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Russian government bans Telegram encrypted messaging app

Posted on April 18th, 2018 by in Privacy & Security.

Read this article in Russian.

On April 16, the Russian government banned the Telegram messaging app after the company refused to hand the authorities encryption keys that would have given them access to users’ messages. Telegram called the ban “anti-constitutional” and vowed to continue fighting for Russians’ privacy rights.

While there are other encrypted messaging apps out there, this ban is meant to send a warning to the Russian public that the government will not tolerate privacy. Practically speaking, the Telegram ban limits the choice of channels users have to communicate with their friends or relatives. But there are ways to circumvent the ban, and some of the service’s 9.5 million Russian users are already doing just that.

Bypassing Russia’s Telegram Ban

Use a VPN

Russia may start forcing Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the Telegram domain name and all IP addresses used by the messaging app. If Russia uses this method of censorship, Telegram users can get around the block by using a VPN. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel for your Internet connection that makes it impossible for ISPs to see when your device connects to one of Telegram’s IP addresses. It means that users in Russia can continue to use Telegram as though they were not in Russia.

ProtonVPN is a free VPN designed precisely for situations like this. When the Turkish government blocked ProtonMail recently in a similar act of censorship, ProtonVPN was one way for users to overcome government restrictions. Developed with a focus on security, ProtonVPN includes features such as a kill switch, Secure Core servers, Tor over VPN and perfect forward secrecy.

Get ProtonVPN here https://protonvpn.com/download

Switch to other encrypted messaging apps

Those concerned about online privacy should also consider services such as Signal and Wire as alternatives. Both provide end-to-end encryption, are open source, and are highly regarded among security experts. The Telegram app, meanwhile, doesn’t use end-to-end encryption by default and must be turned on manually, among other concerns.

Join the fight for online freedom

As the world’s only community-supported VPN service, our mission is to make online safety and privacy accessible to people around the globe, including in Russia. Efforts to block encrypted services anywhere are an attack on privacy everywhere.

That’s why we will continue to speak out against online censorship while expanding and improving ProtonVPN, such as adding servers in new countries and protecting our users no matter what content they choose to access. Our work is only possible through the support of paid users, so if you find that ProtonVPN is a useful tool for protecting your privacy and security online, please consider upgrading to a paid account and supporting our mission.

Best Regards,
The ProtonVPN Team

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You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.

Proton was founded by scientists who met at CERN and had the idea that an internet where privacy is the default is essential to preserving freedom. Our team of developers, engineers, and designers from all over the world is working to provide you with secure ways to be in control of your online data.

Post Comment

17 comments

  1. Loody

    How to setup up ProtonVPN on Telegram? Is there a guide on how to do it? I need to add this extra layer of encryption there. Please help!

  2. Ben

    Given the reality, that the Russian state has been the object of attempted subjection by powerful external forces for decades (historically even centuries), there might be a higher logic behind the government’s privacy measures; a logic that might not be understandable from an individual privacy standpoint.

  3. Klaus

    Please, do a better research when posting blog entries in the future.

    Telegram apps ARE open source, they provide End to End encryption, but also regular chats and groupchats ARE encrypted, they also provide encrypted backups (WhatsApp and Signal DO NOT provide encrypted backups, they send everything in cleartext to Google and Apple clouds, more here: http://telegra.ph/Why-Isnt-Telegram-End-to-End-Encrypted-by-Default-08-14

    Also, this next article could explain a bit about why this ProtonVPN blong entry is biased:
    https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-crypto-keepers-levine

    and

    http://telegra.ph/My-Thoughts-on-the-FBIs-Attempts-to-Influence-Telegram-09-08

    So yes, more research and less bias , even if it’s told by “experts” or “influencers” ;)

  4. Augustinas

    Hello Klaus, thank you for your feedback, we appreciate it and it will be taken into consideration.

  5. Jason

    Hi Klaus,
    Telegram’s clients are Open Source, yes, but their server-side implementation is not.
    Secondly, yes, Telegram offers end-to-end encryption through secret chats but everything else is client-server encrypted. Client-server encryption relies on trusting the developer and Telegram has not Open Sourced their server side tech, so it’s somewhat blind trust.
    Finally, Signal Only allows encrypted backups and they are not cloud based by default.

