back to article Tutanota cries 'censorship!' after secure email biz blocked – for real this time – in Russia

Fresh from last week's controversy with a US telco, German secure email biz Tutanota has declared today that the Russian authorities have pulled the plug on its services. Russia's move appears to be a continuation of domestic policy aimed at shutting out foreign-owned services that it cannot control or influence. In a …

  1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    It's a magical kingdom..

    So being a bit bored, I figured I'd read this lot's blog post about their AT&T 'blocking' episode. Which was.. quite the tirade regarding heinous crimes against 'net neutrality, and dastardly attacks against a small company trying to save the planet. That blog post referred to a reddit thread saying some users in Chicago were experiencing connectivity problems. But not all AT&T users, which seemed a little odd for the Death Star given they can usually destroy entire planets.

    Tutanota also mentioned they were a cloud service, floating in a secure data service somewhere in Germany, and powered by the cleanest, greenest renewable electrons. Or photons. Not that they probably have much control over how the photons are powered, but that's digressing somewhat. But there are perhaps some more important issues-

    inetnum: -

    netname: TUTAO-NET

    descr: Tutao GmbH


    descr: / SServ

    origin: As24679

    remarks: -- AS3320 Deutsche Telekom AG --

    import: from AS3320 accept ANY

    export: to AS3320 announce AS-SSERV

    remarks: -- AS3356 CenturyLink --

    import: from AS3356 accept ANY

    export: to AS3356 announce AS-SSERV

    remarks: -- AS13237 euNetworks --

    import: from AS13237 accept ANY

    export: to AS13237 announce AS-SSERV

    remarks: -- AS42525 GlobalConnect --

    import: from AS42525 accept ANY

    export: to AS42525 announce AS-SSERV

    So they appear to be single-homed via a small German provider and thus rather vulnerable to any general networking issue affecting SSERV, their upstreams, or their upstreams peers. Like, I dunno.. congestion or a link failure in/around Chicago. Such are the joys of BGP.

    Reddit may also have some insight about their Russian woes given the reason for the block was apparently due to bomb threats made by a user. Which is one downside to 'secure' email services, ie if a State's LEOs want assistance investigating stuff like that, they may take a dim view of privacy concerns & just make the service go away. Such are the joys of 'net governance. Most countries (including Germany) have some legislation regarding lawful intercepts or just information sharing.

  2. Mad Chaz

    "Censorship is, as we in the West know, a feature of life under totalitarism regimes" There, FTFY

    I think you will find it's not exclusive to communist regimes. More than a few democracies try to head that way too.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      More than a few democracies try to head that way too.

      I think we can safely call them former democracies..

      1. Rich 11

        I think we can safely call them former democracies.

        Only if they succeed.

        It's possible to have authoritarian democracies, where an elected government takes its mandate to mean that it can do what it likes as long as it thinks its core voters will let it get away with those actions. This sometimes overlaps with what's known as the tyranny of the majority, where few care about a wider out-group being harmed in order to crack down on some of its members (eg Trump's Muslim ban, May's hostile environment / Windrush scandal / deportation of foreign-born criminals defined to include people who have lived in the UK as British since childhood but never got papers). These are still democracies, at least until a government makes itself sufficiently unaccountable as well as more difficult to remove (both the US and UK are currently showing this tendency: refusal to take questions from journalists; denouncing news sources as biased; denouncing judges as 'activists'; moves towards politically-ideological judicial appointment; gerrymandering of electoral districts; voter suppression through reduced access to polling stations and/or increasing ID requirements without evidence of electoral fraud). But Putin has gone beyond that by openly killing his enemies or driving them out of the country, and so his 'managed democracy' is in no meaningful way any longer a democracy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Would you consider New Zealand a "former democracy", given their censorship crusade not too long ago? Yes, their target was horrific, but totalitarianism almost always gets its start going after the least defensible things.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Right. With backdoored encryption, for example.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Backdoored encryption isn't for censorship. It is for surveillance. Neither is good, but it's worth keeping in mind that these are two different bad things and countries can be good on one and terrible on another. In general, most countries are far too eager for more surveillance, which needs to be stopped. Still, dictatorships have far more pervasive surveillance systems; they're the possibility we must stay away from, not an alternative.

        As for censorship, there are democracies that would like it, but the most censoring democracy doesn't hold a candle to even the light dictatorships. The lines can be blurred somewhat, such as whether we consider Singapore a liberal democracy or not, but most of the major democracies in which we readers live are clearly not in the same camp. We need to prevent censorship whenever it is suggested, but we should probably focus on surveillance more because our governments have already pushed surveillance on us while they haven't gotten very far with censorship.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Well, here in the UK we do love our censorship/surveillance and have done so for many years. The UK is a heavy player in both spying and censorship.

          Many years ago it started with simple things like newspapers, prior to TV and what not.

          Early radio stations were often influenced heavily on what they could say.

          TV News stations such as the BBC have for years been under government control.

          When it comes to regular buyable stuff, Prior to the internet, we've had the BBFC, an organisation which focused on telling us which films we can, and cannot see. If they decided we can't see it, the film is banned (censored), with the first censored film being "£1,000 Reward", banned in 1913.

          Along comes CCTV, the UK has had more CCTV than any other nation in its early days.

