The two U.S. cloud computing giants have submitted to Russia’s insistence that they end the ability for the secure messaging app to continue working in the country using a technique known as domain fronting. The technique allows software to bypass internet censorship by hiding the true endpoints of connections by using different domain names at different levels of communication. This involves showing an innocuous host name–like google.com–to anyone monitoring communication of a banned software when in reality the software is sending its data to a different host.
Domain fronting works because in order for a state to then block an app or other software’s communication, they need to block the entire innocuous host name. In this case, Russia would have had to block google.com or amazon.com–a significant portion of the internet–from its citizens just to block Telegram messages. Sadly, Russia didn’t have a problem with that, and because of that Google and Amazon have begun implementing measures that will block apps from domain fronting, reports Bloomberg. Matthew Rosenfield, the cofounder of another secure messages app, Signal, explains just how fatal Amazon and Google’s decision is:
With Google Cloud and AWS out of the picture, it seems that domain fronting as a censorship circumvention technique is now largely non-viable in the countries where Signal had enabled this feature. The idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you’d have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn’t like that plan.