Ukraine-Russia War – Fight Misinformation Using a VPN
Ukraine and Russia are at war, and the whole world knows it. But what exactly is happening on ground zero? This is the biggest question, as it’s hard to get the actual picture.
We have to believe what’s presented on paid media. Whenever war happens, military forces are involved, and their achievements/failures are staged by the civilians of at-war countries and the rest of the world.
History has witnessed that misinformation caused more damage than the actual war. Not only does it create havoc, but it also creates fake success. This is why it’s very crucial to stay informed and know the truth.
But is it easy?
Of course not, as:
- A lot of information is manipulated
- Geo-restrictions on online news websites/platforms are imposed
- Whistleblowers are forced to stay quiet
Stop Russian Aggression
What the politicians of Russia are doing is not informed to Russian civilians, and how Ukrainian civilians are keeping their morale high and are ready to give up to the Russian army is not presented to the world. Truth is hidden from everyone.
Russia’s aggression is much more than what’s circulated in the media. The Russian army has indeed ruined many cities in Ukraine. But, the damage was only on the infrastructural level.
The morale and hopes of Ukrainian citizens are still high. They still hold the Ukraine flags with pride and are not ready to bend their knees on the Russian military.
Despite the heavy shelling and Putin’s claims that he has won the city, Kharkiv is not ready to surrender. People are showing commendable resistance to the aggression of the Russian army. Russian media is trying to prove the opposite and bragging about a non-existent success.
The editor of “Censor.Net”, Yuri Butusov, reported that Kharkiv is still under the control of Ukrainian defenders, The Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the National Guard. They all are fighting with the enemy.
Russian media is releasing images of building ruins, the armed convoy moving to the cities of Ukraine, and paratroopers marching to the capital of Ukraine.
But, Butosov confirmed that many Russian assault groups were killed and taken into custody when they tried to invade Kharkiv. He also stated that the defense of Kharkiv is not weakening even during the heavy airstrikes.
Russia claims to be right in this matter. If that’s so, why do Fitch Ratings have dropped to B from BBB?
The rest of the world is not in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This act is likely to have a huge negative impact on Russia’s macro-financial stability, will weaken Russia’s public finances, will put restrictions on financial flexibility, will slow down GDP growth, and will cause a great surge in domestic and geopolitical risks.
That’s not the end of the misery. Rather, it’s the beginning as The International Criminal Court in The Hague has given orders to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine.
Russian troops continued shelling residential areas. As an effect of the shelling, six adults and two children lost their lives in the city of Lz Yum. It’s a clear violation of human rights.
What’s more, we’re yet to see a result of Russian aggression.
No More Lies
There are threats, but Russia will have a tough time claiming actual success. Information is manipulated heavily, and this is not happening the first time.
Whenever there is a war, combat happens on multiple fronts. Of course, the most prominent is the battleground. Other than this, opponents try to defeat each other on the media front as well. It happens by circulating fake success news so that their opponents feel demotivated, the rucksack is caused, and fake propaganda is promoted. This is what happened once again.
What Actually happened?
Many official news websites are not accessible to Russians and Ukrainians, geo-restrictions are imposed, and every news/report is scrutinized thoroughly.
If the trends about Russia’s censorship of war-related information are to be followed, we get to learn that people think that President Vladimir Putin is ready to cut off people of Russia from the global internet so that real war front information remains inaccessible to them.
Even though Russia has always remained famous for its heavy-handed censorship, the recent censorship is no less than snatching away the freedom of speech and internet freedom. Censorships have become so harsh that non-affiliated journalists are leaving Russia.
Soon after the Kremlin attacked Ukraine, many of Russia’s independent media outlets, such as TV Rain, Echo of Moscow, and many more, were banned. Before the war, all these remained the face of Russian media.
