Russia Looks to Become a Leader in Online Repression

Move over, Thailand – here comes Russia looking to claim the title as the most technologically advanced censorship machine.

Today Russia is launching its “single register” of banned websites (which can be viewed here), which solves the previous inconvenience of each region decided which sites to ban.  Now the “great firewall of Russia” has gone national.

What is interesting about Russia’s new internet monitoring protocol – and part of the reason why there are deep concerns that it will impede free speech – is that their advanced filtration system will do more than just read the headers of data packets, and instead will conduct “deep packet inspection” to closely monitor communications.

Writing in Wired, experts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan explain it much better than I can:

Most digital inspection tools only look at the “headers” on a packet of data –- where it’s going, and where it came from. DPI allows network providers to peer into the digital packets composing a message or transmission over a network. “You open the envelope, not just read the address on a letter,” said an engineer dealing with DPI. It allows ISPs not only to monitor the traffic, but to filter it, suppressing particular services or content. DPI has also elicited concern from leading privacy groups over how this highly intrusive technology will be used by governments.

“No Western democracy has yet implemented a dragnet black-box DPI surveillance system due to the crushing effect it would have on free speech and privacy,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. “DPI allows the state to peer into everyone’s internet traffic and read, copy or even modify e-mails and webpages: We now know that such techniques were deployed in pre-revolutionary Tunisia. It can also compromise critical circumvention tools, tools that help citizens evade authoritarian internet controls in countries like Iran and China.”

“There are basically two functions in DPI — filtering and SORM,” added IBM East Europe Business Development Director Boris Poddubny, referring to the Russian government surveillance system for monitoring both internet traffic and phone calls. “There may be devices to copy traffic. DPI helps analyze it. And there will be a detailed log: what is downloaded by whom, and who looked for what on the internet.”

Scary stuff.  Yet another reminder of the true nature of the regime currently occupying the Kremlin.  Read the full article on Wired.