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Russia Takes Heavy Hand To Internet To Block Messaging App

Russia Admits to Blocking Millions of IP Addresses

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The website of the Telegram messaging app is seen on a computer's screen in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018. A Russian court has ordered the blocking of a popular messaging app following a demand by authorities that it share encryption data with them.
The website of the Telegram messaging app is seen on a computer's screen in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018. A Russian court has ordered the blocking of a popular messaging app following a demand by authorities that it share encryption data with them. VOA
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The chief of the Russian communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of unrelated IP addresses have been frozen in a so-far futile attempt to block a popular messaging app.

Telegram, the messaging app that was ordered to be blocked last week, was still available to users in Russia despite authorities’ frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services.

The row erupted after Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, refused to hand its encryption keys to the intelligence agencies. The Russian government insists it needs them to pre-empt extremist attacks but Telegram dismissed the request as a breach of privacy.

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Alexander Zharov, chief of the Federal Communications Agency, said in an interview with the Izvestia daily published Wednesday that Russia is blocking 18 networks that are used by Amazon and Google and which host sites that they believe Telegram is using to circumvent the ban.

Countless Russian businesses – from online language schools to car dealerships – reported that their web services were down because of the communication watchdog’s moves to bloc networks.

Internet experts estimate that Russian authorities have blocked about 16 million IP addresses since Monday, affecting millions of Russian users and businesses.

Representational image for telegram app.
Representational image. Pixabay

In the interview, Zharov admitted that the authorities have been helplessly trying to block Telegram and had to shut down entire networks, some of which have over half a million IP addresses that are used by unrelated, “law-abiding companies,” he said.

Russia’s leading daily Vedomosti in Wednesday’s editorial likened the communications watchdog’s battle against Telegram, affecting millions of users of other web-services, to warfare.

“The large-scale indiscriminate blocking of foreign IP addresses in Russia in order to close the access to the messaging app Telegram is unprecedented and bears resemblance to carpet bombings,” the editorial said.

Zharov also indicated that Facebook could be the next target for the government if it refuses to comply with Russian law.

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Authorities previously insisted that Facebook store its Russian users’ data in Russia but has not gone through with its threats to block Facebook if it refuses to comply.

Zharov said authorities will check before the end of the year if the company is complying with its demands and warned that if it does not, “then, obviously, the issue of blocking will arise.”

Elsewhere in Moscow, a court on Wednesday sentenced a member of the punk collective Pussy Riot, who spent nearly two years in prison for a protest in Russia’s main cathedral, to 100 hours of community work for a protest against the Telegram blocking. Maria Alekhina and a dozen activists were throwing paper planes outside the communications watchdog’s office on Monday.  VOA

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Russia Just Launched the Fastest Cargo Mission Ever to the Space Station

The SpaceX's 15th cargo flight to the space station that launched on June 29 took three days to reach the space station

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The cargo vehicle will remain at the orbital outpost until late January 2019, NASA said.
The cargo vehicle will remain at the orbital outpost until late January 2019, NASA said. (IANS)

In a demonstration of expedited capability, a Russian cargo ship is readying itself to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) in less than four hours.

The Progress 70 resupply ship, loaded with almost 2,721 kgs of food, fuel and supplies, is set to launch from Baikonur space port in Kazakhstan at 3.51 am (Kazakhstan time) on Tuesday. .

“Russian mission controllers are planning a short three hour and 48 minute delivery trip, or just two orbits, to the station’s Pirs docking compartment,” NASA said in a blog post.

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The success of this mission may set the way for future Russian cargo and crew launches using the same expedited capability.

The cargo vehicle will remain at the orbital outpost until late January 2019, NASA said.

The SpaceX’s 15th cargo flight to the space station that launched on June 29 took three days to reach the space station. (IANS)