Many Russian journalists confirmed that they were receiving threats and that leaving Russia was the only viable option left for them. Many leading international media houses like The New York Times are canceling the Russia deployment of its journalists are calling them home. This is happening first time in 100 years. Speaking and seeking the truth is now a crime in Russia, it seems.
Michael Slackman, the Assistant Managing Editor of The New York Times, revealed that Russia is trying its best to stamp down the free speed and war news. This time, the clamping is harsher than ever during the presidency period of President Vladimir V. The recent law “The Law on the Fakes” is throwing people behind the bar for spreading false information about the actions of the Russian armed forces.
Russian media is strictly instructed to cover the war based on the information that official Russian sources will provide. No special reports invasion of Ukraine, humanitarian aid by Unites nations, fierce battles happening, armed conflicts, intense battles near the Kharkiv region, and many other matters must be presented.
The censorship is so harsh that it instructs media houses to remove any article calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a war or attack. The permitted term to use is “special military operation.”
The restrictions also applied to social media. Facebook and Twitter became inaccessible soon after Russian forces entered Ukraine.
Seeing this, it’s easy to conclude that Russian citizens are currently dealing with an avalanche of bans, blocking, and censorship. Hence, they may not know the truth about the war in Ukraine.
In that case, knowing the truth seems harsh, even though it’s imperative in times of war.
Is there any way to know the reality?
Yes, there is, and it’s the VPN.
VPN – Know Only Accurate, Real, and Legitimate Information
VPN or Virtual Private Network is a technology that can be proved highly beneficial in war times and otherwise. This tool creates an utterly secure connection over the customary internet connection by using a highly encrypted tunnel.
All incoming internet traffic has to pass through this tunnel before reaching the end user. While the traffic passes through this encrypted tunnel, certain changes are made. For instance, the actual IP address of the end user remains hidden, and the IP address of the VPN server is attached to the end user. This way, the online identity of the internet user remains hidden.
VPN usage brings many benefits to users. Some of which are explained quickly to you:
- With a quality VPN, military-grade encryption is applied to the internet traffic.
- With this encryption, it’s very tough for malicious activities to harm the end users.
- As a new IP address is granted to the end-user, unblocking geo-restricted content/information is possible.
- With a VPN, one can browse the internet, post on social media, and do various other activities without fearing being monitored and tracked as online activities remain hidden.
- VPN makes public Wi-Fi safe enough to use.
- With features like Kill Switch, IP leak, DNS leak, and WebRTC leak protection, it’s easier to keep information safe than before.
How Can A VPN Help In Russia-Ukraine War?
VPN is an everyday technology suggested to use every time one uses an internet connection. People of Russia and Ukraine can hugely be benefitted from this technology as they can lift –up the geo-restrictions imposed by the governments, access the actual/non-modified information, and stay informed with true details.
While using a VPN, the actual location, IP address, online activities, and everything else will remain hidden.
Overall, VPN usage brings many benefits to users. Whether you’re living in a warzone like Russia or Ukraine or somewhere peaceful like Iceland, using a VPN is always recommended as it can help you with tons of things.
Let’s understand how a reliable VPN can help the people of Ukraine and Russia during a time of war.
Lift the imposed restrictions
As we all know, censorship and internet geo-restrictions are currently very strict and harsh in Russia. Russian forces are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that people sitting at home won’t be able to know what Russian troops are doing and what actions Ukraine soldiers are taking.
The base of geo-restriction is the IP address. Russian government blocks traffic coming from Russia-based IP addresses. So, if the people of Russia managed to replace their original IP address and get an IP address of some other location or place, they can bypass the geo-restrictions imposed by Russian troops and officials.
VPN is perhaps the easiest way to switch IP addresses. A reliable VPN will have servers across the globe and allow its users to connect with the IP address of their choice. For instance, Russian citizens can virtually present in the UK, US, Canada, or elsewhere by using a VPN and can connect with the servers present at those locations.
Once they have a different IP address, they will be able to access the blocked or geo-restricted content.
