The main events of the week:
Radio Free Europe raided and shut down in Azerbaijan
Prosecutors and armed police raided and shut down the US-funded RFE/RL branch in Azerbaijan. According to prosecutors, the raid was related to the branch’s foreign financial support. Authorities confiscated photo and video equipment as well as the station’s documentation and personal laptops.
Facebook and Twitter conflict with Roskomnadzor
Alexey Navalny, a leading critic of Vladimir Putin, is currently awaiting the court’s decision that will be announced on 15 January 2015. His supporters created an event page on Facebook to express their support and hold a public discussion of the court decision on 15 January 2015. The event page attracted 12,000 people within first 24 hours. However, the prosecutor general’s office and Roskomnadzor requested that Facebook block the event page. Facebook complied at first, but later refused further requests from Roskomnadzor. Twitter has joined Facebook in refusing to block political Twitter accounts.
Roskomnadzor to compile new blacklist
Roskomnadzor is cooperating with the Federal Drug Control Service (the FDCS) in compiling a blacklist of websites. Henceforth, websites will be blocked by their domain to prevent blocked resources from changing their IP-addresses and continuing their work. Further, the FDCS repeatedly suggested implementing preliminary filtration of Internet sources. This suggests developing default filters that will block certain websites automatically.
Russian Ministry of Culture to control Internet-traffic
The Ministry of Culture proposal is aimed at helping Russian operators compensate their expenses in case the Internet tax is introduced. The Internet tax initiative’s main goal is to protect copyright holders in Russia by introducing a tax payable by all Russian Internet users. The new bill introduces a global licensing system that will require all Internet users to pay a monthly charge determined by the Government. Copyright holders with this license will waive their rights to defend their copyrights in court and will receive monthly payments from a special entity collecting the monthly Internet tax from all Russian Internet users. According to the Ministry’s proposal, the amount of payments will depend on the number of views and downloads. This requires operators to keep track of users’ online activities.
Belarus: new mass media regulations and blocked websites
During the week of 15-21 December several popular media sources became inaccessible in Belarus. Inaccessible websites include popular independent and opposition sources ‘Charter97.org,’ ‘Naviny.by,’ and ‘Belaruspartisan.org.’ Further, new a new mass-media regulation was adopted by the Parliament and signed by President Lukashenko. The regulation comes into force on 1 January 2015. According to the new regulation, any information source on the Internet can be considered mass media and website owners are responsible for all content and messages posted. The Ministry of Information can block any website without court order. Additionally, the Ministry will create and regulate a list of disseminators of information. Foreign media sources are required to obtain authorization to disseminate information and foreign television programmes can be banned without prior notice.
New Roskomnadzor powers
A new Russian bill introducing additional authority for Roskomnadzor was submitted for approval. The bill will grant Roskomnadzor extended powers to initiate administrative action against people or companies infringing the new personal-data regulations.
Hackers stole 1 billion rubles
Hacker group Anunak has attacked more than 50 banks in Russia and other CIS countries. Since 2014, the hackers have stolen approximately 1 billion rubles from banks, but not from their clients. Authorities have started several criminal investigations against the group, but so far none of the group leaders have been arrested.
The US and Ukraine cyber-security bill
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the Intelligence Authorization Act that addresses cyber security in Ukraine and the need to increase cooperation between the US and Ukraine. The Act introduces a capacity-building program in order to improve cyber security in Ukraine. Additionally, the US law enforcement agencies will send their agents to Ukraine to assist Ukrainian intelligence and law enforcement. The Act (H.R. 4681) will also require only US citizens to hold every supervisory position at the country’s diplomatic services in Russia subject to an additional background check.
New data center in Russia
German company SAP and Russian Rostelecom have agreed to build a data processing center in Russia. The new data center is expected to reduce expenses on data processing and assist companies in complying with new personal-data protection laws.
Ukraine is hiring hackers for ‘stable pay’
The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine is hiring hackers for its special unit CERT-UA. CERT, or Computer Emergency Response Team, is a team that monitors and protects Ukraine from cyber threats. An official vacancy was posted on the CERT website last week offering a ‘stable pay’ of 2500-3000 hryvnia, roughly 1/10 of the average pay in Ukraine for qualified IT staff. Offering stable pay is a nod to the difficulties the public sector has in attracting and retaining qualified workers from the private sector, or in diverting them from the Ukraine’s active online criminal sector.