VPN demand in Russia surges by nearly 2,000% in a week

Edward G. | March 1, 2022

According to in-house aggregated Atlas VPN user data, Virtual Private Network (VPN) installs in Russia surged by 1,906% in the last few days. The interest in VPNs started to increase on February 16, 2022, after the first wave of cyberattacks against Ukraine occurred.

VPN is best described as a service that hides the user’s real IP address and encrypts his online activities. These changes prevent 3-rd parties such as the government, ISP (internet service provider), or hackers from tracking the user’s online traffic.

In addition, using a VPN helps overcome websites banned by Russia’s government.

On top of handing out free subscriptions to journalists in Ukraine, Atlas VPN decided to publish their user data to shed more light on the current situation.

The findings do not affect the privacy of our users in any way since the information is completely anonymized.

The chart below reflects the percentage change of the average number of Russia-originating Atlas VPN application installs from Google Play Store and Apple App Store between February 1, 2022, and February 28, 2022.

Data reveals that the interest in VPNs began rising on February 16 and has never dropped below the average since then.

Yet, the start of physical attacks in Ukraine on February 24 gave rise to the never-seen-before upsurge in VPN demand. VPN installs reached record heights one day after another.

On February 25, VPN installs rose by 241% above the average. The next day, on February 26, VPN installs originating from Russia sky-rocketed by 1,076% over the norm. Still, this was not the end, as the following day, VPN installs went off the charts, soaring 1,906% higher than the mean.

The demand declined by a considerable margin but remained high on the last day of February.

We predict that the interest in VPNs will remain at these heights for the upcoming weeks. However, if major events continue, we could see numbers ascending even higher.

VPN use-cases in Russia

Internet restrictions in Russia are stringent, even if they are not at the same level as those in China.

The mass media regulations in Russia have been introduced to restrict harmful content, mostly related to drug use and suicide.

However, according to Freedom House, these regulations have been routinely abused to censor criticism of the government or local administrations.

In addition, they also restrict a range of social media and communication platforms. The legality of VPNs in Russia

The legality of VPNs

While the use of VPNs is legal in Russia, you will be hard-pressed to find a provider that offers servers in Russia. The federal government has been tightening its grip on VPN providers since 2017 when President Putin signed a bill outlawing the use of certain VPNs.

Furthermore, Roskomnadzor, the federal agency responsible for mass media regulations, sent a notice to some of the largest VPN providers requiring them to connect to the Federal State Information System (FSIS) in March 2019.

Only the Russia-based security firm Kaspersky agreed to the offer and kept their Russian servers operative, while other providers shut down their servers.

Since then, Roskomandzor kept banning VPN providers that do not comply with the request to connect to the FSIS.

However, it is advisable to keep away from services that decide to act in accordance with the demands as this goes against net neutrality, which is a principle each VPN company should follow.

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Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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