person:andrei soldatov

  • [#book] The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries
    (Andrei Soldatov, Irina Borogan, 2015)

    On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government’s front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world’s most intrusive listening device, monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks.

    But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia’s antagonists abroad—such as those who, in a massive denial-of-service attack, overwhelmed the entire Internet in neighboring Estonia—there is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home.

    Drawing from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. From research laboratories in Soviet-era labor camps, to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and Internet communications in the 1990s, to the present day, their incisive and alarming investigation into the Kremlin’s massive online-surveillance state exposes just how easily a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare. Dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world’s most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world of The Red Web.

    The Red Web: Russia and the Internet

    The Internet in Russia is a battleground between activists who would use it as a tool of political and cultural freedom and government officials who see it as a powerful instrument of political control, write investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan in their new book The Red Web. For now, the government appears to be winning the battle.

    Soldatov and Borogan trace the underlying conflict back to official anxiety in the Soviet era about the hazards of freedom of information. In the 1950s, the first Soviet photocopy machine was physically destroyed at the direction of the government “because it threatened to spread information beyond the control of those who ruled.”


    In a chapter devoted to the case of Edward Snowden, the authors express disappointment in Snowden’s unwillingness to comment on Russian surveillance or to engage with Russian journalists. “To us, the silence seemed odd and unpleasant.”

    More important, they say that Snowden actually made matters in Russia worse.

    Snowden may not have known or realized it, but his disclosures emboldened those in Russia who wanted more control over the Internet,” they write.

    Because the Snowden disclosures were framed not as a categorical challenge to surveillance, but exclusively as an exposure of U.S. and allied practices, they were exploited by the Russian government to legitimize its own preference for “digital sovereignty.”

    Snowden provided “cover for something the Kremlin wanted all along– to force Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s services, Gmail and YouTube, to be subject to Russian legislation, which meant providing backdoor access to the Russian security services.”


    The Red Web provides a salutary reminder for Western readers that the so-called U.S. “surveillance state” has hardly begun to exercise the possibilities of political control implied in that contemptuous term. For all of its massive collection of private data, the National Security Agency — unlike its Russian counterparts — has not yet interfered in domestic elections, censored private websites, disrupted public gatherings, or gained unrestricted access to domestic communications.

    #Snowden #Edward_Snowden
    #surveillance #NSA #FSB


      The authors also chart the history of #SORM, a system as sinister as its ugly acronym suggests. The Sistema Operativno-Rozysknikh Meropriyatiy, or System of Operative Search Measures, has been giving the FSB, successor to the KGB, a back door to spy on internet communications since 1998. At one point, Soldatov the younger comes eye to eye with a Sorm device. “The heavy metal door was opened, and Andrei quietly stepped inside a small room, packed with equipment on the racks. One of them had a small black box. It was labelled Sorm. It had a few cables and a few lights. Andrei was told that when the small green lamp was illuminated on the box, the FSB guys on the eighth floor have something to do. As he looked down, Andrei saw the small green lamp winking.”

      But Sorm was not born in 1998, the year Mr Putin became head of the FSB: as Soldatov and Borogan establish through interviews with KGB sources and engineers, the ancestors of the black box were in fact Soviet-era phone-tapping systems. To develop them, the KGB enlisted some of its enemies; in a prison lab near Moscow, dissident Lev Kopelev was set to work on speech-recognition techniques.


      And yet, in its efforts to gain the upper hand over the internet, Russia’s security apparatus appears clumsy, with activists outsmarting some of the intrusive surveillance. If the book has one shortcoming, it is that it fails to offer a conclusive explanation for this. The authors state that the regime is helpless in the face of a decentralised network. “Information runs free like water or air on a network, not easily captured,” they say.

  • Russian data law fuels web surveillance fears | World news | The Guardian

    A new law has been implemented in Russia that in theory demands companies store data about Russian citizens on Russian territory, throwing thousands of firms with online operations into a legal grey area.

