Russia threatens to block popular VPN services to prevent website access

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s communications watchdog threatened on Thursday to block access to popular VPN-services which allow users to gain access to websites which have been outlawed by Moscow.

Russia has introduced tougher internet laws, requiring search engines to delete some results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store users’ personal data on servers within the country.

But VPN (virtual private network) services can allow users to establish secure internet connections and reach websites which have been banned or blocked.

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had asked the owners of 10 VPN services to join a state IT system that contains a registry of banned websites.

If the VPN services link to the system, their users would not be able to reach websites which had been blocked or be able to use the banned Telegram messenger service.

The internet censor said that it had sent notifications to NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited, giving them a month to reply.

“In the cases of non-compliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service,” the watchdog said in a statement.

Reporting by Anton Zverev. Writing by Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Alexander Smith

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Auto1 may consider IPO in future but no need for cash now: CEO

BERLIN (Reuters) – German used-car dealing platform Auto1 said it could seek a public offering in future but a 2018 cash infusion from Japan’s Softbank means it has no immediate need for extra funding of its European growth plans.

FILE PHOTO: A worker loads a second hand car on a car transporter truck at the Auto1.com company grounds in Zoerbig, Germany January 28, 2017.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch /File Photo

Last year’s Softbank’s deal valued Berlin-based Auto1 at 2.9 billion euros ($3.27 billion), making it one of Germany’s top so-called tech unicorns.

It is virtually unknown to consumers except through its used car buying arm Wir Kaufen dein Auto (We Buy Your Car) in Germany and similar names elsewhere. It operates from Finland to Romania to Portugal, 30 countries in all.

Revenues rose by 32 percent to 2.9 billion euros last year, and although it is profitable in Germany, investments in other markets have led to a loss on group level.

“Currently, an initial public offering is not a topic for us,” Auto1 co-founder Christian Bertermann told Reuters, adding this could change in future.

Auto1 buys cars using its vehicle pricing database to calculate an offer within minutes and then sells the vehicles on to one of its roughly 35,000 dealerships for a commission.

Its platforms helped 540,000 vehicles change hands in 2018.

The company will now also start a retail platform to compete with Scout24’s Autoscout unit or Ebay’s Mobile.de offering, Bertermann said.

He confirmed a Reuters report about Auto1’s talks with Scout24 about an acquisition of Autoscout, adding that these would not lead to a takeover.

Scout24 in February agreed to be acquired by buyout groups Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.

Auto1 was set up in Berlin by entrepreneur Christian Bertermann after having trouble selling two old cars owned by his grandmother, along with Koc, who previously worked at Rocket Internet-backed firms Zalando and Home24.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik,; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Alexandra Hudson