Open source and end-to-end encrypted email service ProtonMail’s ProtonVPN service on July 15 announced an update to Apple’s desktop and mobile operating system apps, meant to help their users bypass censorship.
ProtonMail and ProtonVPN say their goal is to strengthen online privacy, better protect users, and promote internet freedom, and to that end, the VPN service, launched in 2017, is being improved to keep pace with the technology sometimes used by state actors to impose censorship in various jurisdictions.
A blog post on the ProtonVPN site said that as these censorship attempts become more sophisticated, the service is working to keep up, including by developing its own Alternative Routing tech.
It works when a government, an ISP or a network admin blocks the service itself. With Alternative Routing, users can still connect to other networks that are not blocked.
ProtonVPN considers this tool to be “a powerful anti-censorship” feature that is being deployed across its products and services, this time by making it available on ProtonVPN’s macOS and iOS apps.
Another update brings support for OpenVPN that is seen as more useful in making ProtonVPN accessible “in difficult locations” thanks to operating in TCP mode – unlike IKEv2 or WireGuard. The post explains that the former protocol offers more wide-ranging maximum security, while the others have the benefit of being less resource-hungry as they use less CPU cycles thus improving battery life on mobile devices.
This feature is already available on ProtonVPN’s Windows, Android, iOS, and iPadOS apps.
But in addition to supporting the OpenVPN protocol and giving it preference as more secure, ProtonVPN also wants to make it easy to find and automatically switch to whatever protocols and their configuration best serves the task of bypassing a given instance of blocking and censorship. This is done through another new tool, called Smart Protocol, that is being rolled out to all VPN apps, and is now included in macOS, iOS, and iPadOS.
These features are opt-out, meaning that they are on by default, and customers can switch them off in the app’s settings. They are also available to ProtonVPN’s free-tier users.