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© RIA Novosti. Vadim Zhernov

Russia needs to catch up on Internet security

by Nathan Gray at 11/02/2013 18:53

The rapid growth of Internet use and penetration in Russia contributes to the spread of information, about everything from weather to traffic. It buttresses the image of Moscow as a modern, high-tech city, and facilitates communication and commerce.

The speed of technological development and the rate of growth have a significant downside, however: online crime.

Marking last Tuesday's International Internet Security Day, two events at RIA Novosti's press center focused discussion on crime, and efforts of government, corporate and society organizations to fight it.

IT use on the rise

Illustrating the increase in Russia's Internet use, presidential aide Igor Shchyogolev opened the fourth Safe Internet Forum on Thursday with statistics: 5 million domain names are registered in Russia, and the share of active Internet users surpasses 40 percent of the population.

"By level of penetration, the Internet in practically every district is hovering around 50 percent - some places more, some places less. Nevertheless, by many data, Russia has reached a leading position in Europe," he said. "Now the Internet ever more actively is penetrating smaller cities and populated areas, conquering audiences, including through mobile devices."

Many of the legislative efforts in 2012 sought to enhance protection of children while online. The two most significant changes, federal laws 139 and 436, came into effect on Nov. 1. They inspired much debate about the implications of the creation of a "register" of sites containing illegal content - including child pornography or promotion of suicide or drug use.

Online fraud

Another major issue, however, is economic crime.

"By a range of expert assessments, we can say that losses to the economy from Internet crime in 2012 came to around $2.5 billion. This is a very big loss - not just for people, but for the economy as a whole," Shchyogolev said.

Lying behind the social and economic threats posed by the Internet are, first, the simple speed of technological development, and, second, a failure of education and legislation to keep up with the rate of growth.

These issues were addressed at a round table on Feb. 4, ahead of Thursday's forum.

"We may talk a little bit about what is necessary for the ratification, with defined amendments, of the Convention on Cybercrime of 2001. We need to ratify the convention on personal data," said Senator Ruslan Gattarov, of the Federation Council science, education, culture and information policy committee.

Additionally, Gattarov said, the law on personal data would have to be changed to address issues related to cloud computing. With the loss of data, a company that has received official certification faces a fine of 1,000 rubles. In comparison with $500,000 in the United States and €300,000 in the EU, he said, Russia's fine would have to rise.


Russia has had direct experience with data theft by phishing - a problem that continues to threaten the security of banking systems today, said Andrei Vorobyov, public relations director for the domain registration service RUcenter.

"Phishing became problem number one when, in 2006, we confronted the first instance of phishing in Russia. It was in domains registered to Yandex, and the attack was on Yandex.dengi payment systems," he told The Moscow News before Thursday's forum. "It was the first time, and speaking frankly, the industry did not even know how to react to it correctly. There was no algorithm or similar action. They had to build everything from zero."

At the round table, Vadim Dengin, first deputy chairman of the State Duma's information policy, information technology and communications committee, suggested greater government investment in Russian online security tools, but the Federation Council's Gattarov offered mixed support for the idea.

"It is important to do it, we need to support our domestic software, but it is also important that we not forget about competition," Gattarov said. "We need to give support, but money? If we give [financial support], it seems to me that it will not be as effective as we would want it to be."

Benefits not lacking

While many threats were discussed, both social and economic, the benefits of the Internet were by no means dismissed. Urvan Parfentyev, a leading analyst at the Regional Social Center for Information Technology (ROTsIT), said that the Internet can provide resources for the treatment of abused children and for the cooperation of civilian volunteers with law enforcement agencies.

"In the framework of our project [to inform children and parents about online dangers], not only the existence of a database of missing children is available, but the possibility through the Internet to participate in the search for a child," he said.

Despite the risks surrounding the increased presence of the Internet, the participants acknowledged that people would need to learn to manage them.

"It is necessary to say that we live in an era of an information society, when computers and telecommunications systems embrace all levels of business in our society," said Sergei Borodin, deputy head of Russia's National Central Bureau of Interpol. "The number of crimes committed in cyberspace grows in proportion to the number of users of computer networks."

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #05"
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