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From zero to 16 million. How Psiphon became the most popular VPN in Belarus

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On August 9, the number of connections from this country increased from zero to 740 thousand, and on August 11, 16.81 million people used it.

Yesterday, after three days of blocking, the Internet finally started working in Belarus. During this time, social networks, instant messengers, search engines and other services did not work throughout the country without a proxy and VPN.

How the people of Belarus cope with the blocking of the Internet

While Lukashenka claims that the Internet in the republic is being turned off from abroad, and this is not the initiative of the authorities, instant messengers, news sites and other critical Internet resources do not work throughout the country. > According to Lukashenka, in this way ill-wishers want to cause discontentbelarusian…

From zero to 16 million. How Psiphon became the most popular VPN in Belarus

The Belarusian authorities continue to claim that massive cyber attacks from abroad were the cause of the failures, however, experts and human rights organizations are convinced that the “shutdown" in the republic was an initiative of the current government.

Zero to 10 million

One of the few working services to bypass the blocking turned out to be the Canadian Psiphon, which almost no one used before the election day in Belarus. On August 9, the number of connections from this country grew from zero to 740 thousand, on August 10 it was already used by about 8 million, and on August 11 the number of connections reached 16.81 million. This is evidenced by the official statistics of the company.

From zero to 16 million. How Psiphon became the most popular VPN in Belarus

“Usually, when the authorities block the Internet, people turn to us precisely because we have experience in providing just such a service. This is an anti-censorship tool – we are here if we are needed, “said the head of Psiphon Inc. Michael Hull, stressing that the service is especially popular not always, but in times of crisis.  

Why Psiphon

Most anonymizers and VPN services were not working in Belarus at the time of the Internet blockage, unlike Psiphon, which was almost the only functioning service. Michael Hull believes that the reason for the effectiveness lies in the fact that their service is “sharpened” specifically for bypassing censorship blocks :

“We are not so that you can access Netflix by changing the country of access.”

Psiphon has been specifically designed to support users in what are known as "enemies of the Internet" countries. The service is very popular in China, as it is able to bypass the "great firewall of China".

To provide a user with access to the Internet, Psiphon uses a proxy server in another country and automatically changes it if it becomes unavailable. Now the company has about 3,500 servers that work simultaneously.

Director of the Internet Protection Society Mikhail Klimarev told that Psiphon has a “cunning mechanism” that does not allow traffic to be caught through DPI filtering systems that allow filtering traffic and blocking access to certain sites and services. This method of blocking is most likely used in Belarus, the expert said.

Unlike anonymization tools such as Tor, which uses a large number of obfuscated nodes, Psiphon does not guarantee anonymity and security on the Internet.

The description on the official website of the company says: “Psiphon is designed to provide you with open access to online content. Using Psiphon does not increase your online privacy and should not be considered or used as an online security tool.”

Psiphon is open source software and its source code is published on GitHub.

The Psiphon app is free and available on all platforms including iOS, Android, and Windows, however it has ads and a 2 Mbps speed limit.

From zero to 16 million. How Psiphon became the most popular VPN in Belarus

You can use the application without restrictions and advertising for a certain amount per month or a one-time subscription. A subscription for a week costs 219 rubles, for a month – 699 rubles, and for a year – 5299 rubles.

The developers say that they are not chasing profits, but are working to help people when they are in trouble.