New Analysis Reveals Link Between Censorship And VPN Surges | Scoop News – Scoop

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On February 4th 2021, the analysis saw a huge
surge in Myanmar/Burma with 200 times more
sign-ups
(followed by another two weeks of high
sign-up rates). The flurry of sign-ups came
on the heels of a series of high profile detainments,
including Myanmar
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other
political figures. A senior general of the military, Min
Aung Hlaing, quickly took over all executive, legislative,
and judicial powers and soon after blocked social media
sites such as Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp. Twitter and
Instagram were also blocked days later when the military
realised protestors were using these networks to share
information. With so many messaging systems taken down,
citizens turned to VPNs to access the internet, organise
protests, and communicate with loved ones.

3)
Tanzania – October 2020

The people of Tanzania turned
to VPNs en masse during October 2020 in response to several
authoritarian measures being newly legislated. Many of
the laws had been on the books for several months, and could
be seen as fairly predictable to any observer of backsliding
(restrictions on free speech, limits on peaceful assembly,
blatant controls on journalists and their reporting, and so
forth). But October marked the country’s upcoming general
election, and was preceded by a series of highly visible
arrests and clampdowns to enforce the laws in favor of
incumbent President John Magufuli.

Proton’s data
shows a surge of 80 times their average VPN sign-up
rate
on October 19th, roughly a week before
election day. Tanzania then saw an even bigger surge of
400 times their average number of VPN
sign-ups
on October 27th, just a day before their
elections. People turned to VPNs for online safety and out
of fear of prosecution. Magufuli won the highly-criticized
election with over 84% of votes before passing away in March
2021.

4) Senegal – March 2021

March 2021 saw a
period of huge unrest in Senegal. The region is known to be
volatile, but the assembly of supporters for opposition
leader Ousmane Sonko along with ongoing social issues led to
an increase in violent protests and mass
demonstrations.

Senegal authorities responded by
restricting internet access through March. ProtonVPN’s
data shows a hugely significant surge in sign-ups
(400 times more than their average)
on March 5th,
when reports
started emerging about lack of internet and blocking of
social media platforms in the region.

5) Azerbaijan –
September/October 2020

Azerbaijan saw the largest
surge in sign-ups that ProtonVPN witnessed over the past 18
months. The country experienced a whopping 500 times
increase
in sign-ups from the end of September 2020
through October of that year before a huge drop in November
when it has been reported
that social media and other platforms were back
online.

The blockage
of social media occurred in September when tensions
began to rise again between Azerbaijan and the Armenian
forces. There have been standoffs and outbreaks of conflict
between the two countries for the past three decades, but
disputes have been taken online in recent years. Disputes in
the digital space have intensified due to
state-sponsored/organic influence campaigns that are then
amplified to a larger audience.

As a security measure,
the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Technology
declared a social media shutdown in order to ‘prevent
large-scale provocations from Armenia’. VPN usage
therefore dramatically increased in the region.

Hong
Kong and Russia are amongst other noted
surges

Hong Kong saw a spike of five
times their average VPN sign-ups on January 9th 2021. This
uptick coincided with China’s enforcement of new internet
restrictions on Hong Kong (The Hong Kong National Security
Law) — a move that unleashed major protests from Hong Kong
citizens.

Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) was one
organization that admitted
to blocking sites, including HKChronicles, which
regularly shared anti-government content and personal
information on police officers). This was the first time
authorities were said to have censored a website in Hong
Kong since the new legislation had come into effect in June
2020, and marked an inflection point in China’s campaign
to export its influence throughout the region. Before this,
Hong Kong was known for having one of the highest levels of
press freedoms in Asia.

Russia has
experienced a torrent of ProtonVPN usage over the last year.
The first instance was a spike five times their average VPN
sign-ups on November 5th 2020. This fell one day after Unity
Day in Russia — a national holiday commemorating the
popular uprising which expelled Polish-Lithuanian occupation
forces from Moscow in November 1612. VPN sign-ups remained
at that high level until December, when ProtonVPN saw the
spike reduce to just three times their average. Russia’s
VPN usage nonetheless doubled on April 23rd 2021 and then
experienced another huge spike again June 18th 2021, three
times the new average. These increases coincided with
protests around the arrest of opposition leader Alexei
Navalny, with many fearing detainment or arrest should they
be found to have spoken out against the government
online.

Samuele Kaplun, CTO at ProtonVPN,
commented,

“Free access to information and
freedom of speech are basic human rights. However, the
internet has given authoritarian governments the greatest
tool for censorship the world has ever seen and the number
of shutdowns and blocks has been increasing year-on-year.
ProtonVPN has long stood up for the rights of activists,
campaigners and normal people around the world fighting
censorship and oppression.

We’re proud that
ProtonVPN has given people a voice and access to the
uncensored internet, and will continue to invest our time
and resources in tools and upgrades to
ProtonVPN.”

People turn to VPNs for
security, privacy, and to ultimately keep their data safe.
VPNs are nonetheless only one tool for online safety, which
is why the team at
ProtonVPN
have put together a few tips for reducing your vulnerability
on the internet.

Use a VPN.
Yes VPNs are just one part of the safety playbook, but they
are still an incredibly crucial part. A virtual private
network (VPN) refers to a suite of technologies, the primary
aim of which is to improve your privacy when using the
internet. It connects your computer, smartphone, or tablet
to another computer, called a VPN server, via an encrypted
“tunnel” that protects your data from prying
eyes.

Having a VPN in place means that whatever you
are doing on the internet goes through the VPN server before
entering the public network, encrypting your data and
masking your IP address as it goes. This dramatically
reduces the chance of someone being able to access your
online activity. Make sure to research your VPN provider
thoroughly — it is important to make sure you go with a
legitimate VPN — ideally one that collects as little
information about you as possible and will not sell your
data to third parties.

Encrypt your emails and
messages.
Using an encrypted messaging service can
help you get around censorship as it simultaneously allows
messages to be sent while preventing third parties from
reading them. This is especially important
for companies in light of the rise of data breaches and
ransomware. Hackers have previously penetrated some of the
largest companies in the world, stealing passwords, phone
numbers, and bank details. Protecting your emails and
messages with end-to-end
encryption limits what even advanced criminals can
steal, while likely deterring low level hackers from going
after you in the first place. This goes for instant
messaging, too, either on work channels or personal.
Messaging apps such as WhatsApp now provide this extra level
of data security.

Check your device security.
Device encryption helps immensely with data
security. This means that if a device is lost or stolen the
information on it still cannot be accessed by anyone else.
We also recommend changing passwords — both personal and
professional — every few weeks and adding two factor
authentication (2FA) where possible.

Review
your privacy policies.
Many people reflexively
scroll through privacy policies in order to click
“accept” as soon as possible. While this might save you
time, it inevitably puts your data at risk thanks to most
companies having anti-privacy terms and conditions. Take the
time to actually see what rights you’re granting app
developers, and avoid ones that share your information with
third parties.

https://protonvpn.com/

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Source: https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC2202/S00042/new-analysis-reveals-link-between-censorship-and-vpn-surges.htm

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