Update on April 20, 2018 – 7 pm GMT.
It looks like Le VPN website was banned in Russia on April 20, 2018 for participating in the Digital Resistance movement launched by Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov, and standing for digital freedoms and progress globally. We are working on a new solution for our Russian subscribers and officially extending our MoneyBack guarantee for an additional 7-day period for all our users in Russia to compensate for all potential disturbances in the service. Our technical support team in Russian is available on a Telegram channel @levpnru and all the recent updates on the status of our service in Russia are on the Telegram channel @levpnews (in Russian).
Vive la Résistance!!
While the last couple of years have been quite hard for those who enjoy freedoms, especially those of speech, media and communication, for those of us who are enamored with 20th century spy thrillers; it is starting to look like a golden age, with the Russia vs. Telegram controversy being just the latest juicy story about David and Goliath.
In all actuality, it is not as much David against Goliath as is Goliath beating the ground to kill the dirt, only rising it in the process. Currently, by all metrics, Telegram will not only suffer no impact from what the Russian authorities are doing, but will also probably end up with more users as they are standing up to the government and keeping up with their promise that they will not let the Russian government have access to private users messages with an encryption key.
As Telegram, and its founder and CEO Pavel Durov, have acted on time asking for assistance from virtual private network (VPN) providers and hosting services based outside of Russia, it is now more than easy to connect to the service using a major VPN provider like Le VPN, which has joined the call of the Digital Resistance Movement that has been proposed by Durov. Although the Russians have blocked more than 20 million IP addresses by now, it is not evident that Telegram will be even slightly damaged in the process.
While this is more of a question about principles that about business, many businesses in Russia are suffering, and it is just a question of time for how long the Russian FSB will keep on with the idea that you are ever able to obtain something on the Internet by brute force.
The Rise of Telegram
Telegram, a relatively simple Peer-to-Peer (P2P), cloud-based instant messaging app, with an end to end encryption, available on almost all devices and fairly similar to its competitors like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, or Facebook Messenger, with two major differences: First, Telegram is not owned by a major corporation and second, once prompted by governments to provide customer data, they refused.
The application gained its acclaim in 2014, when WhatsApp went down for about four hours and has gained a top seller spot in a couple of dozen countries, including the US, where it was a number one selling app. And after that, every time the company stood their ground and affirmed their position about the sanctity of privacy, their customer base grew. As of March 2018, the number of active users of Telegram has surpassed 200 million users.
While Telegram shares its market position as an encrypted messaging app, with the current problems with Facebook, and by that extent also WhatsApp, and their dubious dealings with private data, the App is gaining more and more recognition and support all over the world.
FSB Requesting Information
Governments, and especially security agencies, requesting specific information from tech companies is nothing new, but what the Russia Federal Security Service FSB (Федеральная Служба Безопасности) requested from Telegram is for access to their security encryption key, as to make it possible for the Kremlin based intelligence agency to access any private messages sent over the service, with no court order required.
Obviously, Telegram Messenger denied this request and thus entered a legal dispute in front of the Russian court. As most court cases with the Russian authorities go, Telegram lost but has preemptively moved to servers based in the US, mostly connected to Google and Amazon, still denying the encryption key to the Federal Security Service.
Russia Banning Amazon IPs to implement the Telegram ban
Currently, Russian authorities are not taking this laying down and the FSB has sent both Amazon and Google a request to ban the app from their servers, which has been rejected by the tech giants.
Although the Russia Telegram ban has had a little effect on the app itself, in the process of blocking all the IP addresses that are using the messaging system, Russia has blocked more than 20 million IP addresses from all over the world.
The Russian court has ruled that all access to the app in the country must be blocked, and, as the Russian News agency Tass reports, this rule is supported by Russia’s new anti-terrorism law, which gives wide jurisdiction to the FSB.
The conclusion of Pavel Durov that the Russian administration is incompatible with internet business may just be correct, as the ban has mostly affected other online businesses and retailers in Russia, with the assessment that around a third of Russian businesses use Amazon as their primary hosting service.
How to circumvent the Telegram ban?
As virtual private networks and other tech companies have joined Telegram, most problems have been dealt with on time. Le VPN is one of the VPN providers included in the Digital Resistance Movement under their own slogan “Vive la Résistance!” and it is very easy to use their VPN app on any device to connect to a server in a country more sensible than Russia, and then you can use the Telegram Messenger as you would normally. With servers in more than 114 countries, the only way to prevent Le VPN from providing you with free access is to basically shut down the internet.
In the monetary segment, Telegram has also secured their future, and the future of their users not only in Russia but globally. The app has been used by multiple cryptocurrency developers for their initial coin offerings (ICO) who are now repaying the service by spending that currency to fund the movement. The owner and CEO have also donated millions of dollars’ worth of BitCoin of his own funds to promote this agenda.
The Digital Resistance Movement
The Digital Resistance Movement is a loose confederation of tech companies, individuals and organizations aimed to bring internet freedom and free communication all over the world, currently focusing on Russia.
His idea to create a semi-underground network of VPN providers and individuals all financed by cryptocurrency has fallen on fertile ground with companies like Le VPN, which has been promoting internet freedom since its conception.
Finally, while it is obvious that the Russia Telegram ban will only benefit the app, and will only slightly damage Russia’s retailers and the reputation of the administration, it is more than possible that the movement resulting from this ban will be a driving force in the future struggle for internet freedoms around the world.
Vive la Résistance!
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