Proton Technologies' security-focused ProtonMail end-to-end encrypted email service and ProtonVPN VPN service have been blocked by the Russian government since yesterday.
"On January 29, based on the requirements of the General Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation, Roskomnadzor will restrict access to the mail service Protonmail.com (Switzerland)," Roskomnadzor, Russia's telecommunications watchdog, said in a press release.
"This email service was used by cybercriminals both in 2019 and especially actively in January 2020 to send false messages under the guise of reliable information about mass mining of objects in the Russian Federation," Roskomnadzor added.
The block was prompted by Proton Technologies' refusal to register their services with state authorities — something that was asked from all VPN providers operating in the country as we reported last year — and to provide information about the owners of the mailboxes used to send the bombing threats per Roskomnadzor's statement.
"In accordance with the procedure enshrined in the legislation, Roskomnadzor consistently restricts access to resources used by criminals to destabilize the situation in the country and increase tension, and expects effective interaction with all parties involved," the press release further explains.
Proton Technologies' response
The Swiss company behind ProtonMail and ProtonVPN published an incident on its status page, which currently lists partial outages for most services needed by the company's products to work properly.
"We have received reports that Proton is currently blocked in Russia. We are reaching out to the appropriate authorities to get the block lifted as soon as possible," the company says.
"This block affects ProtonMail and ProtonVPN users who were not logged in before the block was implemented. For now, we recommend using the TOR network (via the TOR Browser) to access our services."
ProtonMail also said in a statement to Reuters that they "condemn this block as a misguided measure which only serves to harm ordinary people."
Although access to both services is restricted for any Russian users, Proton Technologies says that ways to get around this block are available.
ProtonMail and ProtonVPN users are advised to access the two services using the Tor servicespecifically is designed to help circumvent censorship.To get access to Proton's services using the Tor Browser you will have to follow these steps:
- Download the TOR browser for your device here: The Tor Project | Privacy & Freedom Online
- Install the TOR browser
- Once the browser is installed, launch it and you will be able to access the Proton websites
ProtonVPN users who cannot log in into the app will have to manually set up an OpenVPN connection for their device until the block is lifted:
- Open the TOR browser
- Navigate to the ProtonVPN Knowledge Base: ProtonVPN Support - Get help for your free VPN
- Search for the OpenVPN guide for your OS, for instance type "Windows OpenVPN"
- Open the guide and follow the steps to set up a manual connection on your device
- Connect using your OpenVPN/IKEv2 credentials