How to Access Upwork in Russia Without Being Blocked

Last Updated by Olivia Jones on August 29, 2018

Internet censorship is on the rise in Russia. In a stunning series of bans, new laws, and battles between technology and government, the blocklist for the world’s ninth-largest country has mushroomed.

One of the biggest blows of late has been the on-and-off blocking of global freelancing platform Upwork. Based in the US, Upwork allows freelancers in a number of different disciplines including editing/writing, code writing, personal assistants, data entry, etc., to create profiles and apply for jobs listed by clients.

Russians Using Upwork

According to the company’s website, it has 12 million registered freelancers, 5 million registered clients, and 3 million jobs listed per year. The ability to work remotely, particularly for clients in other countries, is fantastic for a nation like Russia, where the population is spread out over the largest country by landmass in the world.

Russia’s population density is just 22 people per square mile, one of the lowest rates in the world among industrialized countries.

The rise of Upwork and other freelancer sites like it has become the full-time career for thousands of workers around the world. Having Upwork get blocked by censorship is the equivalent of a normal 9-to-5 employee of a company have the office burn down or their car stop working. If you can’t work, you can’t make any money.

Unstable Censorship

In April 2018, Russia’s government began trying to block its popular Telegram messaging app because it uses encryption to keep user messages private and refused to give the government access. When Telegram responded by switching its IP addresses, the government started blocking entire IP address blocks, which led to the temporary takedowns of sites like Upwork, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The censorship began in earnest in March 2017 when Russia began shutting down sites that were planning anti-government protests in Red Square. Analysts say Russia is looking to copy the so-called “Great Firewall of China.” That firewall allows the Chinese government to control every computer in the country, censor any sort of website it deems not worthy to be viewed, and has even been used to launch attacks on other websites in an attempt to shut them down.

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution

The biggest problem with censorship is geolocation. That means when your computer is hardwired to an IP address showing where you are located – down to the zip code in some cases, but at least the city, region, and country. If you are attempting to access websites from an IP address that is being blocked, you will get an error message and your connection will be severed. In order to bypass censorship in a country like Russia and ensure you can access Upwork whenever you need to, you can employ a VPN. A virtual private network is so named because no one can see what you are using it for and because your connection is being routed through a third party – thus becoming virtual.

VPN companies allow you to connect to remote computers outside of your own country’s borders and send and receive Internet traffic that way. Most VPNs, like IPVanish, have a robust list of countries and servers through which to route your traffic. This is an added bonus because VPNs are often targeted by countries practicing censorship. When a country’s Internet oversight committee realizes a group of IP addresses are being used by a VPN to avoid censorship, they will often block those addresses. VPNs can bounce back by offering many IP addresses in many countries.

Once you’ve signed up and downloaded the VPN software, you can select a country to choose from to establish your network. For a country like Russia practicing censorship, make sure and select a VPN company such as NordVPN that has a strong reputation for security. NordVPN offers AES 256-bit encryptions and Double VPN tunneling, along with a killswitch which will automatically sever your Internet connection should the VPN falter or fail. This ensures that your ISP server or any prying eye from your country’s government cannot where you are browsing on the Internet. It’s also important to pick a VPN provider that has a no-logs policy. This means they do not keep track of where you go on the Internet while using their services. Therefore you are not leaving a “trail” behind of where you’ve been on the Internet while using a VPN, unless you download files and keep them on your hard drive.

A provider like ExpressVPN is ideal for accessing Upwork because it is committed to the best speeds and security in the business. It has a higher price than a lot of other VPN providers, but has servers in a whopping 94 countries as well as unlimited bandwidth and server switches. The high price can be mitigated by a 30-day, risk-free offer.

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Olivia Jones
Olivia has written and edited for big publications and magazines. Her previous position in a cybersecurity firm gives her the edge on developing online security trends.