Secure the internet traffic
Russian censorship is so strong that it will keep an eye on everyone who is trying to bypass internet censorship. The officials will block such internet users and even impose hefty fines. So, Russian internet users need to secure internet traffic so much so that officials are not able to track their online activities.
VPN helps greatly on this front as well. VPN applies military-grade encryption to the traffic. When internet traffic is encrypted, it won’t be easy for Russian officials to find out what internet users are doing over the internet.
With powerful encryption, people in Russia can bypass internet censorship without being caught by officials. They can post whatever they want, share the articles they love, and speak their mind without any fear, as their online traces will be very hard to track.
Journalists of both countries will be beneficially heavily with this feature of a reliable VPN as they don’t have to run or hide while talking about Ukraine troops, Russian missile strike, situations of Ukrainian soldiers, actions taken by Ukraine’s allies, things happening in Kharkiv region, and anything else.
These two are the major use cases of VPNs for Russian and Ukrainian people. However, people can do many other things with a feature-rich VPN.
VPN can make public WiFi secure as traffic is fully encrypted
Public WiFis are a great way to enjoy unlimited bandwidth. But, as this is an open network, cyberpunks can easily use it to exploit the internet users connected with WiFi. But, when a VPN is active, anyone can access public WiFi without any fear as it makes the traffic fully encrypted, leaving bad actors empty-handed.
As leading VPNs offer adblockers, malware blockers, IP leak protection, and anti-virus software, there is no way that any cyber threat will reach you.
Stream online content as much as possible
The majority of internet users use VPN to unblock streaming services and enjoy unlimited entertainment. But, because of copyright issues, not everyone is able to access the content of their choice.
VPN can help such internet users access blocked content by changing the IP address. Many reliable VPN providers provide unlimited bandwidth with no data capping. With this, streaming is no longer an issue, and ISP throttling is not bothering you while you’re streaming.
Access torrent websites
If you’re a torrenting lover, VPN will help you enjoy torrenting without any risks and hassles. Torrent is not allowed in many regions and is restricted. With VPN, you can easily access torrent websites and download torrents without being get caught.
Protect multiple devices at a time
People use a wide range of devices to access the internet, and it’s important to enjoy a secure internet connection on all devices. This task is easier than ever because of a VPN. A powerful VPN provides dedicated apps and solutions for all devices. For instance, ExpressVPN provides dedicated app support, browser extensions, and software for devices like mobile phones, laptops, SmartTV, routers, gaming consoles, tablets, and many other devices.
With one tool, you can protect all the devices that they are using to access the internet and enjoy a secure internet connection.
VPN Usage In On Rise In Russia
Russian forces are trying their best to keep the truth away from the citizens of Ukraine and Russia, including the rest of the world. However, Russian forces and the government can’t stop people from seeking the truth.
As VPN is the most preferred way to unblock blocked websites, news, and information, its usage among Russian citizens has increased lately.
We have strong data to back this statement. For instance, Appfigures revealed that there was a huge surge in the search for ‘Top 10 VPNs in Russia’ since Russia invaded Ukraine. From February 24 to March 5, this search result surged by 4,375%.
Before the Russia-Ukraine war, the frequency of this search result was 16,000 per day. But, post-Russian invasion, there were nearly 700,000 search results.
There is a huge spike in the number of VPN app downloads on both iOS and Android platforms. From the day Russian forces’ invasion of Ukraine started, Feb 2, to March 8, there were 6 million VPN app downloads collectively over Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. It was 1,500% high compared to any 13 days.
Many VPN companies also revealed the VPN user hike during the war in Ukraine period. For instance, Surfshark declared that its weekly revenue from the Russia region has increased by 3,500% since the day Russian military forces entered Eastern Ukraine. The highest spike was noticed when Russia blocked Facebook.
VPN downloads in Russia spiked nearly 2,700% post the invasion of Russian military forces in Ukraine. This sudden and expected spike in VPN user number clearly indicates that Russian citizens are eager to know what’s happening at the war front. They are trying their best to avoid forced surveillance and censorship, says a Surfshark spokesperson.
