Dozens of VPNs & Shadowsocks Named in Leaked Russian Blocking Document * TorrentFreak

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A document from Russia's Transport Ministry sheds more light on the government's plans to crack down on encryption tools that help people evade tracking and censorship. The leaked document lists dozens of targets for VPN services and, for the first time, the open-source Shadowsocks encryption protocol, best known for its ability to bypass firewalls, one notably in China.

As Russia tightens its control over encrypted communications and tools with the ability to bypass government censorship, it was recently confirmed that 167 VPN services They are actively blocked after failing to meet state requirements.

With that total expected to grow in the coming months, a leaked document from Russia's Transport Ministry reveals details of what telecommunications regulator Roscomnadzor has planned for the near term.

Threat to the “stability, security and integrity” of Russian Telecoms

He document, dated November 10, 2023, was sent by the Ministry of Transportation to organizations in the transportation sector. After an unofficial appearance on the Telegram channel 'ZaTelecom', local media Kommersant sought comment from both the Ministry and Roscomnadzor. No one responded.

The first page of the letter (original/left and translated by Yandex OCR/right) seeks comments from organizations currently using any of the VPN services or protocols listed on the second page.

Russia VPN Charter - Ministry - Transport Nov11-2023

The text clearly implies that the listed services and protocols are considered potential threats to the “stability, security and integrity” of Russia's information systems/Internet and telecommunications in general.

A more pragmatic reading might conclude that the services and protocols do not present any technical threat, but do limit the government's ability to control the narrative. That narrative includes claims that encrypted communications pose a threat to the stability of the Internet, which of course is not the case.

Dozens of VPNs, famous protocol

The second page of the letter is a 49-item list containing the names of well-known and lesser-known VPN services. In the order they appear, some of the most notable inclusions are Private Internet Access (PIA), Ivacy Private VPN, PrivadoVPN, and PureVPN.

When a VPN appears on a list like this, it usually indicates a refusal to cooperate with Russian authorities, such as granting permission to inspect user data, communications, or whatever else is on the government's mind at any given time.

Russian VPN Lyrics List - November 23

In that sense, a look may not be as damaging to a VPN's image as some might expect, quite the opposite. That said, point 49 of the list above shows that Russia intends to crack down on Shadowsocks, a protocol that in itself cannot be forced or compelled to comply.

shadow socks

Shadowsocks is an open source encryption protocol created over a decade ago by a Chinese developer known as “clowwindy” and is perhaps best known for its anti-Great Firewall capabilities.

At a basic level, Shadowsocks clients offer a way to connect to SOCKS5 proxies securely using an encrypted tunnel. As standard, it's not a VPN and, more importantly, it doesn't look like one to those hoping to shut down VPNs. However, it is easier to identify the people behind these projects.

Developers like clowwindy may find themselves under extreme pressure to behave in a particular way. The original Shadowsocks repository on GitHub reveals that even the most robust protocols can be "removed according to regulations."

Fortunately, the Shadowsocks genie will never go back into the bottle; maybe Russia forgot to ask China about that, or just thinks he can do better. The theory is that Russia plans to whitelist organizations that use the above services in a government-approved manner, so that they are not inadvertently blocked. That may suggest that the government has something aggressive in mind or perhaps faces limitations in identifying the blockade.

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