Russian officials face sack for using Western mobile apps

Next month new rules come into force banning Russian officials from using non-certified mobile applications and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, due to cyber-security concerns, the press-service of the Russian Ministry of Communications has told   

Violation of these new regulations and will result in officials being fired from their post.

The Russian Ministry of Communications says that work correspondence and communications by officials may contain state secrets and therefore, must be protected by encryption.  There has long been concern about the use of Western technology being a security risk and the move has been on the cards for some time.

Officials will only be allowed to use Western message services for personal correspondence, while the discussion of  business issues will require the use of applications which have certified encryption facilities.

A special program-agent that will monitor the operations of devices and applications, can be installed to ensure compliance.

Dmitry Demishev, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs'  ‘K' department (which tackles cyber-crimes), told SC, “Introduction of a ban on the use of popular mobile applications and messenger services by officials is in response to an acute need, and it should help prevent confidential data and secret information from being leaked.” According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in recent years the popularity of some Western smartphones, mobile applications and messenger services has significantly increased in Russia, including among the officials. This may pose even a threat to Russian national security, especially as some of these programs and devices were designed with the direct participation of Western special services.

Instead of using Western mobile applications and programs, Russian officials may shift to the use of domestic messenger services currently designed by Russian mobile operators.

An expert group of the Russian Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications has begun testing of messenger services and mobile applications designed for communications by state officials.

The programs were designed by leading Russian mobile operators and IT companies including MegaFon, Rostelecom, Rostec, Beeline, Mail.Ru Group among others.

Implementation of these plans is part of the Russian government's recently announced initiative for 2016-2017 to halt further use of Western software (and in particular products provided by Microsoft) on computers at Russian state bodies and agencies.

Nikolay Nikiforov, Russia's Minister of Communications, previously told SC that annual of state expenditure on foreign software is estimated at US $300 million (£245 million), but that a significant reduction of this figure is planned.

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