Russian Duma Pushes for Pre-Installed Software on Electronics

By Bill Toulas / November 11, 2019

The Russian parliament has proposed new legislation that would make it possible for special software tools to be pre-installed on devices such as PCs, smartphones, laptops, tablets, and more. As the Duma said, the initiative is meant to help domestic technology companies promote their programs for Russian users, and retain a competitive advantage against foreign entities, like those who come from the United States for example. However, people in the country fear that this would introduce another privacy risk for them.

The pre-installed apps could come with backdoors, enabling the Russian authorities to spy on people, activate device microphones and cameras, intercept communications, etc. Having something pre-installed on a device and not being able to remove it raises numerous concerns, especially in a country like Russia, where President Putin doesn’t want to let anything unchecked. So, as much as the parliament may promote this new law as a measure to boost the business of domestic firms, people justifiably consider this another step towards the total loss of their privacy and freedom of speech rights.

Only ten days ago, we revisited the matter of the sovereign internet law in Russia, and how the new legislation has reached its final stages. Now, the government will have to put in the resources to develop the infrastructure that will isolate the country’s internet from the global network. Technically, implementing all the traffic reroutes and blocks that are required will be challenging, to say the least, but the essence is that Russia wants to control everything, and internet communications hold a central and crucial position in their regulatory space.

Maybe the government discussed the technical hindrances with their experts again, and maybe they decided that the ambitious plans for a sovereign internet are not feasible after all. Possibly, this left them with alternative options such as planting spyware on all of the country's electronic devices that are used in the country. The last time we saw a regime’s effort to make the installation of backdoors mandatory by law was in July when the Kazakh government forced ISPs to promote the installation of a “security certificate” to their clients. The plan didn’t work out when people expressed their severe opposition to the measure, but it was worth trying for the oppressive regime. While we can't say that Russia is planning to do the same, and as we don't know that they will use spyware for sure, we are worried about the way the story combines with the general approach of the Putin government so far.

Do you have trust in Putin’s intentions for his people, or do you believe this is just a law to install spyware everywhere? Let us know where you stand in the comments section down below, or on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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