Vladimir Putin has reportedly signed a law into Russian legislation that will prohibit the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) software within Russia’s borders.

Citizens of Russia routinely use VPN and ‘anonymiser’ technology to access government-restricted sites, and hide their identities from snooping government authorities, news agency Reuters has reported.

The law which has already been approved by Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, will make illegal, the use of VPN’s (and other associated technology) by its citizens on November 1st of this year.

Vladimir Putin doing his best “I understand your concerns about VPNs, but I’ve already approved the bill, totally get it, signed it anyway,” look.

The head of Duma’s information policy committee, Leonid Levin, said the law was not intended to impose restrictions or affect law-abiding citizens, but is only intended to block access to “unlawful content”, the state-operated domestic Russian-language news agency, RIA.

VPNs, aren’t they something to do with visible underwear?

Yes, they are, but VPNs in this context is a third-party network and software service that helps users bypass and access block banned websites by encrypting users Internet traffic data, and routing its passage through a multitude of different connections. Thus, they can access blocked content, and also remain virtually anonymous and untraceable.

Once the new bill becomes law later this year, Russia’s Internet Service Providers will be forced to block access to any providers of proxy or VPN services.

“After identifying the illegal sites and domains, the watchdog will send a notice to the individual service providers…. the service providers will get a 72-hour deadline in order to give up the details of the various operators,” VPN provider Le VPN explained.  “The host service providers will get about three days’ time to stop the service providers from providing the illegal service to the banned domains…[if] providers fail to meet the specified demands within the period of a month, they will face stringent action. The government can put a ban or block them totally.”

The China Connection

The news comes in the same week that Russian neighbour China continues its intensified crackdown on VPNs, which allow web users to evade government blocks on news sites and social networking tools. On Saturday, Apple said it would remove VPN apps from its China App Store, a process that is now though to have been completed.