In a move that might surprise many, the Russian authorities have cracked the whip and asked internet providers to block encrypted email provider ProtonMail, according to a report by TechCrunch.
The Russian Federal Security Service, formerly known as the KGB obtained and published the order after it found that the company and others email providers were using the facility to send bomb threats. In the past two months, there have been many cases of bomb threats that were sent by email to police forcing schools and other government buildings to be evacuated.
In total, 26 internet addresses have been blocked by the order including several servers used to scramble the final connection for users of Tor, an anonymous network popular with users for evading censorship and finding a way around it.
The technique employed for blocking these email providers is termed as BGP blackholing is a process in which the traffic is routed to a black hole and dropped from the network rather than routing it to the destination.
Speaking about the decision by the Russian authorities to block ProtonMail, ProtonMail chief executive Andy Yen said, “ProtonMail is not blocked in the normal way, it’s actually a bit more subtle. They are blocking access to ProtonMail mail servers. So Mail.ru — and most other Russian mail servers — for example, is no longer able to deliver email to ProtonMail, but a Russian user has no problem getting to their inbox.”
“The wholesale blocking of ProtonMail in a way that hurts all Russian citizens who want greater online security seems like a poor approach,” added Yen.
Yen’s views come in the wake of efforts by the government to crack down on the internet which critics have dubbed an internet “kill switch.” Russia’s crackdown on the internet gained more momentum in 2014 when it ratified a law which made it imperative for tech companies to store Russian data within its borders.