The Russian Federal Security Service just ordered internet providers to block several internet addresses, including servers for the encrypted email service ProtonMail and some of the connections necessary to run the censorship-dodging browser Tor.
The internet service providers complied, and while Russian ProtonMail users can currently access their inbox, they can neither send nor receive messages through the service, according to TechCrunch — a worrisome escalation of the Russian government’s war on privacy.
Citing national security after several fake bomb threats were emailed to Russian police earlier this year, the Russian government is using what’s called BGP blackhole filtering, a technique that keeps people from reaching their destinations while surfing the web by dropping their connections when they try to reach a blocked site.
While ProtonMail says it’s developing a workaround, the move marks another major blow against Russians’ ability to preserve their digital privacy and avoid government censorship.
ProtonMail’s CEO, Andy Yen, told TechCrunch that the way Russia blocked the service was “particularly sneaky,” as the front-end servers are still accessible but the back-end delivery system is blocked. So people can still visit the site, but no messages can get in or out.
“We have also implemented technical measures to ensure continued service for our users in Russia and we have been making good progress in this regard,” Yen told TechCrunch. “If there is indeed a legitimate legal complaint, we encourage the Russian government to reconsider their position and solve problems by following established international law and legal procedures.”
READ MORE: Russia blocks encrypted email provider ProtonMail [TechCrunch]
More on Russian censorship: Google Is Censoring Search Results to Hide Russian Corruption