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TunnelBear VPN Service Blocked in Venezuela?

Categories: Venezuela, Access, Anonymity, Free Expression, Human Rights, Surveillance

On Sunday, March 10, several Venezuelan users reported that the VPN service TunnelBear was being blocked, saying that they were unable to connect to the service and that TunnelBear's website was also inaccessible. TunnelBear had made their service free for all Venezuelan users on February 15th, due to the reports of censorship during the protests that started on early February and have continued until today. Hacktivist and developer José Luis Rivas gathered reports and explained:

The blockage of TunnelBear by CANTV has been confirmed. Reports from 5 different places in Venezuela.

It seems that TunnelBear does something different on its MacOS client that allows those users to connect.

Arturo Martínez, a Mozilla representative from Venezuela, said that he was having trouble both accessing the website and connecting through the application:

Hackbrakadabra [9], a technology collective, explained on their blog [10]:

Cuando los usuarios trataban de acceder a la aplicación, esta no podía registrarse y al cabo de un tiempo mostraba el aviso de “Timed out”, es decir, que no había logrado establecerse una comunicación con el servidor de TunnelBear. Se tomó el testimonio de varios usuarios de Twitter, donde haciendo una busqueda en el search bajo “TunnelBear Venezuela” se observaban variados casos presentando el mismo problema. Sin embargo, algunos usuarios comentaron que sí les era posible. Tras revisión del sistema operativo utilizado, se llegó a la conclusión que los usuarios de Mac OS no tenían problemas en acceder al servicio, solo los usuarios que accedían bajo Windows.

When users tried to access the application, it could not register, and after a while it showed the warning “Timed out”, ie, that it had failed to establish communication with the TunnelBear server. We took testimony from several Twitter users, upon making a search in Twitter under “TunnelBear Venezuela,” it shown many instances of the same problem. However, some users commented that they could [access the service]. After a review of the operating system used, we concluded that users of Mac OS had no problems in accessing the service, only those using the service through Windows had trouble.

TunnelBear itself gathered information about the blockage and reported that those users who had previously downloaded the app were able to connect:

A handful of users also reported as unavailable on the crowd-sourced censorship tracking platform Herdict. In all of these incidents, users were trying to use the service via CANTV, thus confirming the reports gathered through Twitter. As we publish this post, several users are reporting that they can access the website through CANTV, while others say they are still having issues entering the website or connecting to the service.

Update (March 12): As of today, TunnelBear has created a new download page for Venezuelan citizens to circumvent the blockage: