Why VPNs are Scary for Governments and Why Governments Want to Block Such Services

With the rapid development of information technologies, the problem of maintaining anonymity on the Internet has become urgent for users of the global network. At the same time, anonymity is necessary not only for cybercriminals, but also for completely law-abiding citizens, for example, to gain access to resources blocked in a particular country. In 2017, Freedom House published a report according to which the governments of 37 countries of the world tried to block certain Internet resources on their territory. In such cases, VPN services come to the rescue.

In a nutshell: what a VPN is and how it works

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a special private network that makes it possible to connect to the server (where access is needed) from the user's computer (where access is needed). This network provides a connection over another network (Internet), thereby making it possible to work within it, but with a connection to the necessary addresses. The destination server cannot identify the user in any way, and the provider cannot determine which resource the user is visiting.

VPN technology makes it possible to remain anonymous - the final server "does not see" the user's network address, it is "seen" only by the VPN itself. In a similar way, blocking of certain resources is bypassed in specific conditions, for example, when access is limited by the provider. In addition, high-quality VPN services provide reliable traffic encryption, which is very important for ensuring the security of information and minimizing risks in case of possible interception by intruders.

Current VPN usage points

The main purpose of using virtual private networks is security and anonymity on the Internet. It is known that the governments of many countries monitor the online activity of their citizens, and there are even cases of prosecution for seemingly harmless criticism of the authorities. VPN makes it possible to anonymize their activities: servers will see an IP address that does not belong to the user's computer, and the provider will not know at all when and to which servers the user connected, since he will only “see” his connection to the virtual network.

Of course, the possibilities of a VPN can also be used for illegal purposes, although governments are fighting not only with this, but want to control the network activities of their citizens in principle. Similarly, they control the activities of Internet users and search engines (for example, the ubiquitous Google), but already in pursuit of their own, exclusively commercial goals. If someone does not want Google to collect their information (completed forms, visited sites, etc.), then this is where a virtual private network can help.

Free access to sites is also important. In countries such as China, access to popular social networks and other entertainment resources, which, according to the Chinese authorities, may harm the state, are completely closed. It is not very clear exactly how you can harm China by watching the new season of "Game of Thrones" in the online cinema or texting with friends on Facebook Messenger, but the fact remains. VPN makes it possible to bypass the notorious "Great Firewall" of China, although such services in China are actively and not unsuccessfully at war. Many VPNs are not available in China.

This problem is relevant not only for China, but also for many other countries. As noted above, 37 states are actively involved in combating, in their opinion, harmful sites in general, as well as VPN services in particular. There are not so many countries in the world where various resources are not blocked. Moreover, not only illegal and openly harmful sites and services (and this is a rule) are subject to blocking, but also quite harmless ones, for example, cinemas or torrent trackers.

Block VPN access

If we take Kazakhstan and Belarus as an example, then in these countries the fight against virtual private networks is regulated at the legislative level. It got not only the famous VPN, but also the popular Tor network, which is also used as a means of ensuring anonymity and freedom on the Internet. Providers of Belarus and Kazakhstan simply block IP addresses of networks, making it impossible to access them. There are special "black lists" of such addresses, which are constantly expanding.

Of course, users are not giving up and are looking for new ways to work around the restrictions. One solution is to use "clean" foreign IP addresses to access VPN and Tor. However, virtual network services also do not sit idly by, providing work not only for providers, but also for government agencies of similar countries, which are forced to invent new ways to combat access to certain resources.

The governments of not only post-Soviet countries are distinguished by such initiatives. In the US and Europe, a VPN service can also be subject to sanctions, although it should be noted that this is the exception rather than the rule, and for this it is necessary to seriously violate the law.

Why should the government block VPN?

Nothing good can be said about Russia in this regard either - from the very beginning of 2019, Roskomnadzor “declared war” on virtual private networks that provide Russians with access to prohibited resources. The profile law, by the way, was adopted back in 2017. There is an ocean of prohibited resources in the registry, and VPN services are in no hurry to comply with the requirements of the regulator. A number of companies, for example, the well-known service responded by withdrawing their servers from the Russian Federation, and the situation developed to protests. However, at present, Roskomnadzor is not particularly aggressive in terms of sanctions, although in the light of new initiatives to completely limit the Russian segment of the network, nothing good is foreseen.

So why are governments in so many countries trying so hard to block services that provide anonymity? First of all, of course, this is a method of controlling public opinion, which some countries cannot refuse. The state needs to control, and most importantly, to be able to punish especially prominent speakers on the network. However, in terms of countering illegal appeals or activities, this is quite natural, although sometimes the results are opposite to the goals.

The financial side of the issue should also not be discounted. Why “feed” foreign resources of a dubious nature, if they can simply be banned by redirecting the audience to the same resources, only domestic ones? However, this is not the most important issue - the first in importance, of course, is the issue of control.

Given the encryption of traffic inside VPN networks, the state has practically no ability to control their users. Therefore, all sorts of "solutions" are regularly released that contradict the very essence of virtual private networks - anonymity and security. Services, most likely, will not follow such instructions, which will further turn the users of the worldwide network against the totalitarian initiatives of government services regarding the free Internet.