CAT | Russia
On September 24, the Russian Duma passed a bill moving the date on which all Internet services must host local data locally from Sept 1, 2016 to Jan 1, 2015. That is an effectively impossible timeline for international Internet companies, which is probably the whole point.
While the bill has not been finally passed, the remaining steps are mostly formality.
Russia is suggesting that foreign firms could rent infrastructure, if they will have no time to build, giving Russia even stronger leverage.
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs recently announced a contest to create a method to identify Tor users, with a prize of about $114,000.
Clearly the government is worried about the ability of Tor to allow people to bypass the increasingly draconian Internet laws that have been put in place. This puts a big target on Tor, but people have been working on breaking Tor for years. This year a talk at Black Hat on cracking Tor anonymity was pulled without explanation after it was announced and scheduled.
Being free and well established, Tor has the largest user base of any privacy service, so it is the obvious first target. Its distributed design also introduces paths for attack not available in other designs like Anonymizer Universal.
It will be interesting to see if this move drives Tor users to other services, and whether that in turn leads to expanded efforts to crack those tools.
Continuing the pattern of Internet restrictions I talked about before, Russia has passed a new law requiring Internet companies to keep the personal data of Russians in data centers within the country. The ostensible reason for this is to protect Russians against US Government snooping (in the wake of the Snowden leaks), and against other outside threats.
The law requires that companies doing business in Russia must open data centers within the borders by 2016 or be blocked.
There are many ways for people motivated to bypass these restriction to access whatever they want, but most people will just use what is available, giving the Russian government more ability to monitor the activities of their citizens themselves.
Russia seems to have a conflicted relationship with Twitter and Internet censorship in general.
While trying to portray themselves as open and democratic, they clearly have a real problem with the radical openness of social media like Twitter.
Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roscomnadzor (Russia’s censorship agency), said Twitter is a “global instrument for promoting political information” and that they could block Twitter or Facebook in minutes.
Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev responded on his Facebook account, saying that state officials “sometimes need to turn on their brains” rather than “announcing in interviews the shutdown of social networks.” Which is not quite the same as saying that they would not do so.
The primary desire in Russia is for Twitter and all other social networks to open offices in Russia. That would smooth communications, but also provide leverage to push for censorship or access to data as needed.