MOSCOW, January 21 (RIA Novosti) – President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to create a system designed to detect and prevent cyber-attacks against information resources in Russia, according to a copy of a presidential order posted on a government website on Monday.
The move to boost Internet security comes on the heels of a recent discovery by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian computer security company, of a powerful virus that has infected government and private websites across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union for five years.
The virus, dubbed “Red October,” was created to “gather sensitive documents,” including geopolitical intelligence, access to classified computer networks, and personal data, according to a report released January 14 and posted to the company’s website.
Russian government officials have not publicly addressed the virus, but Kaspersky Lab researchers say the majority of the affected computer systems were based in Russia, and some of the perpetrators appeared to be “Russian-speaking operatives.”
The company has worked with the FSB in the past to combat cyber-crimes.
Putin’s order tasks the FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB, with developing techniques to detect cyber-attacks and share resources with other state organs and international organizations to prevent attacks. The decree was signed on January 15 and came into force immediately.
The FSB recently uncovered several hackers in Siberia, whom investigators accuse of targeting government websites in support of the anti-Kremlin opposition movement.
One of them, an unidentified 30-year-old man from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the “creation, use and distribution of malicious computer software,” according to investigators.
They accuse the man of blocking access to the president’s website last May, while acting on instructions from the notorious international hacker group Anonymous.
Andrei Soldatov, a Russian security expert and co-editor of the Agentura.ru website, told RIA Novosti on Monday the decree may represent a broader Internet security operation by Russia that would branch out through the former Soviet Union. The last line of the Putin decree tasks the FSB with creating an information-sharing scheme not only with other federal organs, but with foreign governments and international organizations.
Last year, Communications Minister Igor Schegolev hinted at the creation in Russia by the end of the year of a free, public Internet filter that would block harmful content.
But Schegolev added that such a filter would be developed by the Safe Internet League, an organization established with support from the Communications Ministry to combat Internet malware.