FSB Internet Power Grab?

By Kevin Coleman -- Defense Tech Cyberwarfare Correspondent

According to Russian news agencies a senior Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) official made the proposal to ban Skype, Gmail and Hotmail as major threats to national security. The proposal was quickly rejected by a Kremlin official. The FSB’s proposal came amidst highly publicized cyber attacks on one of Russia's most popular blogs, as well as the website of a popular independent newspaper this week. Most recently the popular LiveJournal site came under cyber attack. Analysis of the attacks found they were highly organized and well-financed. The facts as well as a number of motives have many saying these are all the hallmarks of an FSB cyber attack. There was also the mention of banning foreign Internet services and commentators. This was interpreted as an effort by the government to tighten controls on communications before parliamentary elections in December 2011 and a presidential vote in March 2012. It is clear the FSB believes the openly available encryption services that support services like Gmail, Hotmail, Skype and others is a large threat to Russian security.  One knowledgeable source said, “This is a concerted effort by the FSB to get access to encryption keys needed to decrypt communications.”  You have to pause and think about – what made the FSB so concerned?  It is not like many things cause the FSB to make a statement like this.

While I never thought I would be quoting Julian Assange, he did say, “While the Internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen" and he was right! As governments and spy agencies around the world have shown, the Internet is a critical area for intelligence collection and monitoring of threats against the government they represent.


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