28 July 1998
Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1998 11:27:56 -0700 (PDT) Subject: Cyber Spies Spin Russian Web To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (Anonymous) The St. Petersburg Times #384, Friday, 24 July 1998 ANOTHER PIECE IN THE PUZZLE Cyber Spies Spin Russian Web By Bradley Cook While international lending institutions play cat and mouse with the Russian economy, the power and budget of FAPSI, Russia's counterpart to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) continues an exponential climb. FAPSI, or the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information, has tens of thousands of people in its service. And despite plans to reduce personnel 40 percent by the year 2001, FAPSI is slated to triple its current budget to 11 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) per year through 2001. FAPSI has a unique position in the Russian government because it is responsible for the electronic surveillance of Russia's perceived enemies both at home and abroad. Created by a decree from President Boris Yeltsin in 1993, FAPSI has steadily increased not only its budget, but its range of powers within the Russian government. FAPSI evolved from the Administration of Information Resources which itself was formed from various divisions of the former KGB's electronic surveillance, decoding and encryption departments. The legal limitations of FAPSI operations are much wider than its chief rival's -- the NSA -- because under U.S. law, the NSA is not authorized to carry out surveillance of its own citizens. The power held by FAPSI first began to worry state-weary Russians when Yeltsin issued Presidential Decree 334 in 1995, which declared illegal any encryption software or hardware device not approved by FAPSI. It stands to reason that FAPSI would not approve any encryption technology that it did not have the ability to crack. That would run counter to the agency's purpose, which is to gather as much information possible about financial dealings and political ambitions in the name of national security. Among other ramifications, Decree 334 means that no Russian bank can guarantee its customers confidentiality of their account information -- a large barrier to legal and efficient commercial activity. In a government where rival agencies fight each other for turf, FAPSI not only has domestic electronic surveillance superiority, it also runs Russia's largest signals intelligence (SIGINT) operation abroad. FAPSI's Lourdes SIGINT facility near Havana, Cuba, is only 140 kilometers from Florida - making it ideal for gathering intelligence on the United States. From this facility at Lourdes, Russia for years has keept an estimated 2,000 Russian technicians to monitor U.S. military communications, commercial satellites, merchant shipping and Florida-based NASA space programs. According to reports published earlier this year in the Miami Herald, the Kremlin learned of U.S. battle plans for the Gulf War through its Cuban-based spy network. The U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East, is easily within reach of the Russian facility because it is based in Tampa, Florida. Not content with expanding their already considerable overseas operations, FAPSI and other Russian communications agencies have prepared a draft project that would force all Internet providers in Russia to install a snooping device connected to a high-speed data link to the FSB's Internet control room. A translated copy of the draft copy, posted by Maxim Otstavnov, editor of the crypto newsletter "CompuNomika" can be viewed at http://www.ice.ru/libertarium/sorm/sormdocengl.html. The snooping device connected to a dedicated superhighway from Internet providers to the FSB would make it possible for the KGB successor agency to have unfettered real-time monitoring of every e-mail message and web page sent or received in Russia. The natural reaction for many Internet users would be to respond to this Orwellian surveillance technique by encrypting their e-mail with widely available software. But FAPSI issues all licenses for encryption technology in Russia and has the codes to break such encryption. In theory, under Russian law, FAPSI would be restrained by the same legal requirements as those covering phone taps or letter-opening, for which it must make a formal application to the courts. But FAPSI and FAPSI officials have been circumventing Russian law since FAPSI was created. Numerous high-ranking FAPSI functionaries have been forced to leave the agency due to financial scandals. This list of disgraced former FAPSI officials include its financial director, chief of the military-medical service and the former deputy general director. And when the boys at FAPSI aren't stealing secrets or money, they are trying their hand at marketing. Despite the fact that government agencies are not supposed to market products, FAPSI announced in May that it was entering the wireless communication business with an untappable phone at the cool price of $12,000. They claim this phone -- which handles voice and data transmissions -- "would be equipped with encryption that would take a hundred years to break." A hundred years for anyone but the boys at FAPSI, that is. Copyright 1998 The St. Petersburg Times.