    The law, which came into operation on Tuesday, is part of an attempt to wrest control of the internet, which president Vladimir Putin has called a “CIA project”. The Russian authorities are keen to ensure greater access for domestic security services to online data, and lessen the potential for foreign states, especially the US, to have the same access.

    The law has created disquiet among internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, which would have to move data on Russian users to servers inside Russia and notify the Russian internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, about their location.

    As is often the case with Russian legislation, the exact scope of the law is unclear. It could be left largely unimplemented, but always available as a tool to use when required.
    Transnational internet giants are not the main object of attention for this law. It’s more about the banking sphere, air travel, hotels, mobile operators, e-commerce. This is what is important,” Roskomnadzor’s spokesman, Vadim Ampelonsky, told Kommersant-FM radio. However, while insisting there were no plans to bring Facebook and other major companies to book in the short-term, he implicitly left open the possibility it could happen later.

    We are not saying that if they don’t move their data to Russia, we’ll close them down, and in 2015 we definitely won’t say that. The plan for checks for 2015 has already been drawn up, and Facebook, Twitter and Google are not part of it,” he said.

    The law is not meant to be taken literally,” said Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist and co-author of The Red Web, an upcoming book about the internet in Russia. “The idea is to have a pretext to force these big global companies to talk to the Kremlin. It could also force them to open offices here, which would make them more amenable to pressure from authorities.

  • We are Edward #Snowden, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald from the Oscar-winning documentary CITIZENFOUR. AUAA. : IAmA

    Question : êtes-vous un agent russe ?

    Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov has described your daily life as circumscribed by Russian state security services, which he said control the circumstances of your life there. Is this accurate? What are your interactions with Russian state security like? With Russian government representatives generally?

    Réponse de Snowden :

    Good question, thanks for asking.
    The answer is “of course not.” You’ll notice in all of these articles, the assertions ultimately come down to speculation and suspicion. None of them claim to have any actual proof, they’re just so damned sure I’m a russian spy that it must be true.
    And I get that. I really do. I mean come on - I used to teach “cyber counterintelligence” (their term) at DIA.
    But when you look at in aggregate, what sense does that make? If I were a russian spy, why go to Hong Kong? It’s would have been an unacceptable risk. And further - why give any information to journalists at all, for that matter, much less so much and of such importance? Any intelligence value it would have to the russians would be immediately compromised.
    If I were a spy for the russians, why the hell was I trapped in any airport for a month? I would have gotten a parade and a medal instead.
    The reality is I spent so long in that damn airport because I wouldn’t play ball and nobody knew what to do with me. I refused to cooperate with Russian intelligence in any way (see my testimony to EU Parliament on this one if you’re interested), and that hasn’t changed.
    At this point, I think the reason I get away with it is because of my public profile. What can they really do to me? If I show up with broken fingers, everybody will know what happened.

    Autre réponse aussi sa réponse à la question « Que faire ? »

    We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.

    (…) Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it’s entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.
    We haven’t had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we’ll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they “can” do rather than what they “should” do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.
    In such times, we’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.

    #morale #politique

  • - FSB: Not backing down over skype

    FSB: Not backing down over skype
    Andrei Soldatov

    The Deputy Head of the FSB Scientific and Technical Service, Alexander Andreechkin’s statement on the danger posed by the use of encryption systems in gmail, hotmail and Skype prompted a flood of comments from high placed officials. First came an anonymous comment from President Medvedev’s administration, making it clear his own position superseded Andreechkin’s statement. Then came the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, backing the FSB official and supporting the FSB initiative. Then came a statement from the FSB’s own Public Communication Center declaring that the agency had been misunderstood and that no one intended to ban anything.

    For some reason, this final statement led many people to decide that the issue had been resolved: an FSB official simply made a somewhat extreme statement, the President’s Administration had taken them down a peg or two, the FSB then distanced itself from the claim. The only area still causing confusion being Peskov’s statement, which provided new grounds for speculation about friction in the tandem.

    In reality, no one took anyone down a peg or two and the FSB in no way changed the position which it formulated back in the 1990’s.