Russia is the most recent addition to the list of countries taking measures to ban anonymizing services. Some disagree with this move as it drives criminals to seek more secure options. Others see the move as a step towards the regulation of their Internet, and the need for action against unconstitutional government imposed limitations.
Banning Anonymizing Services Raises Risks
Anonymizing services like Tor, VPNs and proxy servers have been misunderstood. Many governments associate these tools with criminals and other Internet users who are up to no good. But Strong VPN points out that they fail to focus on the key fact that innocent Internet users use these same services to protect themselves against online threats. Governments have not been able to secure their people from these threats because of the open nature of the Internet. So people who choose to continue to use the Internet have rightly taken steps on their own to secure themselves. Strong VPN recognizes that governments are trying to reduce the number of crimes committed through the Internet, but because they have their own specific agendas, they do not see that banning these services is putting people in greater danger.
Many governments have attempted to block anonymizing technologies to protect political and religious agendas, secure copyrights, and take away criminal defenses. Child pornography and terrorism are the given reasons behind this Russian banning of online anonymizers. They seem to give no thought to the fact that many use these services for protection. Especially for those whose work puts them in danger, banning anonymizing technologies will put users in very real danger.
The problem is, Strong VPN points out, as they remove these tools, for every online criminal they may expose, they are exposing several other innocents who will be easier targets for other criminals. The move by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is just the latest in a string of proxy banning across the globe. What makes it different from most is that local security specialists are voicing the other side of the issue. They point out that criminals who feel secure behind anonymizers are easier to catch. Weaknesses in the security of these services can reveal them, but blocking these services will push criminals to seek more secure options.
In the United States, the FBI was accused of using malware to compromise Tor onion sites. Outdated Tor browsers were manipulated to trick users into uploading their identifying information to the IP address of a government security and law enforcement subcontractor in Reston, Virginia. This way, the government was able to track down hackers involved in illegal activities. Banning the services will just delay the inevitable rise of stronger tools that will make online criminal activities invisible.
In countries like the United States where bans are not yet proposed or in place, people worry that they will be next. They are beginning to second guess even their freedom to comment on government initiatives as this may cause them to be included on a blacklist. They already fear their government’s initiatives and the repercussions they may face for exercising their right to freedom of speech.