Cloudflare and Akamai refuse to pull services out of Russia

Cloudflare claims if it shuts down operations in Russia, it would be a victory for the Russian government.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Cloudflare and Akamai have each confirmed they will continue to operate in Russia, despite being urged to do otherwise.

Both companies have argued that if they were to pull their services, they would be hurting Russian citizens who are trying to access information from outside of the country, but said they condemn Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a blog post acknowledging that the company has received "several calls to terminate" all of its services inside Russia, including by government.

"Our conclusion … is that Russia needs more internet access, not less," he said.

"As the conflict has continued, we've seen a dramatic increase in requests from Russian networks to worldwide media, reflecting a desire by ordinary Russian citizens to see world news beyond that provided within Russia."

He continued: "Indiscriminately terminating service would do little to harm the Russian government, but would both limit access to information outside the country, and make significantly more vulnerable those who have used us to shield themselves as they have criticized the government".

Prince also claimed that if Cloudflare were to stop operating in Russia, the Russian government would "celebrate us shutting down".

"We absolutely appreciate the spirit of many Ukrainians making requests across the tech sector for companies to terminate services in Russia. However, when what Cloudflare is fundamentally providing is a more open, private, and secure Internet, we believe that shutting down Cloudflare's services entirely in Russia would be a mistake," he said.

A similar sentiment was echoed by Akamai, saying that deliberately choosing to maintain its network presence in Russia means it can continue to support customers.

"This supports our global customers, including many of the world's largest news services, social networks, and democratic government institutions, as they endeavor to provide vital and accurate information to all corners of the globe, including to the citizens of Russia," the company said.

Despite the decision to stay, Akamai outlined that it will suspend all sales efforts in Russia and Belarus; terminate business with state-majority-owned Russian and Belarusian customers; comply with all application sanctions; and address humanitarian needs through the Akamai Foundation.

The company said it has also made it products and cybersecurity teams available to Ukrainian government agencies to help "keep the country's citizens protected and connected to the information they need to defend their country".

See also: Ukraine crisis: Russian cyberattacks could affect organisations around the world, so take action now

Meanwhile, Cloudflare has joined forces with Crowdstrike and Ping Identity to launch what is being dubbed as a critical infrastructure defense project where the trio will provide free cybersecurity services support for four months to help eligible organisations in the US -- hospitals, energy utilities, and water utilities -- ramp up cybersecurity defence.

Under the project, organisations will have access to the full suite of Cloudflare Zero Trust solutions, endpoint protection and intelligence services from CrowdStrike, and Zero Trust identity solutions from Ping Identity.

A roadmap featuring step-by-step security measures to help businesses defend themselves from cyber attacks will also be available to all business in any industry as part of the project.

"We rely on our infrastructure to power our homes, to provide access to water and basic necessities, and to maintain critical access to healthcare. That's why it's more important than ever for the security industry to band together and ensure that our most critical industries are protected and prepared," Prince said.

The move to ramp up cybersecurity defences is in response to the US Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency issuing a "Shields Up" advisory last month urging all US businesses to prepare for heightened cyber risk activity in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

In further updates by Meta regarding its response to the Ukrainian invasion, the social media giant said it will now be hiding information about people's followers, who they're following, and people who are following each other for private Instagram accounts based in Ukraine and Russia.  

"This means that people following private accounts based in Ukraine and Russia will no longer be able to see who those accounts are following, or who follows them. We're also not showing these accounts in other people's follower or following lists, or in our 'mutual follows' feature," the company said

Instagram stories that contain a link sticker pointing to a Russian state-controlled media website will also be demoted and labelled to let people know that they lead to Russian state-controlled media websites, Meta said. 

These steps are in addition to a range of efforts the company announced last week to limit news spread by Russian state-backed media outlets.

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