  6. Dima

    Hello! Can protonmail elaborate about speed difference between free and paid account

  7. Augustinas

    All of our servers, whether it is from a free or paid plan, are configured the same way. We mark them as “Slow” only because sometimes a lot of users might be connected to them, which does slow down speeds a bit. However, we are receiving mostly positive feedback for these servers so please give them a try!

  8. Meru

    Here in russia Telegram is still working without proxy/vpn, but many other services are broken.
    I think the best way to bypass all these bans it’s evacuate from russia.

  9. Charlotte

    Augustinas, the referenced article https://gizmodo.com/why-you-should-stop-using-telegram-right-now-1782557415 is out of date. That article suggests to use WhatsApp & Signal. Did you know that the EFF says NOT to use WhatsApp? “Where WhatsApp Went Wrong: EFF’s Four Biggest Security Concerns” https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/10/where-whatsapp-went-wrong-effs-four-biggest-security-concerns
    All Telegram messages are encrypted, which you did not mention. Telegram Secret Chats use end-to-end encryption, which you also forgot to mention. Have you ever used Telegram? The UI is the best I have seen of any messenger I have used. Wire’s UI is terrible. Signal rarely works and I have tried to use it for a years. They also wrote WhatsApp. I gave up on Signal and won’t use WhatsApp. Did you know that Facebook owns WhatsApp?
    The next time you write an article, you may want to do a little more research.

  10. Charlotte

    Forgot to mention why end-to-end encryption is not used for all chats, etc, except for Secret Chats, and that is so all your devices will sync.

  11. Oleg

    Hello from Russia =)
    I was used “Freegate” to avoid bans for a long time but banning Telegram is the last straw. Actually they are can’t ban it. They are blocked over 16M Amazon and Google and whatever else IPs, ruin many services but not Telegram. He still avaible without a vpn, but I think it’s time to encrypt all my traffic ‘coz no one in this stupid country just can’t violate my privacy anymore and can’t tell me what i’m don’t need to use and what i’m don’t need to see.
    Hard to tell but my country is moving to digital degradation and total dictatorship =(

  12. Stivo

    In protonvpn we trust :)

  13. Stivo

    Hi team protonvpn
    Thank you for everything you do for our safety. Here we love you very much.
    So when will you improve basic plane?
    Because there is a big difference between the basic one and the Plus one!
    Thank you

  14. DIma

    i am using your product, and it is very helpful, thank you.

  15. Nikolai Parkanov

    Hi! I’m from Russia. Russian government and Roskomnadzor also banned 20+ MILLIONS servers of Amazon and Google. Many companies in our country have stopped to function or experience monstrous inconveniences last 2-3 days. This is a real war against the citizens of Russia and constitutional laws. I think we are going through the last months of VPN in our country. Roskomnadzor gonna block all VPN’s soon. DON’T US ASK WHY! This organization exists only for one purpose – to destroy freedom of speech, business and the economy of Russia at the root. I think the only salvation is renting YOUR OWN VPS and setting up YOUR OWN VPN. If Roskomnadzor can block millions of cloud servers – THEY CAN BLOCK JUST EVERYTHING. EVERY SINGLE VPN. WHO THE HELL CAN STOP THEM?! I don’t know. We will not be able to connect to ProtonVPN if they block your servers…

  16. Augustinas

    Hello Nikolai, we will try our best to make the service accessible, there are many alternative methods that can be used for VPN connections.

  17. Anon

    people think they are too small to make the world a better place. not true! you know what you can do? use signal, wire, or proton vpn, as this article recommends. encourage your friends and family to do the same.

    the governments we’ll get after everyone uses anonymous communication will be so much better! right now, governments are encouraged to bully and spy on people because their communications are so easy to read. it’s “low-hanging fruit” that governments can’t resist. please don’t encourage them in this way.

    when everyone has secure communications (or something close to it), governments will be forced to actually serve their citizens. you can contribute in a meaningful way to making the world a better place! use protonmail too!

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