The war in Ukraine just got a new frontier, the VPN market.
According to , the US government is pouring money into three separate VPN developers: nthLink, Psiphon, and Lantern.
The news comes as VPNs have become a lifeline for citizens in Russia and Ukraine looking to avoid government censorship; on March 14, VPN installs in Russia reached an all-time high, surging by 11,253 per cent beyond their normal level.
Where is the money coming from?
The money is reportedly coming from a federal agency that controls US government backed broadcasters, the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
The three VPN firms received $4.8 million in funding between 2015 and 2021, but this total funding has now risen by almost half.
These VPNs are in widespread use according to Laura Cunningham, president of the Open Technology Fund, who told Reuters over four million Russians are using these type of privacy tools.
How is Russia responding?
“We don’t censor the Internet,” a Kremlin spokesperson said in response to the news. “Russia regulates certain Web resources, like many other countries in the world.”
Russian authorities have taken a tough stance on internet censorship, regardless of any statements to the contrary, according to data from Top10VPN.
Over 1,974 websites have been blocked in Russia since February 24 due to content relating to the invasion of Ukraine, including the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google News, and BBC News.
Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has officially restricted the operations of six VPN services in the country, including popular tools such as ExpressVPN, Nord VPN, and IPVanish VPN.
“The use of block bypass services results in the retention of access to banned information and resources and creates an environment for unlawful activities, including those related to the spread of drugs and child pornography, extremism, and incitement to suicide,” Roskomnadzor said.
But it’s not just Russians that are showing love for VPNs.
Polling some 1,000 adults that work remotely and have access to a work computer in the United States, YouGov found that just above half (52%) use a VPN all of the time.
Another 14% use it sometimes, while 15% use it “rarely”. Another 15% never use the solution, while the remaining 4% don’t know.