While people in Russia are using VPNs mainly to bypass government-imposed censorship, Ukrainians have different reasons for using a reliable VPN. They are using a VPN to remain secure from planned cyberattacks and disruptions.
It’s anticipated that Russian forces injected malware and viruses in heavy amounts to harm the internet infrastructure of Ukraine. Atlas VPN recently announced that it’s handing over its Premium subscription to Ukrainian journalists to that they can report without the fear of being attacked or tracked. Many VPN services have slashed their subscription cost in Ukraine so that more and more people can use a VPN and stay protected.
Overall, there is a whopping 600% hike in VPN demand in Ukraine after the war in Ukraine.
The World Is Helping Russian To Unlock The Truth
The world understands the intentions of Russian officials to conceal the truth. For instance, Russia’s media regulator has stopped Russia from accessing VOA’s language services. Russian officials are also instructed by leading social media platforms to remove content that is related to missile strikes on Ukraine, praising Ukraine’s armed forces, condemning the Russian attack on Northeastern Ukraine, or targeting President Vladimir Putin.
Basically, Russian forces are trying their best to remove any content that features war coverage.
This was too much to handle by the world and Russians. This is why many global organizations are offering solutions to Russian users that can help them to know the truth about the Russia-Ukraine war.
For instance, leading broadcasters like Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and many more are offering tools and solutions to help Russian citizens access websites that Russian officials have banned. Many IT giants and social media leaders are joining hands to ensure the right information reaches Russia.
Twitter, which became inaccessible as soon Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine started, soon became accessible via the Tor network. Twitter and Tor worked together to provide the right information about the war.
How To Use A VPN?
Using a VPN is simple, and not much hassle is involved. Intended users only need a data-driven device, an active internet connection, and a VPN subscription. Most VPN providers offer mobile apps. You can download the app of the relevant VPN and complete the setup process.
Once the setup is done, you need to connect with the server of the appropriate location, and a new IP address will be with you.
You are now ready to enjoy secured and encrypted online activities.
Is It Wise To Use A Free VPN In War Time?
There are certainly free VPNs. But, they don’t deserve your attention and efforts as they are of use. In fact, using them will only make things worse. Free VPNs are known to have poor encryption, user data logging tendency, leaking IP details, and limited servers.
With so much incompetency, it’s not wise to access war-related sensitive information, as government agencies will keep an eye on you. Journalists and whistleblowers must never think of using a free VPN.
In case the paid VPNs seem like an extra investment for you, we suggest you go with the free trial facility of some reputed VPNs. The free trial duration usually starts from 7 days and continues for 30 days at maximum.
VPN service providers offering money-back guarantees are more viable as they ensure money safety.
Russia Ban On VPN
Russia’s geo-restriction is not limited to content and websites. It has reached security tools like VPN. Russian troops and officials know that VPN can help people of Russia to bypass censorship. Hence, it has now imposed a ban on VPN usage as well.
As censorship in Russia existed before the war in Ukraine, a VPN ban was imposed before Russian troops attacked Eastern Ukraine. Let’s have a look at the timeline of Russia’s ban on VPNs.
- The beginning of VPN bans in Russia dates back to 2017 when president Putin passed a bill banning VPN use in the country. The bill passed and further became law and restricted the use of Tor and proxies as well.
- In 2019, Roskomnadzor instructed VPN providers to use a restricted wide range of websites and log user activity. As many VPN providers refused to do so, Russia started blocking the physical servers of those service providers in Russia.
- In 2021, the Russian government further banned many VPNs, including X-VPN, Tachyon VPN, Betternet, PrivateTunnel, and many others, for a reason as vague as not adhering to strict VPN service usage.
- During the war in Ukraine, the Russian government blocked a wide range of websites, social media platforms, and VPNs to control the spread of information.
