FSB Seeks Ban on Gmail, Skype as ‘Security Threats’

Source: Interpress/PhotoXPress.ruRussia’s Federal Security Service believes that foreign telecommunications services such as Gmail, Hotmail and Skype present a threat to Russian national security and should be banned, Marker.ru reports.

On April 6, Chief Aleksandr Andreechkin of the FSB Center for the Defense of Information and Government Communications told a session of the Government Commission on Federal Communications and Issues of Information Technology that the use of foreign means of encryption to provide telecommunication services in Russia has raised the concerns of the FSB and other security services. In particular, he noted the problem of how servers for the encryption of some of these services are located abroad. This includes, for example, Gmail, Hotmail, and the online telephone service Skype.

The FSB is concerned that the fact that these servers are located abroad makes it more difficult to carry out operational search activities through technical means.

According to Minister of Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation Igor Shchyogolev, the Russian security services see this as a threat to national security.

However, Deputy Minister for Networks and Mass Communications Ilya Massukh said the proposal did not find support among members of the commission.

As RIA Novosti reports, Massukh is confident that the services will not be banned.

“The position of the Minkomsvyaz is that we cannot ban anything from citizens, especially the Internet. We can propose some sort of means of encryption, but they should be free,” he said.

The civil servants have decided to create a working group to study the question of possibly banning popular services such as Gmail. The group has been ordered to prepare the conclusions of its research by October 1, 2011. The group will consist of representatives of relevant agencies and also, possibly, representatives of Rostelekom.

As Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on January 13, officials in Russia’s Sverdlovskaya region banned the use of certain free email services and Skype in the wake of the Wikileaks scandal. The measures were taken on the recommendation of the FSB.