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Russia Sets Up Invasive Communications Monitoring Ahead of Winter Olympics

October 07, 2013


At this point, it seems that every government in the world has implemented some kind of spying program. For example, the U.S. famously has the PRISM NSA spying program, while New Zealand recently passed a domestic spying bill with very similar goals. As such, it’s a bit hard to find news of another government-sanctioned spying program all that shocking. That said, Russia’s planned spying program for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi may still turn some heads.

According to The Guardian, both attendees and participants in the event will face some of the most invasive spying and surveillance seen in the history of the Games. Indeed, a leaked dossier from a team of Russian investigative journalists suggests that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) intends to monitor all communications by competitors and spectators.

Image via Shutterstock

In preparation for this, telephone and Internet spying devices have been installed, providing the FSB with complete freedom to intercept any phone calls or data traffic. This includes the ability to track certain sensitive words or phrases used in e-mails, chats or social media.

Curiously, the Russian government doesn’t seem too concerned with hiding its spying intentions as the journalists who broke the story, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, gathered information from a number of open source technical documents published on the Zakupki government procurement agency website, as well as public records.

General traffic monitoring and filtering will be handled by Sorm, Russia’s system for phone and Internet communications interception. In fact, Sorm is being modernized across Russia, but particularly in Sochi. Meanwhile, technical specifications from the Russian state telecoms agency show that deep packet inspection will also be employed to allow for filtering of users by particular keywords.

The system has been described as “PRISM on steroids” by University of Toronto professor Ron Deibert since, unlike the NSA’s program, Russia’s surveillance initiative has been made a requirement for the building of infrastructure.

Edited by Alisen Downey