How To Select The Best VPN For Russia And Ukraine
Russian war with Ukraine has started an information war in Europe. While Russia is trying to block information flow, Ukraine wants to unveil every truth about the Russian strike on Ukrainian cities. However, this is only possible when you have the best VPN by your side. We can help you pick an ideal VPN by providing quality factors of a VPN.
No log policy
First, you need to ensure that the VPN you’re going to pick has no log policy. VPNs with user data logging are more than a headache. Such VPNs will keep user logs that are further shared or sold to others.
With this kind of VPN, you have two main dangers. The first danger is that Russian officials, who don’t like a VPN, can catch you.
The second danger you have is the misuse of personal information. If your data is sold to hackers or 3rd party service providers, your hassles will have no end.
Wide server network
The server network of a VPN matters a lot. The wider it is, the easy would be for people to bypass geo-restrictions. You need to pick a VPN that has servers all across the world. Also, servers should be RAM and backed by strong military-grade encryptions.
Certain security features should be present on servers to remain functional in Russia and Ukraine. For instance, the servers should be obfuscated so that VPN usage is not easy to track. There should be multi-hop servers that will allow you to switch servers multiple times.
Multiple device support
You won’t be using one device to stay connected to the internet. You will use mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices to connect to the internet. So, you must pick a VPN that offers dedicated app support for all the leading devices.
You can’t trust any VPN while accessing blocked content in Russia and Ukraine by knowing the claims. You need to check the real-time viability of a VPN, and a free trial will help you do this.
Top 3 VPNs To Use For Accessing Geo-Restricted Information
Lifting strong geo-restrictions takes a lot, and a VPN should be highly feature-rich and performance-oriented to make this happen. It’s not the job of ordinary options. Only trusted and industry’s best players can pull this off.
Here are the top 3 choices to make:
#1 – ExpressVPN – Best in Every Sense
With more than 3,000 servers in 90 countries, dedicated, dynamic IP addresses, and an audited no-log policy, ExpressVPN is certainly a great choice to make to access restricted websites. The VPN is British Virgin Islands-based and is very user-friendly. Its simple user interface makes it accessible to everyone.
As the VPN is laced with military-grade encryption, protects against IP and DNS leaks, and offers no speed/bandwidth cap, its users will have a pleasant experience with it. To ensure that government agencies cannot figure out about your online activities, ExpressVPN adheres to a no-log policy, and it’s audited by a third party as well.
As if this was not enough, there is an in-built kill switch and ad blocker as well. This way, there is no chance of harm or damage while you access blocked information. Speaking of its unblocking abilities, one can access restricted websites, videos, articles, news websites, streaming platforms, social media pages, and even government resources. While you do all this, not a single trace of your movements is left behind, which is a great thing.
It’s so strong to lift-up geo-restrictions that it works in China also. It can surpass the restrictions imposed by The Great Firewall of China. During our testing, we also figured out that it works great in Russia as well. So, Russian citizens can use this VPN to access blocked websites.
The only irksome thing is its high-end per-month cost. Compared to other choices, it’s a bit pocket-heavy. However, the cost is totally justified if we compare its offerings and performance. We would suggest you start with the free trial, assess its performance, and then go with the long-term subscriptions to save big.
- Free Trial – 30 days
- Simultaneous connections – 5
- Server locations – 160
- Servers- 3,000+
- Every possible security feature and latest security protocols are offered
- The servers feature RAM disk storing not a single pinch of information
- Audits by third-party are conducted
- Servers are known for blazing speed
- Payment via bitcoin supports user anonymity a bit more
- Streaming-optimized servers tend to have poor performance at times
- We had a tough time making it work in the router
#2 – NordVPN – Master Of Security
Honestly speaking, it’s hard to match with the NordVPN standards. Yet, NordVPN has done it with its robust security, improved encryption, and decent speed. NordVPN proffer facilities like DoubleVPN and Onion Over VPN along with standard encryption. Because of these two, it’s hard for anyone to find out what you’re browsing or searching over the internet.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a famous name in the industry, conducts audits of this VPN’s zero-log policy.