          We participate in internet surveillance heavily (GCHQ).

          We also censor websites on the internet, which websites we are allowed to use, the government keeps a list of "bad" websites. A certain bay, where pirates would hang out for example.

          So yup, the UK is very much a censorship/surveillance nation, it always has been.

          I predict that one day, there will be an uprising of people, and the people or the government will win, but not both.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            TV News stations such as the BBC have for years been under government control.

            That must be why it pushes the pro-Brexit line so hard.

            So yup, the UK is very much a censorship/surveillance nation

            "Reporters Without Borders" places it 33rd out of 180 in the world for press freedom. Well ahead of the US.

            If you really want to see who is spying on us, this article (from the BBC, no less) makes for very interesting, if scary, reading:

        2. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: Backdoored encryption isn't for censorship. It is for surveillance.

          It's for both. People who think they're being constantly watched tend to self-censor.

        3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Still, dictatorships have far more pervasive surveillance systems; they're the possibility we must stay away from, not an alternative.

          Indeed. So we must stay away from Facebook, Google, many IoT gizmos etc etc. There is extremely pervasive surveillance, but we're in a strange situation where many people happily pay or sign up for personal surveillance systems that can monitor online activity, your location, your health, when you unlock your 'smart' door and even your bedroom temperature. Or there's just all those trackers & analytics services you can accept in exchange for a virtual cookie.

          So it's an odd situation where if I threatened to kidnap and vivisect Mickey Mouse* on a live stream, LEOs might have to request and justify surveillance warrants to collect the same stuff app providers collect with a simple terms of service agreement. 'I Accept', now on to teh kittehs!

          We need to prevent censorship whenever it is suggested,

          Indeed. It's my right to vivisect Disney characters live on the 'net. Give or take copyright & trademark laws, or my video being 'demonetised', yet ads displayed and revenues collected. It is right to censor anyone with opposing political views, and 'deplatform' them. Social media is reserved for those who follow the correct social conditioning.

          Or it's right to censor child pornography, hate crimes even if sometimes poorly defined, snuff videos and various other generally accepted abhorent stuff. It's also right to ask 'what stuff?' as Facebook has in response to various governments demanding SPs block this sort of thing.

          ..while they haven't gotten very far with censorship.

          I dunno.. deplatforming seems to be getting a lot more popular, and easy to do. No need for pesky legal procedures, just complain to Twitter..

          *by vivisection, I mean unzipping. No humans, anthropomorphised mice would be harmed.

        4. NonSSL-Login

          Censoring a service so that users have to use a different service which can be spied on is often the goal.

          It can be done in your face where everyone can see it or quietly under another guise. DDosing certain VPN nodes so VPN services software thinks Server X under gov control is the fastest node so their targets connect to it for example. not much different from this email provider block.

          Western countries shout about the control other regimes are inflicting while hypocritically doing the same via more discreet methods.

    3. Halfmad

      Censorship, de-platforming.. increasingly common in the UK and USA sadly.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One wonders.....

    How does Gmail Outlook and Yahoo! operate in Russia. Ok Yahoo! is a joke as by all accounts it was completely broken, but you wonder if there isn't any let FSB look at all ruski emails to them or leave cuntry.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh those Russian!

    This is good news for Tutanota. I've been using this service for almost a year (The basic one) looking for indications that Tutanota has got up someones nose to justify the emails about security. I'm sure most people use their browsers to access the site I elected to use Tutanota clients so tough if you think you can tract me through cookies as regular mail clients wont connect. All the Russian have done is given Tutanota credence that it's claims are true. Any government (except the obvious ) with haft a brain would keep stung and hope it goes away. Good job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh those Russian!




    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh those Russian!

      WTF? Are the forums full of Commie Ruskies intent on marching on to Piccadilly with their salami tactics by down-voting non Putin positive posts? One sure hopes not.

  5. TVU Silver badge

    "Tutanota cries 'censorship!' after secure email biz blocked – for real this time – in Russia"

    Back in the old days of the former Soviet Union, it was bibles that were smuggled in to that country. Since Russia is still under oppressive demagogue leadership, it is perhaps time that we now started smuggling in Qubes, Tails and Whonix on USB sticks.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Sort of. The relationship of the Soviet Union to religion changed through their history. When initially founded in the 20s, and through the 30s, they were intensely anti-religious for ideological reasons - the 'opiate of the masses' thing, regarding religion as a tool of capitalist oppression. Promising people justice in the next life so they would accept the lack of it right now. This shifted in the 40s and 50s, when religion became not just acceptable, but encouraged - providing it was the right religion. Specifically the Russian Orthodox Church, now under full state control - and a powerful way to build loyalty to community and country, and a shared Russian identity that went beyond just communism. The church and state benefited from their close alliance - the church got political influence, funding, state-provided buildings, and their propaganda in the school system. Plus there was WW2 to consider - nothing drives people to religion quite as effectively as the prospect of imminent death. This shifted again from the 60s onwards, with the church once again repressed for ideological reasons - though not to the same extreme that it was in the 20s, when purge-the-Bourgeoisie sentiment was running high.

      So at some points in Soviet history, you might have been smuggling bibles in - but at other points, the government was printing and distributing bibles themselves.

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