10 October 2013, 12:23

Don't be scared of phone tapping during Sochi-2014, it's for your own safety - experts

Сочи 2014 Сочи Роза хутор санно-бобслейная трасса олимпиада символ эмблема



All sports delegations to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics will see unprecedented security safeguards. According to a number of leading western media, Russian special services are prepared to engage in mass surveillance. Rush around the forthcoming Games is again gaining momentum in what looks like the launch of another politically charged information campaign, experts believe.

Some media articles suggest that to ensure their privacy, foreigners should leave their notebooks, tablet computers and smartphones at home before leaving for Russia to attend the Olympics. The Guardian and The Telegraph are some of the publications that are most concerned about breach of confidentiality of the Games guests.

According to the periodicals, Russian Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, FSB, drones will continuously control the Games area from above. Mobile phone operators will ensure FSB absolute access to phone tapping so they could read messages of their network subscribers, including access to the free Wi-Fi that will cover the entire Sochi area throughout the Olympics. The conclusion made is that all private conversations and all e-mail messages will get under all-out control of the Russian Police and Counter-Intelligence Service.

But experts tend to disagree with the press whipping up panic. Firstly, the moves made are perfectly appropriate if seen from the viewpoint of cyber security, an IT expert Timur Nigmatullin says. Technological equipment of special services provides for eavesdropping on telephone conversations, as well as for analyzing social network and e-mail correspondence. A rule of thumb states, Nigmatullin said in an interview with the Voice of Russia, that this kind of control is the best way to spot terrorist activity and nip the problem in the bud.

"But this kind of control, although feasible technologically, calls for great numbers of officers. I think that because of the human resource shortage Russia will be unable to tap on all conversations or look through all e-mails. What is likely is that surveillance will be stepped up over a certain group of people due to certain reasons."

One shouldn’t forget in the context of the Sochi Olympics that the North Caucasus rebel leader, Doku Umarov, has threatened to foil the Games by any means possible. It is therefore pointless to question the scale of security safeguards during such an event as Olympic Games, says the executive director of the ALOR group of companies, Sergei Khestanov. But he says the athletes and guests of the Games should expect no assaults on privacy.

"The individuals and organizations that are seriously concerned about their personal data resort to the so-called strong cryptography, which makes it possible to reliably codify their data. These can then be safely sent via discredited communication channels. The problem is therefore largely political, since both individuals and organizations that seek to ensure the confidentiality of their data can easily achieve this. So, the claims to the effect that the visitors to the Sochi Olympics will be continuously spied on are a typical propaganda ploy."

Many experts admit that claims by the western media that all visitors to the Sochi Games will undergo total overshadowing could amount to an attempt by the West to retaliate Russia for the ex-NSA agent Edward Snowden, who exposed the agency as one spying on a global scale; or even to draw attention away from the US and call it to Russia.

A Board member of the Association of Chief Information Security Officers, Alexander Tokarenko, told the Voice of Russia in an interview that the Russian special services would use nothing basically new in Sochi.

According to him, the American authorities are a lot more aggressive in the field of security inside the United States than the FSB Service in Russia. But if the guests from America follow the advice of their media and leave their gadgets at home before departing for Sochi, then it’s their very own NSA that will keep tapping on their personal data, Tokarenko said in conclusion.

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