Belarus bans Tor and all anonymising internet technologies
Wed 25 Feb 2015
In the wake of Russia’s announcement that it intends to ban Tor, VPNs and all other technologies that permit users to hide their identities on the internet, the neighbouring Republic of Belarus has announced [Russian language] that it will enable legislation to bring these restrictions into effect.
The ban was announced in the official national portal of Belarus. The edict declares that any service which provides access to anonymising facilities such as Tor and Virtual Private Networks must be entered onto a national blacklist, and that internet service providers will be obliged to check state inspectorate lists daily for new banned services and sites, and to implement blocks accordingly.
When the law is enacted, Tor will lose a Belarusian user-base of between 6-8000 users. Though the Russian-announced ban has been criticised by many as unworkable, it seems likely that Belarus, which is landlocked between Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, will adopt at least some of the same techniques that China has employed in recent years to limit or ban anonymised traffic. A 2012 report [PDF] by Philipp Winter and Stefan Lindskog of Karlstad University detailed the Chinese method, which employed the establishment of a popular Tor exit node, and the use of known de-obfuscation techniques to unmask and subsequently block the IP addresses of identified nodes, effectively isolating the network. Since Tor specifically relies on non-local routing, the effect of such en masse node-blocking has proved to be very effective at a national level.
Earlier this month three influential official Russian agencies launched a concerted campaign promising to end the use of Tor and VPNs within Russia, labelling Edward Snowden’s preferred method whistle-blowing as an ‘Anonymous network used primarily to commit crimes’.