Earlier this morning Bogdan Popa of Softpedia wrote how “Russia has a plan to abandon foreign software and move to solutions that are completely developed by local companies.” However, Mr. Popa goes on to suggest that “given the support expressed for Donald Trump” recently, perhaps Vladimir Putin and Russia would “reconsider” pulling out of the US tech market.
While Softpedia remains one of my favorite publishers, their assessment of this particular situation is not entirely put together. Russia very well does intend to pull out of the US tech market and will begin development of their own hardware, but it is not because of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, US Foreign Policy or political ideology, this is happening largely due to James Comey and the FBI vs Apple court case of 2015/2016 – allow m to explain.
— Anonymous (@AnonyOps) February 25, 2016
For the purposes of keeping this article short, what you need to know about the FBI vs Apple court case was that it was part of a much larger Federal initiative to end encryption Privacy Rights.
Before we move on, for my audience members who may be technologically illiterate, encryption is not a complicated term to understand, encryption is simply an external protection used to conceal data stored within a device, software or hardware. To really dumb it down for you, the “password” to your email or Facebook is literally your “encryption” for those accounts.
What the FBI accomplished through their trial against Apple was to make it “illegal” for a person/company to refuse to unlock a device, hardware or software – when ordered to do so by law enforcement. For example, if a federal or local law enforcement agency presents a valid warrant to unlock your technological property, you are obligated to comply under further penalty of Law.
— Apple vs FBI (@apple_vs_fbi) February 28, 2016
Seems FBI Dir is advocating making encryption illegal. Scary thought. Will be interesting to watch.
— Daren Sorenson (@DarenSorenson) December 16, 2015
At the same time this court case was going on, the FBI was also actively working with US Congress to pass new legislation which would drastically alter the laws governing technological devices in the future. In April of 2016 the “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016” was officially introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Richard Burr (R-NC).
Upon reading the newly proposed Law, Jenna McLaughlin , National Security correspondent at The Intercept surmised that “The bill would force technology companies to either decrypt the contents of their customers’ communications for law enforcement, or hack into their own products to do so.”
To once again dumb this down for some of my readers, when Mrs. McLaughlin talks about companies being forced to “hack into their own products,” what she means is that companies would be forced to manufacture devices that are intentionally designed to be more easily hacked. In the tech industry, this practice is called “installing a back door” and this backdoor essentially serves as a master key which can unlock that particular device at any moment in time.
One of our Representatives working on the front-lines against the FBI in this particular instance is Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). After these new laws were proposed, in an interview with The Intercept, Mr. Wyden explained how these new laws allow a company to “design what they want their back door to look like,” but nonetheless forces “them to build a back door” no matter what.
Senator Wyden went on to add that “For the first time in America, companies who want to provide their customers with stronger security do not have that choice – they would be required to decide how to weaken their products to make you less safe.”
Experts agree: Strong encryption makes Americans safer.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) November 23, 2015
Remember, Apple did not wind up in court for simply refusing to unlock a customers phone, but for making a device that was un-hackable to begin with. Using Apple as a public example, the FBI’s primary objective was to establish legal precedent which would make it illegal for companies, such as Apple, to manufacture products which are un-hackable in the future. Consequentially, the FBI got exactly what it wanted.
To this very point, months after their trial ended, on September 23rd 2016 Softpedia released a report detailing Apple’s newest Operating System – which happened to be the first new OS Apple had produced since these new encryption laws went into effect. Upon analysis from ethical hackers, the cyber security community announced that Apple’s “New iOS 10 Backup Password System” was “2,500 Times Weaker than in iOS 9” – meaning all of Apple’s devices are now 2,500 times easier for anyone to hack in 2016 than they were in 2015.
At the time, Softpedia’s Facebook Page even poked fun by sarcastically asking “is this what the FBI’s new backdoor’s are going to look like in the future?” Indeed so.
— Catalin Cimpanu (@campuscodi) September 25, 2016
Here is the thing though, the FBI’s court case with Apple and the laws which have followed do not just apply to Apple, but to every single tech company in the United States. In 2016 any company which produces a technological device, phone, computer, service – et cetera – is obligated under the same laws. I took the time to explain all of this because once you understand all of this, you will understand exactly why Russia is pulling out of the US tech market right now.
What you might not know, and what I did not know prior to just a few days ago, is that the Russian military runs almost entirely on Microsoft computer systems. As you might expect the case to be with any Nations Government, having completely secure and/or unbreakable computer systems is absolutely paramount to the National Security of that country.
For all the reasons outlined above, justifiably so, Vladimir Putin and leaders at the Kremlin are fearful of buying and/or installing any American made technological products in the future – because they know that these products are now intentionally manufactured to be un-secure. Thank the FBI for that.
Tying all of this back in with the original report at the lead of this article, “Russian authorities believe that the country urgently needs protection from cyberattacks and thinks that software developed by American companies, such as Microsoft, could hide backdoors and bugs that could help other nations spy on their plans.“
Andrey Chernogorov, Executive Secretary of the State Duma’s Commission on Strategic Information Systems has been quoted as saying that “
Using foreign software is like giving up on our army. It’s a matter of national security, not replacing foreign IT would be equivalent to dismissing the army.“
According to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov however, the transition will not be an easy one. Statistics by Softpedia point out that for Russia to become completely independent from foreign hardware/software, this would involve the migration of over “600,000 computers in schools, hospitals, and state departments” to domestically manufactured hardware – a logistical nightmare.
Consequentially, this is also why Dmitry Peskov has also been quoted as saying that a full transition to domestic technology is “impossible” at this moment in time. There is a reason Microsoft has remained a global leader in their industry, the company makes world class products – products which domestic Russian engineers can not yet duplicate, never-mind outmatch.
Peskov explains how a transition “would be possible if domestic software producers made something more effective,” while adding that “work on creating domestic software is ongoing” and Russia’s top engineers are continuously working on the “development of domestic electronics” and “domestic programming.“
It remains to be seen how many other countries around the world and/or businesses inside this United States will also refuse to continue to buy US manufactured technological goods in the future.