Encryption backdoors; a highly debated and often controversial matter. After the ‘security versus privacy’ battle between Apple and the FBI in the government’s orders for the creation of a backdoor to the San Bernardino iPhone, it sparked some members of governments call for weakened encryption on messaging apps or backdoors.
While technology experts, privacy advocates and governments are still at wits about the potential harm or good that backdoors would bring, Russia seems to be having no queries and whelms on their stand for backdoors on encrypted apps.
A new bill tabled in the Russian Duma, the country’s lower legislative house proposes to implement laws for mandatory backdoors into encrypted communications. The pending bill is referred to as an “anti-terrorism” bill in the Dunna, which was designed so that the Federal Security Service aka. the successor to the KGB and the country’s secret police, would be able to obtain special access to all of the country’s communications.
Encryption in technology is often viewed as the cornerstone of cybersecurity. Without encryption to protect users’ data, the companies who do not adopt encryption practices are often regarded by technologists as negligent to cybersecurity.
With that being said, Russia on the other hand seems to think on the contrary, hoping to step up their Internet controls in the apparent interests of national security by putting encrypted messaging apps in the hot seat. Apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber which currently offer varying levels of encrypted security were main targets in the anti-terrorism bill, in which these companies could be fined with up to a million roubles (approximately US$15,600) if found guilty of refusing to decrypt messages for the Federal Security Service. On the other hand, citizens found using the apps while refusing to provide access to their messages to security officials could have to answer to fines of up to 3,000 roubles (US$46), while officials could be fined up to 5,000 roubles (US$78), and legal entities as much as 50,000 roubles (US$780).
“Failure to comply with the organiser of the dissemination of information on the internet obligation to submit to the federal executive authority in the field of safety information required for decoding the received, sent, delivered or processed by electronic communications”.
The new Russian legislation was proposed by deputy Irina Yarovaya and senator Viktor Ozerov and has already been approved by the Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption. Russian Senator Yelena Mizulina who supports the bill has also mooted requiring all message traffic to be approved by national censors before it is passed on. Referring to a research group of some kind, and some ill repute, called the League of Safe Internet, she argued that the new bill ought to become law due to the group’s uncovered evidence of unwelcome underground operations. Mizulina was concerned of “a number of closed groups where teenagers [are] brainwashed to kill police officers”, a practice protected by encryption which should be nipped in the bud. Mizulina also suggested; “Maybe go back to the idea of pre-filtering [messages] as we cannot look at it in silence”.
Irina Yarovaya, who is also the head of the country’s parliamentary security committee, has now even proposed procedures that would entail Internet service providers to store metadata about customers’ activities for up to three years, and the actual contents of their communications for up to six months. State officials would be able to requisition this data, supposedly for anti-terrorism purposes.
It will be interesting to note how this new bill will affect many tech giants and messaging companies who want to avail themselves of Russia’s markets if mandatory backdoors does indeed become the law in Russia.
Nonetheless, Yarovaya stated on Monday that if the new Russian proposals do pass into law, they may not come into effect for another three years.
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