The main events of the week:
Tajikistan: Odnoklassniki and YouTube are inaccessible
On January 4th 2015 representatives of major ISPs received verbal requests to limit access to YouTube and Odnoklassniki. The State Communication Service made verbal requests and noted that the limitation of access is a temporary precaution measure.
Russia: Grani.ru and Navalny accused of promoting extremism
Russian lawyer Anton Sorvachyov submitted a request to the Prosecutor’s General Office with regard to a publication of a video with Alexey Navalny’s comment on the Yves Rocher case. In his request, Sorvachyov requests the Prosecutor’s General Office examine Navalny’s actions and the Grani.ru channel on YouTube with regard to their compliance with Russian law. After the court decision in Yves Rocher case was announced on December 30th 2014, Navalny declared to journalists: “This government tortures the relatives of its opponents. A government that tortures innocent people does not deserve to exist. I call on everyone to go to the square today.” According to the new legislation, individuals calling for extremist activities can be sentenced to up to 5 years imprisonment. Further, calls for extremism on the Internet are considered an aggravating factor. Importantly, “extremist activities” and “calls for extremism” are poorly defined in the legislation, allowing authorities wide berth in implementing them.
CyberBerkut hacked German government websites
On January 7th 2015 a group of Russian hacktivists CyberBerkut attacked the official websites of the German Parliament (Bundestag) and German chancellor Angela Merkel. On their official website hackers claim the Ukrainian government should not be granted any further financial assistance as the Government will use it to continue the war in Ukraine. Further, CyberBerkut says: “That’s why we appeal all people and government of Germany [sic]to stop financial and political support of criminal regime in Kiev, which unleashed a bloody civil war. We are CyberBerkut! We will not forget! We will not forgive!” The hacked websites are now accessible. The attack aimed to draw the European public’s attention to the Ukrainian Government’s actions and intentions, and shows the vulnerability of government websites to hacker attacks.
Roskomnadzor allows advertisements on 40 television channels
Russian regulator Roskomnadzor granted special licenses to 40 TV channels to broadcast on a special 34th television frequency in Moscow which allows them to run advertisements. On January 1st 2015 new Media law came into force banning advertisements on channels distributed via paid satellite or cable networks. However, Roskomnadzor granted 40 special permissions that allow those 40 channels to bypass the law. Most of the licensees belong to the corporate structures of Gazprom-Media, Channel One and VGTRK. Earlier last year, other channels applied for similar licenses but Roskomnadzor limited and temporarily suspended the distribution of licenses, which gave other channels preferential treatment.
Belarus: digital payment systems suspend unavailable
On December 28th 2014 President Lukashenko signed Decree No. 6 Concerning prompt measures to counteract illegal drug trade which aims to introduce measures to fight against the illegal drug trade but also requires the identities all holders of all digital-wallet holders in Belarus. These services include Paypal, Webmoney, YandexMoney and other digital payments systems. New legislation has already affected all major electronic payment systems and such services as MTS Money, Belqi, QIWI and W1 Bel announced limited service availability. MTS Money and QIWI temporarily suspended their services. WebMoney and EasyPay implemented identification rules to comply with the new legislation, Belqui and W1 Bel announced that their users will only be able to access their digital wallets after they undergo an identification process in banks by March 1st 2015. Decree No. 6 will no longer allow digital wallet users to enjoy anonymity.
Megafon charged 25,000 customers for nothing
Due to a technical error, Megafon, one of the largest Russian mobile operators, debited money from 25,000 bank accounts linked to Megafon mobile numbers. This technical issue affected customers in all regions of Russia. Megafon fixed the issue and aims to compensate its customers. The company did not specify how much was withdrawn from the customers’ accounts and how the technical failure occurred. The incident shows vulnerability of the company’s computer systems.