Two major threats to the internet: The U.S. government and the Russian government

Ars Technica: Hector Xavier Monsegur, the hacker known as “Sabu,” became a confidential FBI informant following his 2011 arrest. But he continued to direct other hackers to attack more than 2,000 Internet domains in 2012, including sites operated by the Iranian, Syrian, and Brazilian governments.

Based on documents obtained by the New York Times, those attacks were carried out with the knowledge of the FBI agents supervising Monsegur. The Times report suggests that the data obtained in the attacks—including information on Syrian government sites—was passed to US intelligence agencies by the FBI.

Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly wants to exploit the climate of distrust that has been generated by the NSA and other branches of the U.S. government that have undermined internet security and sees in this the opportunity to push for a Russian internet — one in which the Russian government can exercise greater control over social media. reports (translation):

“The Internet emerged as a special project of the CIA USA, and continues to be developed as such,” said Putin [at the conference Mediaforum in St. Petersburg today]. Moreover, the president noted that the national search engine Yandex and the social network VKontakte are trying to develop business, mathematical and informational programming in Russia. “Our companies didn’t have resources free for such capital investments, but now they have appeared,” said the head of state. Putin expressed the hope that the Russian Internet would develop rather intensively and rapidly and will secure the interests of the Russian Federation.”

Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reports:

Russia’s popular bloggers will now have to brace for considerable restrictions of their rights. The State Duma has just adopted a law introducing new rules they will have to abide by. The document incorporates a package of bills for effective struggle against terrorism and extremism. Earlier, the bill drew a mixed response from society, including sharp criticism from human rights activists.

The law introduces a new term: “Internet user called blogger.” Bloggers will be obliged to declare their family name and initials and e-mail address. Those authors whose personal website or page in social networks has 3,000 visitors or more a day must have themselves registered on a special list and abide by restrictions applicable to the mass media. In other words, registration requires the blogger should check the authenticity of published information and also mention age restrictions for users. Also, bloggers will have to follow mass media laws concerning electioneering, resistance to extremism and the publication of information about people’s private lives. An abuse of these requirements will be punishable with a fine of 10,000 to 30,000 roubles (roughly 300 dollars to 1,000 dollars) for individuals and 300,000 roubles (10,000 roubles) for legal entities. A second violation will be punishable with the website’s suspension for one month.

The Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write:

The NSA scandal made a perfect excuse for the Russian authorities to launch a campaign to bring global web platforms such as Gmail and Facebook under Russian law—either requiring them to be accessible in Russia by the domain extension .ru, or obliging them to be hosted on Russian territory. Under Russian control, these companies and their Russian users could protect their data from U.S. government surveillance and, most importantly, be completely transparent for Russian secret services.

Russia wants to shift supervision and control of the Internet from global companies to local or national authorities, allowing the FSB more authority and latitude to thwart penetration from outside. At December’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, Moscow tried to win over other countries to its plan for a new system of control. The key to the project is to hand off the functions of managing distribution of domain names/IP-addresses from the U.S.-based organization ICANN to an international organization such as the ITU, where Russia can play a central role. Russia also proposed limiting the right of access to the Internet in such cases where “telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.” Some 89 countries voted for the Russian proposals, but not the United States, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Australia, or Canada. The result is a stalemate.

Web services would be required to build backdoors for the Russian secret services to access what’s stored there. Prominent Russian MP Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the ruling United Russia party, has called on Russia to reclaim its “digital sovereignty” and wean its citizens off foreign websites. He said he would introduce legislation this fall to create a “national server,” which analysts say would require foreign websites to register on Russian territory, thus giving the Kremlin’s own security services the access they have long been seeking. Of course, building such a national system would defeat the global value of the Internet.

Shane Harris writes:

When U.S. officials warn of the threat foreign cyber spies pose to American companies and government agencies, they usually focus on China, which has long been home to the world’s most relentless and aggressive hackers. But new information shows that Russian and Eastern European hackers, who have historically focused their energies on crime and fraud, now account for a large and growing percentage of all cyber espionage, most of which is directed at the United States.

Individuals and groups in Eastern Europe, and particularly in Russia and Russian-speaking countries, are responsible for a fifth of all cyber spying incidents in the world, according to a global study of data breaches conducted by Verizon, published this week. The spies are targeting a range of companies as varied as the global economy itself, and are stealing manufacturing designs, proprietary technology and confidential business plans. The cyber spies steal information on behalf of their governments in order to manufacture cheaper versions of technologies or weapons systems, or to give their home country’s corporations a leg up on their foreign competitors.

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