Staunton, Nov. 24 – A district court in Tomsk has become the first in Russia to sentence someone for using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), holding that doing so violates Article 273 of the Russian criminal code which establishes penalties for those who download and install “malicious” programs on their computers (babr24.com/tmk/?IDE=237749).
A VPN allows users to visit various sites without service providers being able to identify which sites they have gone to, a means many opposition and Western-based sites hare urged their users in Russia to employ to get around Moscow’s blocking. This move suggests that the Russian authorities may now take action against them.
If so, that will eliminate one of the means many had hoped would help Russians to get around bans. And bringing such charges will not be hard: while service providers can’t easily tell what sites someone using a VPN has visited, it is quite easy for them to recognize that people are using VPNs.