viber2Viber founder and CEO Talmon Marco told the BBC that he did not know the reason for the blockage of Viber  in Saudi Arabia, but services would be restored soon.

Saudi authorities had warned Viber and other encrypted messaging services like Skype and Whatsapp in March that they would be blocked unless they provided a means to to be monitored, so the move is not entirely unexpected.

Talmon said he had refused to provide data requested by Saudi officials. “We regret the decision of the Saudi authorities to block Viber,” a Viber spokeswoman said. “We love our millions of users in Saudi Arabia and hope to restore service in the coming days. We encourage Saudi users to follow Viber on Facebook and Twitter for updates.”

Many Saudis and expatriates living in the kingdom were prompted by the warning  to protest against the move. Some also began to censor their messages, in case they were already being monitored.

The block on Viber might be a first step against all 3 services or that the two others might already be monitored, Mr Marco suggested.

Millions of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia increasingly rely on free messaging services to stay in touch with their relatives. Both Saudis and expatriates in the kingdom have reacted strongly to the block on Viber.

Mr Marco, however, offered reassurance that his company was already working on a way to get past the block. He added that Viber had faced similar moves to block it in Iran and dealing with the problem there has given them valuable experience. The first stage of a workaround is expected to be ready within a couple of weeks.