President Vladimir Putin holds the Olympic flame in Moscow's Red

Square: The former KGB officer is looking to top the NSA in terms

of surveillance at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.




Sochi 2014: Russia to Take Gold in Spying on Athletes and Fans (Yezhednevniy Zhurnal, Russia)


"Many foreigners, who won't use Russian servers, likely hope that their data will be protected by modern encryption methods of Western companies. In fact, this will provide few advantages. In March, the Communications Ministry published a draft order that introduces new regulations for ISPs. Under these rules, Western services have to follow the same guidelines as and concerning interception. ... Controls are not just limited to communications. For the first time, drones will be used to observe Olympic events. ... Foreign citizens, for a period of a couple of weeks while at the Olympic Games, will be in the same situation that Russians have experienced every day for many years."


By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan*


Translated By Rosamund Musgrave


October 14, 2013


Russia - Yezhednevniy Zhurnal - Original Article (Russian)

With the strictest surveillance ever devised for an Olympic Games and controversy swirling around issues like Russia's draconian 'homosexual propaganda' law, the 2014 Winter Olympics are almost guaranteed to see protesting foreigners caught up in Russia's legal system.

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The Olympic Games in Sochi could put Russia in first place in the competition to spy on athletes and fans. Organizers of the previous games in Beijing and London put great effort into security for stadiums and the surrounding areas. However in Sochi, Russian authorities have adopted a comprehensive approach, which combines the most advanced technologies in the fields of interception and surveillance, along with administrative controls often used during the 1980 Moscow Olympics.


The first suspicion that Big Brother is watching comes the moment you register on the official Sochi 2014 Web site to obtain a “supporter’s passport.” All visitors aged two or older must register for one, regardless of their country of origin. When you attempt to take a photo of yourself, which is required for registration, your computer warns, “ is requesting access to your camera and microphone. If you press ‘accept,’ you will be registered.” The data that visitors are obliged to give will be forwarded to the FSB to be checked.


What will happen at the Olympics?


The key role of providing security at the Olympics was in 2010 given to FSB counterintelligence chief Oleg Syromolotovback, who will lead the Olympics operations staff. Syromolotov has little experience in the fight against terrorism, having spent most of his career chasing spies. Evidently, Olympic organizers have decided that the main threat comes not from [Chechen] militants or their leader, Dokka Umarov - who has called for a resumption of terrorist attacks during the Games, but from foreign intelligence agencies.


In a presentation on Sochi Olympics data security commissioned by the FSB in 2010, alongside measures to stop cyber threats, special attention is paid to the modernization of SORM (System for Operative Intelligence Activities) - Russia's system of technology for the lawful interception of all forms of communications.


From the presentation, one can conclude that the “old” SORM network has been greatly improved and expanded for Sochi, “taking into account the elevated threat to Olympics participants and guests.” By strengthening SORM, the FSB and other intelligence services have made it easier, not only to intercept conversations on cell phones and exchanges via e-mail, but any information that Internet users send to one another on social networks, messenger services, chat rooms, etc.


Local providers are required to meet government demands for “wiretapping,” provide SORM with “black boxes” at their own expense, are subject to checks by Roscomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media), and several have been fined. For example, Sochi-Online has been fined 3000 roubles ($100) for failing to install Omega, a special type of software, and instead providing SORM access though another company.


In June, national operator Rostelecom installed the latest 4G LTE network in Sochi, promising the fasted Internet access in the history of the Games, as well as the cheapest WiFi.


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However, at about the same time, according to the company’s documents, RosTelecom began installing DPI (deep packet inspection) technology on mobile phone networks in the region. This technology makes it possible not only to monitor all Internet traffic, but also to filter it, making it possible to find the right information using key words. DPI is also effective in helping identify users. Experts have explained that combining SORM and DPI technology will make it possible to pinpoint users who, for example, visit protest group Web sites, then intercept all of their messages.


