micz flor on Mon, 10 Aug 1998 23:24:55 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Russian Legislation Strikes Fear on the Net

thought this was very interesting, received it on:
Sender:       Community and Civic Network discussion list
From:         John Walker <jwalker@NETWORX.ON.CA>


Russian Legislation Strikes Fear on the Net

By Jeanette Borzo


Russia's Libertarium site on the World Wide Web celebrated its
fourth anniversary this month. But site founder and coordinator
Anatoly Levenchuk -- who himself is the proud owner of one of the
first 150 Internet addresses handed out in the former Soviet Union --
barely noticed the anniversary this year, because he, like many Web
users in Russians, has other things on his mind.

As early as this October, a new version of Russia's SORM ministerial
act -- which stands for "system of efficient research measures" --
could be approved by the Russian Ministry of Justice, according to
sources in Russia. Hatched between the FSB (a successor to Russia's
KGB secret police force) and the State Committee on Communications
(Goskomsvyaz), the so-called SORM-2 act would let the FSB boost its
monitoring of electronic-mail messages by digitally linking its
offices with all Internet service providers (ISPs) throughout Russia.

"The Internet is a virtual land of freedom," said Levenchuk. "SORM-2
will be an invisible curtain between Russia and abroad -- a curtain
of distrust. If we have uncontrolled Internet surveillance, it
strikes fear into my heart. SORM-2 will mean stealth eavesdropping
that no one can audit afterwards."

It's not just the obvious issues of human rights and personal
privacy that has Levenchuk and many other members of the Russian
Internet community so preoccupied. Russian Web users are also
concerned about higher Internet access costs, a chilled ISP market
with fewer players, damage to a burgeoning electronic-commerce market
in Russia and even a further blow to the already ailing Russian
economy. For companies doing business in Russia -- or outside of the
country but with Russian enterprises -- SORM-2 could certainly change
business practices concerning electronic-mail communications as well
as e-commerce transactions.

The Sorm Storm

As currently drafted, the SORM-2 act would require all Russian ISPs
to install a device that would connect the ISP to the security agency
and let the FSB eavesdrop on "all information (both incoming and
outgoing) belonging to subscribers of the network(s) in question,"
according to a version of the proposed legislation posted on the Web.

"The stress is not about SORM, but about transition from the
relatively controllable SORM-1 -- with warrants -- to the
uncontrollable SORM-2," Levenchuk said. For FSB offices around
Russia, "wiretapping will be (only) as far away as a mouse click."

Last week, the SORM-2 interagency act went to the Ministry of
Justice for approval. If the Ministry of Justice approves the draft,
then all that remains is for representatives from the FSB and the
State Committee on Communications to sign the act."Ministerial
approval would be enough to enforce the act through regulation
enforcement (e.g., a licensing procedure)," said Maksim Otstavnov,
editor of Moscow weekly Computerra and head of the Civil & Financial
Crypto Labs at Moscow's Institute of Commercial Engineering (ICE).

Although SORM-2 is not destined to be a law, per se, its approval
will ensure its enforceability, sources said. "SORM-2 is not a law --
it does not have the review process of the Duma, the Senate and the
President's office," Levenchuk explained. While the Duma may
unofficially review the act, it will have no jurisdiction over
whether or not the act is signed by the necessary parties for
enforcement. However, "SORM-2 will act as a law to ISPs and they will
not be able to avoid this regulation," Levenchuk added.

And under the SORM-2 act, there will be no way to ensure that FSB
officials obtain a warrant before monitoring communications,
Otstavnov pointed out. And it is this very lack of checks and
balances within the FSB that has Levenchuk worried. "SORM-2 means an
uncontrolled and unrestricted FSB," Levenchuk said. "It must not be
one organization that issues the warrant, applies the warrant, and
carries out the warrant by eavesdropping. The next thing they'll want
to do is to act as the judge in court."

If the FSB has surveillance rights over society, I want society to
have surveillance rights over the FSB," Levenchuk explained.

