Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Russia becomes an internet outcast for some reason

It's starting to happen more and more often to me. I'm trying to use some service and all of a sudden I see an error page, sometimes a custom one but more often generated by cloudflare or a similar service, with error message effectively saying that IP addresses from Russia are banned on the service. And what is even more interesting, most of this services don't have any particular policy reasons not to allow Russian users, it's not not like they are publishing prescribed materials or doing anything interesting whatsoever. A payment processor, a popular online course provider, some random forums and information sites, one site with educational videos that I like (that one is especially funny because I'm banned from the subscription page and so can't pay them but their cdn does't care and I can actually download any video I want).

But why does it happen? Is there some recommendation in some popular security guideline "block Russia, Cambodia, and Afghanistan because all users from there are ruthless hackers"? Or maybe Roskomnadzor (Russian telecom regulator / royal censorship service) spams hosting providers with "abuse" reports? (Actually happened to a friend of mine, although he was doing something interesting on his sites, truth being told. He had to remove a few pages for ISP to unblock his account.) Maybe some Russian hackers do, in fact, tend to abuse legitimate services and, say, test stolen CC numbers incurring huge chargeback costs? (That would explain services having to do with payments.)

Whatever the reasons are I haven't been able to get any answers from any of the services. Guess they are not big on customer service if they ignore requests to the tune of "I want to pay you guys, with money, not stolen or anything, please take them" (that popular courses provider I mentioned tends to answer with something like "thanks for contacting us, anybody can use our site as long as they have internet connection, have a good day").

In some cases it's pretty easy to work around that, we all know how proxies and vpn work, we watch tv (which is kinda weird, if we take the hackers assumption, if I were a ruthless Russian hacker, the first thing I'd spend my cryptocurrency on would be some anonymous vpn service... although even then I wouldn't steal innocent people's credit cards and use them to incur costs on other innocent businesses so maybe I just can't understand those kiddies). But sometimes you can't or at least not easily. With that god-forsaken courses site I'd have to use a proctoring service that requires good bandwidth for screen-sharing and webcam and although it's not exactly impossible, I'd have to use some service that provides that bandwidth and stable connection raising costs significantly (maybe I should try setting up my own private proxy somewhere).

And also there were some rumors that the government plans to ban all proxies and vpns on the internet. Granted, I don't know the exact plan, if they can do that effectively and what would people do when they need vpn for work, and I don't want to put all the blame on the government in this case (although it tends to be involved somehow whenever you encounter any major inconvenience in your life), but it might be a point where it's easier to physically move elsewhere than deal with the whole situation. Too bad places that are easier to move to often have internet problems of their own (encountered it more than once during my travels), it takes a developed economy with high human rights index to have a stable, affordable, and relatively unrestricted internet access. No idea why, just happens to be so.

Update (2017-09-22): Apparently, according to at least one of the services, they often ban whole countries in case of DDoS attacks. When they have no customers and not much prospects for some country yet a torrent of requests coming, I guess, it's understandable. Yet it's very hard to make them revert it even if you do want to become a customer (I even suggested to unblock my ip only, provided I get a static ip address from my isp, and no reply yet).