Surfshark, a VPN company based in Lithuania, has experienced a 3500% surge in sales inside of Russia since February 24th–the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
According to Surfshark’s analysis, the Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor has forced Google to delist more than 36,000 URLs that link to VPN services over the past month. The most significant spike of requests was recorded amid the second week of the war, when the Kremlin banned various media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and others.
“A rapid surge in downloads means that people living in Russia are actively looking for ways to avoid government surveillance and censorship, be it accessing blocked websites or social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram,” says Gabriele Racaityte, Head of PR at Surfshark.
Roskomnadzor’s aim to block or control tools that help circumvent censorship isn’t new. Over the past two years, the Kremlin had ordered tech giant Google to remove more than half a million links from its search engine related to anti-censorship tools.
Russia started cracking down on VPNs and anonymizers in 2017, banning services that allow users to access pirate sites. A year later the legislation was updated by requiring search engines to block the URLs of services that don’t comply.
Surfshark also just released this excellent recap of the cyberwar that is currently underway, and the danger it presents for people and businesses.