There are dedicated IP addresses and Quick connection tools for better performance. Getting started with NordVPN is not tough, as there are detailed tutorials on setting up its tools and accessing geo-restricted connect.
As the VPN is Panama-based, there are no worries about data logging. The RAM disk server eliminates the risks of data logging a bit more. Recently, this VPN completed 10 years in the market. That’s a sign of its trustworthiness.
While one is in a non-secure digital space, using NordVPN is an excellent way as it has a Double VPN feature that encrypts the connections twice and hides the details better. There is a special feature, Dark Web Monitor, that keeps personal data vulnerabilities at bay.
- Free Trial- 30 days
- Simultaneous connections – 6
- Server locations – 80+
- Servers- 5,200+
- A wide range of specialty servers, including dedicated IP servers, Double VPN servers, P2P servers, and Obfuscated servers
- Using the split tunneling feature, it’s easy to enable/disable VPNs on certain apps
- Robust threat protection that can keep risks like online ads, viruses, malware, and trackers at bay
- The mobile app lacks credibility
- Customer support can be way better than what’s presently
#3 – Surfshark- A Cost-effective VPN
Surfshark is one of the most pocket-friendly choices to make. This VPN does not compromise on quality, server coverage, security, and encryption despite the affordable cost. With one subscription, you can use it on unlimited devices at a time, which is undoubtedly a great deal.
There is a dedicated app/solution for OS like Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux. There are easy-to-install extensions for Chrome and Firefox as well. The customer cares about support, worries about end-user concerns, and offers immediate access.
Servers are not as high-speeding as ExpressVPN. But they are decent and provide a quick connection. Even distant servers work superbly.
Security is a strong point in this case, as well as AES 256 Bit encryption, along with modern security protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard, are in place.
Other than this, you also enjoy IKEv2 support and Shadowsocks to help you bypass VPN blocking. The kill switch feature is there but needs significant improvement. While you use the MultiHop tab, the traffic is passed through two servers to ensure no IP leak. For multi-hop, 14 routes are available presently.
- Free Trial- 30 days
- Simultaneous connections – Unlimited
- Server locations – 65
- Servers- 3,200+
- Camouflage Mode for additional privacy and secrecy
- Multiple hops between servers are allowed
- NoBorders Mode will help you gain secured access even in restrictive areas
- Jurisdiction is outside the 14, 9 and 5 eyes alliances
- Smooth streaming and torrenting experience
- The whitelist feature decides which app to encrypt and which not to
- Uses AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption
- Kill switch is likely to have certain loopholes
- Speed issues with the OpenVPN protocol
Can You Use a Proxy or Tor in War Zones?
As proxy and Tor both are used to maintain online identity and are often considered reliable counterparts of VPN, it’s natural to think that people in and around war zones can use them to access restricted content.
Well, we won’t suggest it, as these two tools fail to protect the end-user identity during the process. You will be succeeded in unblocking restricted content. Still, there won’t be any powerful encryption in place, your IP address won’t be that protected, and there won’t be internet integrity.
With proxies, you won’t get protection against malware and viruses. Issues with Tor are many, as they are sluggish, not available in multiple locations, and hard to get started.
Considering all these facts, VPNs are the most suitable and viable option for accessing geo-restricted content.
War is not an easy matter, as a lot is at stake. Propagating false or unverified information will make things worse and foster public fear. As information circulation is easier than ever, falsified information can do damage beyond imagination.
With a VPN, the truth can prevail as journalists can write about actual situations without the fear of being tracked/traced, the public can access geo-restricted content, and unfiltered information can be accessed. However, ensure you don’t use a free VPN, as it is good for nothing. Use this technology only from trusted sources to enjoy an unmatched performance.
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