Federation Council Launches Crackdown on Hackers
The Federation Council has proposed a new cyber security strategy which classifies attacks on government websites as a physical attack on government agencies. Analysts doubt this is the right way to deal with hackers.
The strategy was developed by the upper house commission on the development of the information society and is pending approval by the Federal Security Service and the Federal Guard Service. It spells out procedures for protecting state systems from “hackers, cyber terrorists and illegal access by representatives of foreign powers,” explained the commission’s head, Ruslan Gattarov.
He said the experts on the commission have been working on this strategy for the past two or three years as a volunteer project. They initiated it because the security services are not protecting the government and presidential websites full-time and on a national scale. A country which relies on a variety of large information systems needs this strategy to complement its national security policy. “China publishes all cases of attempts to hack into government websites. It would be wise if Russia, too, investigated such attacks,” he said, adding that many of the government website interfaces and security systems reflect an apathetic attitude on the part of their developers. Some of the regional legislature websites even use foreign hosting. “These sites contain information which includes personal data,” he said.
Gattarov waved aside fears that a system controlling all web resources in Russia could lead to a campaign against dissidents: “Cases involving libel and the spreading of rumors are outside the domain of cyber-security.” He said they have in mind a defense system more like the S-300 interceptor missile system than the A-135 assault missiles. “We are thinking of a fortress, and fortresses do not attack – they protect,” he added.
Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, does not think the new system could be used to clamp down on the opposition either. “There are other means for doing that,” he said. As for cyber-security, the first step he thinks Russia should take is to join the 2001 Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, signed by about 50 countries, including Europe, the United States and Japan. In fact Russia joined it in 2005 but withdrew in 2008. “We feared that its article 32-b on access to foreign digital data could harm Russia’s interests,” he explained.
Igor Chekunov, deputy CEO at Kaspersky Lab, a leading developer of secure content management software, said Russia is planning to propose its own cybercrime convention to the international community, one which will add provisions on cyber-terrorism and non-interference in internal policy matters to the original Budapest version, which emphasized international cooperation in the investigation of cybercrimes.
While admitting that the legal framework for cyber-security issues is underdeveloped, Chekunov does not believe Russia needs a government strategy for it. “Attacks on government resources are punishable under the Criminal Code. Everybody wants to know where an attack came from. But this is routine work we are doing, without any special strategy,” he said.
Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to Check Internet Access, Domestic Airlines
The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) plans to focus on Internet access and airline markets, FAS deputy head Anatoly Golomolzin said.
The FAS will concentrate on domestic flights, said Alexei Sushkevich, Head of the FAS Analytical Department. He said the availability of refueling opportunities had been analyzed at 240 airports and that regulations ensuring non-discriminatory access to airport services had been drafted and approved. Domestic flights now often cost more than flights abroad. In September Transaero, for example, charges 50,000 rubles ($1,574) for a round-trip flight from Moscow to Vladivostok, and 30,397 rubles ($900.1) for a round-trip flight from Moscow to Miami.
Over the past 12 months, the Khabarovsk Territory branch of the FAS found Vladivostok Air guilty of using illegal fuel price surcharges and fined the company 10.5 million rubles ($310,927). Siberia Airlines, which operates as S7 Airlines, was fined 1.3 million rubles ($40,920) for unreasonably high air fares for flights from Novokuznetsk and Kemerovo to Moscow. In July, UTair and Yamal were fined 26 million rubles ($820,190) for charging almost the same prices for their round-trip flights from Tyumen to Sochi during peak periods.
An official from a major airline said the complaints were often the result of insufficient knowledge of the specifics of the aviation industry. “The basis of the airline business is price fluctuations, which are dependant on the market situation, fuel price rises and peak seasonal demand,” he noted. In his opinion, the government should abolish VAT on domestic flights and prohibitive aircraft-import duties, and it should also regulate prices for fuel and services at Russian airports.
Golomolzin said the FAS was planning to reduce regional prices for Internet access and to reduce the digital divide between remote and central regions, and between major cities and small towns.
The FAS believes that Internet access market in Moscow is optimal because seven providers compete with each other here, Sushkevich said. A 2011 survey carried out by Yandex found that Moscow and St. Petersburg provided the cheapest Internet access (31 rubles/$0.9 per Mbit/s each month). Internet access in the Far Eastern Federal District cost 507 rubles ($16), with the average price across the country 145 rubles ($4.5).
In 2009, the FAS tested 27 major network operators to assess the influence of inter-operator traffic rates on the end prices of the Internet providers. In March 2010, the FAS charged the regional subsidiaries of Svyazinvest, now part of Rostelecom, with monopolizing prices. “Social rates” were introduced as a result. At the time, Svyazinvest said the high prices in the Far East were due to the long distances and low population density.
Alexander Shatikov, an analyst for AC & M Consulting, said that Internet access cost 500 rubles ($15.7) per month almost everywhere. He believes that there are no major administrative barriers hindering access to regional markets. Only densely populated regions can support several competing operators, Shatikov said. Investors are buying the networks in other regions, he added.
Parliament No Place for Dynasties: Nepotism Bill May Backfire On United Russia Deputies
The State Duma is no place for family clans, some MPs believe.
United Russia deputies Andrei Isayev and Alexander Sidyakin have submitted a draft law to the lower house of parliament aimed at eliminating nepotism in both chambers of parliament. They have proposed a ban on close relatives serving simultaneously in the State Duma or the Federation Council. This idea received a mixed reception, even among their fellow party members.
On September 6, speaking at a United Russia expert council roundtable, Andrei Isayev, Head of the State Duma Committee on Labor and Social Policy, said: “Within the party there is no clear-cut support or opposition to the draft law. So I made up my mind not to submit the bill.” Nevertheless the very next day the document was put before the deputies.
Some of Isayev and Sidyakin’s colleagues made no attempt to conceal that the amendments to the laws on the status of deputies and Federation Council members were targeted at MPs from the opposition parties. Names mentioned included A Just Russia deputies Gennady and Dmitry Gudkov, Ilya Ponomaryov (son of Larisa Ponomaryova who sits in the upper house), as well as deputies Oksana Dmitriyeva and her husband Ivan Grachyov, also from A Just Russia.
“In the State Duma one of the four incumbent parties has become a family business; it includes several family clans,” Isayev says. The longest-surviving family duo – Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his son Igor Lebedev – was mentioned as well.
The bill’s co-drafter, Alexander Sidyakin, believes the ban should also be extended to the executive branch: “There are cases on record showing that people who are related can be found working in state and local government agencies.”
It should also be noted that should Isayev and Sidyakin’s amendments be adopted, some senior MPs from the ruling party – United Russia - will also have to give up their mandates.
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