Russia may ban government officials from using Google and WhatsApp

Russian government moves to implement partial ban on foreign technology which is seen as a threat to national security.

Russian government moves to implement partial ban on foreign technology which is seen as a threat to national security.
Russian government moves to implement partial ban on foreign technology which is seen as a threat to national security.

The Russian government may ban the use of Google and WhatsApp services for national state officials, citing issues of national security, according to the press service of the Russian government.

Such an initiative has been recently put forward by Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council of Russia, a consultative body of Russian president Vladimir Putin that works out the president's decisions on national security affairs.

It follows news last year that the Russian government was growing increasingly concerned about its dependence on foreign IT.

According to Patrushev, there is a serious danger to regional and local government officials from using IT and telecommunication resources produced by companies outside of the Russian Federation.

Patrushev believes that foreign devices and IT technologies may contain malicious software, installed with the participation of foreign intelligence services.

The proposal of Patrushev has already been supported by the Russian Parliament (State Duma). According to Vadim Dengin, the first deputy chairman of the Committee on Information Policy of the Duma, software created in Western countries can control everything that happens in Russia, regardless of national legislation.

Due to this, the Russian Parliament plans to design a bill that will ban the use of Google,  WhatsApp  and several other services by the country's officials and even to impose fines in the case of their further use.

According to the Duma, despite the efforts that have been taken by the Russian Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry, the problem still exists.  

In the meantime, some Russian analysts in the field of IT security have already supported the new initiative.

Ilya Massukh, president of the Foundation of Information Democracy and one of Russia's leading analysts in the field of IT security, agreed with the government. “These servers and services can really pose a threat to the Russian IT security,” he said. “This  has been also confirmed by Edward Snowden.

“The Russian governnment is long aware of this problem and considered ways for its solution. There is always a threat that data may be stolen by intelligence services of foreign countries or simply blackmailers. An example of this is recent cyber-attacks on the web-servers of Russia's deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, and other top officials of the Russian government, when a large volume of their personal data and correspondence were stollen with the use of such services as Gmail, Yahoo!, WhatsApp and some others.”

Other Russian IT security analysts are critical of the plan, with some leading Russian vendors and IT companies suggesting that implementation of these goals would cause serious problems as the majority of Russian electronics products and devices are 90 percent dependent on foreign components.

Representatives of the Russian government declined to comment.

In 2011 a new state programme, known as the Information Society, was approved by the government and  involved the establishment of the  national software platform and the use of domestic gadgets and IT security solutions for state needs.  

The new program also involves the design of the Russian analogues of Microsoft and Excel programs, the contract on which may be signed with some leading Russian vendors. 

This story originally appeared on SCMagazineUK.com.
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