Belorussian authorities blocked ProtonMail following a wave of bomb threats

Pierluigi Paganini November 19, 2019

On Friday, Belorussian authorities have blocked access to the end-to-end encrypted email service ProtonMail after receiving a wave of bomb threats.

On Friday, Belorussian authorities decided to block the access to ProtonMail after receiving a series of bomb threats.

The threats were sent by an unknown attacker from a ProtonMail email address to private companies and government organizations. The messages warned of TNT bombs left and armed at various locations in the country. The messages were threatening of the presence in multiple locations, including five hotels and shopping malls in Minsk, the Minsk airport, several railway stations for multiple regional centers, the offices of tech news site Onliner, the Grodno office of chemical company Grodno-Nitrogen, and the offices of financial firm Naftan in Novopolotsk.

In response to the messages, the police asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to ProtonMail IP addresses.

“On Nov. 15, we confirmed that the Belarusian government is blocking ProtonMail and ProtonVPN IP addresses. We are still investigating the block and reaching out to Belarusian authorities to restore email and VPN access to our many users in the country.” reported ProtonMail.

Local media reported the government is blocking the service allegedly because of suspected criminal activity conducted by some of the users of the service.

@ProtonMail and @ProtonVPN are blocked in Belarus because they services was used to send out messages about fake pledged bombs.”

“Some information suggests the government’s decision to block Proton may have been motivated by bomb threats allegedly coming from a ProtonMail email address.” continues the company.

A similar measure was adopted in March by Russian authorities that aimed at preventing the use of the ProtonMail by terrorists or by dissidents during the XXIX World University Winter Games in Krasnoyarsk.

At the time of writing, the authorities are still blocking the encrypted email service and ProtonVPN in the country.

Users in Belarus could bypass the block by using the Tor network to connect the company’s hidden service at protonirockerxow.onion, anyway the graph from Tor Metrics suggests that the government is also regularly blocking Tor accesses in the country.

ProtonMail pointed out that the ban will not help in protecting people in Belarus from bombs, instead, it is a dangerous form of censorship.

This is the second time that ProtonMail is blocked in Belarus, In June 2019, Belarus users reported problems accessing webmail during the 2019 European Games held in Minsk.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Belarus, censorship)

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