And in Russia, the Internet society concerns significant numbers:
Russia has 350 Internet service providers and 1 million people using
the Internet, according to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Russia's number of users doubles every year, Gorbachev said during a
speech in June, adding that traffic volume on the Internet grew 26
percent in the first three months of 1998 over the volume measured
in all of last year in Russia.

How Real Is The Threat?

At its least menacing, SORM-2 is no more than an FSB attempt to test
its power over the Internet community here.

"It often happens with these organizations that they test the limits
of how far their authority can go," explained Robert Farish,
International Data Corp.'s research manager in Moscow.

"Last year we had similar situations with FSB propositions (and the
FSB) had to step back under public indignation," said Michael
Novikov marketing manager for software developer Arcadia Inc. in St.
Petersburg. For example, Novikov explained, the FSB accused
scientists who were working with the Soros Foundation of stealing
national security secrets while they were selecting scientific
projects for grant support. Public reaction made the FSB back down.

In particular, because SORM-2 would require ISPs to pay for the
surveillance devices, many say the proposal hasn't got a chance.

"The ISPs themselves have to pay for this equipment and none of them
want to do that," said Farish. "They're not prepared to go out
shopping for equipment so that the FSB can snoop on their business."

And enforcing the SORM-2 act would require cooperation from more
than just Russia-based ISPs. "A great number of ISPs operating in
Russia are owned by foreign entities," said Drew Weeks, a
Prague-based data communications analyst who covers the Eastern
European market for IDC. "So ultimately there are some foreign
fingers in the market that would be adverse to that sort of
monitoring -- the FSB couldn't do it blindly and get away with it."

Still, ISPs may not have much choice in the matter, if they hope to
remain in business. "If an ISP does not fulfill the regulation, they
will not have their license renewed. They have no choice -- deploy
SORM-2 and have a license, or don't deploy SORM-2 and have no
license," Levenchuk commented.

Increasingly Cryptic

Under Presidential Edict No 334 of 1995, Russians are forbidden from
"manufacturing, selling and usage of encryption devices without a
license from FAPSI -- the Federal Agency for Governmental
Communication and Information," according to Otstavnov, but Russia's
encryption edict gives no legal definition of "encryption" and so
"most agencies believe the edict covers only state secrets matters,"
he explained

Encryption licenses are not widely held among Russian encryption
users, many said, and if SORM-2 enters the Russian Internet market
through the front door, unlicensed encryption technology is likely
to storm through the backdoor.

"The most likely effect (of SORM-2) would be a very significant
increase in the use of software encryption," said IDC's Farish.

"After the media hype over SORM-2 one would be insane to send
business or personally sensitive data over the Net," said Otstavnov
who added that the SORM-2 initiative has worked already to boost the
use of encryption -- the Russian PGP homepage (
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Studios/1059/pgp-ru.html) that
Otstavnov maintains has seen a tenfold increase in traffic in the
last month.

Encryption, however, will hardly offer blanket protection for the
Russian Internet community.

"Advanced users will ignore SORM-2 by using more cryptography, but
Russia isn't a country of only advanced users," Levenchuk said.
"Communication lines have two sides, and if someone is wire-tapped
on one side, then there is surveillance on those who correspond with
Russia too."

(Shrinking) Market Forces

So while those selling encryption technology into the Russian market
would likely benefit from SORM-2, many others would undergo a host
of disadvantages at the regulation's hands. The violation of human
rights is the first concern about SORM-2 for Arcadia's Novikov, and
market damage follows as a close second. Novikov anticipates an
increase in ISP service prices in order to cover installation and
maintenance costs under SORM-2: ISPs in Russia expect the
surveillance device to cost $10,000 along with approximately $1,000
per month for the line to the FSB.

"The SORM-2 financial burden will be quite heavy for small ISPs,"
said Novikov. "Also, ISPs will lose some corporate users" because of
fears over insecure data exchange, perhaps through the possibility
that the FSB would reveal or sell corporate secrets."

