Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

The Russian Government wants to Block Zello, But Can It Really Do that?

I wrote about Zello, the free walkie-talkie emulation software for cell phones, a few days ago at It is a great app that gives users excellent one-to-one and one-to-many communications capabilities. Now the Russian government thinks that Zello is an evil thing. Well, it is evil in the eyes of a repressive government. The Russian government wants to block all usage of Zello. It seems that Zello is another example of the type of secure communications service which the Russian regime is determined to stop its people from using.

The regime of President Vladimir Putin sees apps like Zello as being a threat rather than a vital communications tool. That is because apps of this nature are frequently used by opposition groups to coordinate protests and opposition to the Putin regime.

There is but one problem: blocking all Zello users within the country will be a difficult, maybe impossible, task.

In order to censor access to Zello across the country, the Russian government will have to block no less than 15 million IP addresses across 36 Internet subnets in order to do it. Of course, there will be side effects. Blocking that many IP addresses would mean countless other websites and services would also be blocked as a result. That seems to be a drastic measure, blocking “good sites” as well as Zello users. This story reminds me of an old fable about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Blocking access by IP addresses probably won’t work anyway. VPNs (virtual private networks) are very popular amongst Russian computer owners, used to bypass all sorts of other restrictions and blockages. In order to bypass the proposed Russian blocks of IP addresses, all a Russian citizen needs to do is to use a VPN to connect to a VPN gateway outside of Russia and then use Zello as normal.

VPNs are available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Chromebooks, Apple iPhones and iPads, Android devices, and more. VPNs can even be installed in some Internet routers, such as the one in your home, and all devices that access the Internet through that router will be able to bypass the IP restrictions.

All the resulting publicity has been good for Zello. The producing company says its app has been downloaded more than one million times in a single day. That includes downloads by users in Russia and elsewhere.

The Zello app must be a good one. It’s being banned in Moscow!

Categories: Legal Affairs, News & Current Events

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