Unprecedented communications monitoring set for Sochi Olympics

Oct 8, 2013
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Two Russian investigative reporters have uncovered plans for extensive monitoring of electronic communications during next February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Guardian reports.

Journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan combed through documentation on a government procurement agency’s website and discovered that the FSB security agency’s surveillance systems on wi-fi, telephone, and cellular data networks had been extensively updated in the Krasnodar Krai, which includes Sochi.

 

Krasnaya Polyana, where the Olympic ski events will take place. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Technical documents reveal that the nationwide surveillance system, known as SORM, is now capable of “deep-packet inspection,” a technique that decrypts files sent over the Internet and filters them by keywords. In other words, the FSB will be able to tell who is writing emails about gay rights or opposition politics, and where.

Ron Deibert, a University of Toronto professor and collaborator of Soldatov and Borogan, said there has never been as high a level of surveillance at an Olympiad before.

“Even as recently as the Beijing Olympics, the sophistication of surveillance and tracking capabilities were nowhere near where they are today,” Deibert said.

Deibert said the “scope and scale” of Russian surveillance technology are similar to PRISM, the secret U.S. monitoring system whose existence was revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now living in Russia.

The FSB did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for further comment.

Soldatov and Borogan’s Agentura.ru site reports that the number of phone calls and emails intercepted by SORM doubled in six years, from 265,937 in 2007 to 539,864 in 2012.

Last week an FSB official dismissed the notion that travel restrictions in the Sochi area during the games would infringe upon the rights of visitors, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines.


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