Many foreigners, who won't use Russian servers, likely hope that their data will be protected by modern encryption methods of Western companies. In fact, this will provide few advantages. In March, the Communications Ministry published a draft order that introduces new SORM regulations for ISPs. Under these rules, Western services like G-mail and Yahoo have to follow the same guidelines as and concerning interception. The draft order has yet to be signed, but the tendency is clear.


Controls are not limited to communications. For the first time, drones will be used to observe Olympic events. Two government agencies, the FSB and the Krasondar Region Ministry of Internal Affairs Border Control - have bought Zala 421 drones and an unmanned Horizon Air S-100 system especially for the Games. At the last Olympic Games in London as well, the use of drones was planned, but organizers were unable to obtain authorization to use them above the city.


A special system of video surveillance has been installed for the Sochi Olympics comprising over 5,500 digital cameras, the images from which will be fed to a situation room equipped with the most advanced Israeli technology. In addition, the Defense Ministry has purchased two sonar systems for detecting submarines in order to defend the Sochi coast against attack from the sea.


Last week, FSB spokesman Aleksei Lavrishev, at a press conference dedicated to Olympics issues, promised that security measures would not be obtrusive. On this he is likely quite right; modern surveillance technologies work discreetly.


Beyond Sochi 2014


Foreign citizens, for a period of a couple of weeks while at the Olympic Games, will be in the same situation that Russians have experienced every day for many years. The SORM system is opaque and inaccessible to outside monitoring. However, the available information on the subject raises serious concerns that the Russian secret services are crossing lines and invading the privacy of citizens.


Statistics from the Legal Department of the Supreme Court show that over the past six years, the lawful interception of phone calls and e-mails of Russian citizens has doubled (excluding wiretapping carried out under the rubric of counter-intelligence).



According to this data, in 2012, Russian courts granted law enforcement permission to intercept and record telephone conversations and messages sent by “electronic and postal communications,” i.e. e-mail 539, 864 times. In 2007, permission was granted only 265,937 times. Furthermore, in September 201,  the incumbent Internal Affairs minister, Rashid Nurgaliev, reported that for the past six years, crime has dropped, and the number of criminal cases has correspondingly fallen. In such a situation, it is not clear how and under what pretext the intelligence services have managed to achieve such growth in the number of “wiretaps.”


A partial explanation may lie in the fact that it isn't only the FSB that can violate the privacy of e-mails and communications. In Russia, there are eight agencies authorized to carry out search and monitoring activities, and hence can surveil of citizens and secretly intercept their data. These are the Ministry of Internal Affairs, FSB (Federal Security Service), the FSO (Federal Protective Service), the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service), Customs, the Federal Drug Control Service, the Federal Penitentiary Service, and the Ministry of Defense.


What's the difference between surveillance in Russia and surveillance in the West? In the U.S. and Western Europe, law enforcement mush obtain a court order and send it to the operator, who downloads the information and sends it back to the secret services. In Russia, an FSB officer must also obtain permission from a court, but the operator has no right to know which conversation or messages are being intercepted. So the technicalities of the systems are different: the FSB has at its disposal a SORM control panel connected to the secure server of the operator. In order to tap intercept a conversation, an intelligence operative need only enter commands into the SORM control panel, which is located inside the local FSB office. This system is replicated across the country, and in every regional center, the local FSB office is connected via cable to regional operators.

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There are no mechanism for public or Parliamentary oversight of secret service surveillance activities on citizens, and the courts often mechanically approve requests received from law enforcement. For example, in November last year, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the right of the intelligence services to listen to conversations by government opponents solely on the basis that they were carrying out protest activity. Two years earlier, in the Sverdlovskii region, the FSB received permission from a local court to tap Duma Member Maksim Petlin of Yekaterinburg City, who was an active member of “Solidarnost,” a movement critical of the FSB. Petlin filed an appeal, but the Supreme Court upheld the surveillance and interception of his communications.


*Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are experts on the Russian security services. In compiling this report, they collated open source technical documents published on the Zakupki government procurement agency Web site, as well as public records of government oversight agencies.


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Oct. 14, 2013, 2:28pm