VPN downloads in Russia have skyrocketed

A button with the caption VPN
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The number of Virtual Private Network (VPN) users in Russia has skyrocketed since the country's invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, new reports have claimed.

In a report on how Russians are circumventing censorship and media control in the country, the Washington Post says daily downloads of the 10 most popular VPNs jumped from around 15,000 in mid-February to 475,000 in March. 

Even today, daily downloads are hitting the 300,000 mark, the Washington Post says, citing data from data intelligence platform Apptopia. 

Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker's Manual 2022end of this survey

Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker's Manual 2022. Help us find how businesses are preparing for the post-Covid world and the implications of these activities on their cybersecurity plans. Enter your email at the end of this survey to get the bookazine, worth $10.99/£10.99.

Buying VPN services 

But Apptopia is not the only source claiming spiking VPN demand - even Russian telecoms operators confirmed the trend. Apparently, in early April, Yota said the number of VPN users in the country increased 50-fold, compared to January. 

Digital rights group, The Internet Protection Society, also recently launched a VPN service, and hit its limit of 300,000 users within 10 days. This group, the publication says, has strong ties to Alexei Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent competitors. 

Russia always ruled over its internet with an iron fist, but since the start of the invasion, the grip on western media and browsing websites tightened even further. Sites such as Facebook and Instagram have also been banned, and it seems it’s only a matter of time before YouTube bites the dust, as well. 

To discourage Russia from the war, and exert pressure on the country, western countries imposed heavy sanctions, including removing the country from the SWIFT payment system, rendering most credit cards obsolete in the country.

This has also made buying VPNs a bit of a challenge. While some use free VPN services, these can sometimes be of poor quality. Those that still want a commercial solution have been paying through friends in third countries, or through cryptocurrencies.

Some VPN providers accept direct cryptocurrency payments.

 Via: Washington Post 

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.