"The first outcome will be rate increases," agreed Otstavnov. "ISPs
estimate SORM-2 costs at 10 to 15 percent of overall operational

Also Russian Internet users may drop their Russian ISP in favor of a
non-Russian satellite service in order to avoid passing through
surveillance devices installed at Russian ISPs. But "just a very few
Russian Internet users could afford that," Novikov said, adding that
many students may have to give up the Web, as the cost of privacy

"This additional investment will be paid from the pockets of users
and it will be a more expensive Internet in Russia, with fewer
users," Levenchuk said. "ISPs will have to make additional
investments to have a license, and that means there will be fewer
Internet providers because it will be more expensive to establish
Internet service."

And as the ISP market shrinks, so is the level of market competition
likely to decline. "Right now the ISP market is rather competitive,"
Otstavnov noted. "Kicking out of smaller players would mean further
cost increases and a service quality drop."

Novikov also expects SORM-2 to mean "heavy damage to the e-commerce
industry" as well as a general chill put on Russian Internet
development in general. Russian businesses may simply decrease their
use of the Internet, he added.

Business users from abroad may shy away from working with Russian
enterprises, and Russian network managers will need to think twice
about corporate e-mail policies. "The writings of business people
will not be private -- they will be sent to their correspondent and to
Federal Big Brother (as the FSB is often called in Russia),"
Levenchuk said.

Internet growth in Russia may also be stunted. "Users will not trust
the Internet as a new media," Levenchuk said, adding that the FSB
threat will be much more real than the threat of hackers, which has
already got some potential Internet users worried. "The can trust
Internet with mythical hackers but they will not trust the Internet
with the legendary FSB."

As a result, business may suffer.

"SORM-2 will be bad for e-commerce between Russia and other
countries," Levenchuk continued. "SORM-2 applies to every network,
including x.25 providers, not only to e-mail but to every online
communication including financial information and e-commerce. People
from abroad will be less trustful of Russia."

SORM-2 may also have a wider impact on the economy. "This creates a
problem of trust for the Russian economy as a free-market state,"
Levenchuk said.

So, for example, investments in the Russian telecommunications
industry might decline, Novikov said, as SORM-2 would mean "a
reduction of Russia-investment attractiveness, and possibly a
decrease of investment ratings."

The Final Word?

Of course, if SORM-2 is approved it will be subject to legal
challenges, like all government regulations. For example, the
Parliament or civil claimants could challenge SORM-2 in court,
Otstavnov pointed out.

Failing legal challenges, the government will still have to dominate
market realities in order to effectively enforce SORM-2.

"I would doubt that the Russian government would be sophisticated
enough to carry out such a plan," said IDC's Weeks.

And as many Russians know, the government doesn't carry out every
act it signs.

"Just because something becomes law in this country doesn't
necessarily worry people," said IDC's Farish.

Or, as Arcadia's Novikov put it, "It's a common Russian tradition -
not to follow the law."


Also in this issue:

- Capture, Organize, and Present Web Pages
    CatchTheWeb saves and arranges pages, then builds a slide show you
    can e-mail.
- Russian Legislation Strikes Fear on the Net
    Russia's Libertarium site on the World Wide Web celebrated its
    fourth anniversary this month. But site founder and coordinator
    Anatoly Levenchuk -- who himself is the proud owner of one of the
    first 150 Internet addresses handed out in the former Soviet Union --
    barely noticed the anniversary this year, because he, like many Web
    users in Russia, has other things on his mind.
- Cops see little hope in controlling computer crime
    CHICAGO -- Despite making headway combating high-tech criminals, law
    enforcement officials say they remain worried about their ability to
    investigate and prosecute cyber crimes.
- Netscape freefall continues
    While the browser is a zero revenue game for resellers, it is the
    linchpin to Netscape's success--both in propelling users to its
    portal site and in seeding deployment of its enterprise software.
- Lack of copyrights on Net burn writer
    On the Internet, sometimes you're getting your 15 minutes of fame
    and you don't even know it.
- New Lists and Journals
    * CHANGE: List-Moderators - new subscription methods
    * CHANGE: List-Moderators - new subscription methods
    * NEW:  Deluxe-Humor Mailing List...

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Micz Flor [micz@yourserver.co.uk]

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