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Russia Blocks Encrypted Email Provider ProtonMail

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Russia has told internet providers to enforce a block against encrypted email provider ProtonMail, the company’s chief has confirmed. The block was ordered by the state Federal Security Service, formerly the KGB, according to a Russian-language blog, which obtained and published the order after the agency accused the company and several other email providers of facilitating bomb threats. Several anonymous bomb threats were sent by email to police in late January, forcing several schools and government buildings to evacuate.

In all, 26 internet addresses were blocked by the order, including several servers used to scramble the final connection for users of Tor, an anonymity network popular for circumventing censorship. Internet providers were told to implement the block “immediately,” using a technique known as BGP blackholing, a way that tells internet routers to simply throw away internet traffic rather than routing it to its destination. But the company says while the site still loads, users cannot send or receive email. The way the KGB blocked ProtonMail is “particularly sneaky,” ProtonMail chief executive Andy Yen said. “ProtonMail is not blocked in the normal way, it’s actually a bit more subtle. They are blocking access to ProtonMail mail servers. So Mail.ru — and most other Russian mail servers — for example, is no longer able to deliver email to ProtonMail, but a Russian user has no problem getting to their inbox.”

“That’s because the two ProtonMail servers listed by the order are its back-end mail delivery servers, rather than the front-end website that runs on a different system,” adds TechCrunch.


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