the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork is all about luxury. It replaces the Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary model and has an impressive lineup of standard kits like a multi-function tailgate, metal pedals, a deployable bed step, LED bed lighting, a spray-in bed liner, and a cargo divider.

It also has a Mountain Brown interior, bucket seats, suede door bolsters, and leather interior trim. The Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork starts at $61,620 (plus $1,695 destination) and arrives at dealerships later this year.“Buyers demand a good-looking truck with easy-to-use features. They tell us their Ram trucks are an extension of their personality, and they want to stand out from the crowd,” added Koval.

Finally, the 2022 Ram 1500 (RAM) RED Edition is available in a crew cab body style and starts at $63,250 (plus $1,695 destination). The (RAM) RED model has red RAM letters on the front grille and a (RED) badge on the center console lid. Engine choices include a 5.7-liter V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque or Ram’s 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6 with 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque.

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2022 Honda Passport arrives with a fresh face and new rugged TrailSport trim

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Honda is fortifying its SUV lineup with the redesigned 2022 Passport five-seat crossover. The new Passport comes with an outdoorsy TrailSport trim with chunkier bumpers, a wider track, and 18-inch wheels with chunky tires. Standard across the board is a more rugged façade (derived from the Honda Ridgeline) and a mild splattering of technology updates.

Honda has yet to show the standard 2022 Passport, so let’s focus on the off-road-ready TrailSport version. “Some may not realize the true rugged, off-road capabilities of our light trucks,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Now they’re getting tough, rugged looks to match, and the addition of TrailSport will further enhance the off-road capability of our vehicles in the future.”

The 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport has chunkier front and rear bumpers, a unique grille, and silver skid plates. It also has special Orange TrailSport badges on the grille and tailgate. In addition, TrailSport has a 10 millimeter wider front and rear track for a burlier stance and better stability. It also offers more room to accommodate all-new machine-finished 18-inch wheels wrapped in TrailSport-specific off-road tires.

Under the hood remains a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to a nine-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. However, standard in Passport TrailSport and Elite is Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. The drivetrain can automatically send up to 70-percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in rugged terrain. It can also send 100-percent of that torque to either the left or right rear wheels to keep you going.

All AWD Passport models have 8.1-inches of ground clearance and can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. All trims also get 50.5 cubic feet of cargo space and a power tailgate. Passport also has under-floor storage compartments in the back to keep wet clothes and dirty boots from mingling with your precious cargo.

Meanwhile, every 2022 Honda Passport has standard Honda Sensing. The package includes a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Additional standard safety equipment includes LED headlights, smart entry with push-button start, a rear-seat reminder, and a rear seatbelt reminder.

Inside, the 2022 Honda Passport gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Furthermore, the EX-L trim has perforated leather seats and contrasting stitching, while Passport TrailSport has amber interior ambient lighting, rubber floor mats, orange stitching. Pricing remains forthcoming, but the new Passport arrives at dealerships this winter.

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Aura EV Concept is a collaboration of brilliant British minds

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The Aura EV Concept is a long-range, all-electric speedster boasting 400 to 500 miles of driving range. It may not have the supercar-styling of a Bugatti Chiron or McLaren Elva. Still, the Aura EV is more about substance than style and results from a collaboration between four British companies: BAMD Composites, Conjure, Astheimer, and Potenza Technologies.

The four companies also got help from the UK Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles, with a common goal of creating the first homegrown long-range British EV. And when it comes to electric vehicles, aerodynamics is critical in squeezing out every ounce of driving range from the batteries, and the brainiacs behind Aura EV know this all too well.

But the future of Britain’s EV industry should not only have a more extended range. It needs to be sustainable as well, reducing every ounce of carbon footprints along the way. Aura EV has a lightweight composite body derived from natural fibers. In addition, its svelte yet minimalist silhouette is the result of computational fluid dynamics to make it as slippery as a fish in the water. And if those covered rear wheels are any indication, Aura EV can slice the wind almost effortlessly.

Unfortunately, some details are pretty scarce, but we were lucky to receive more information about Aura EV. According to sources, the car has two 44 kWh battery packs. One of them is on the floor, while there’s also a battery pack under the hood, enough to propel Aura EV to 400 miles (643 km) on a single full charge. If you came here looking for numbers, we’re sorry to disappoint. We’re expecting performance to be peppy for your weekend excursions, but don’t expect it to outrun a Rimac Nevera or Lotus Evija.

One of the central premises behind Aura EV is to reduce people’s perceptions of range anxiety, enabling buyers to adopt the EV lifestyle without further hesitations. Other quirks include a custom steering wheel with a self-positioning screen and a hi-tech human-machine interface with 3D visualization. Meanwhile, Aura EV’s Android-sourced battery and charging software can monitor the state of charge within 0.5-percent for superior accuracy, ensuring drivers will never unexpectedly run out of juice or wait unnecessarily at a charging station.

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