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Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2003 07:00:18 -0400
Subject: [IP] Russian mobile providers switch off
From: Dave Farber [EMAIL PROTECTED]
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From: Alex French [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Subject: Russian mobile providers switch off encryption
To: Dave Farber [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2003 11:28:30 +0100
[For IP if you like]
Thursday, Jul. 10, 2003. Page 3
Police and FSB Listen In on Mobile Phone Calls
By Valeria Korchagina
Mobile phone providers switched off their encryption systems for 24 hours
on a government order, allowing the Federal Security Service and the police
to eavesdrop on all calls.
An alert notifying callers that their conversations could be listened in on
popped up on cellphones around Moscow at 9 p.m. Tuesday and lasted until 9
p.m. Wednesday on an order by the Communications Ministry. The alert,
depending on the model of cellphone, is usually either an exclamation point
or an unlocked padlock.
The Communications Ministry said it issued the order at the request of the
Interior Ministry, Interfax reported Wednesday.
The Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment. The FSB refused to
The action taken to shut down the encryption system was conducted in
accordance to the existing law and in order to prevent crimes, Mobile
TeleSystems said in a statement Wednesday.
All cellular operators provide technical support to law enforcement
agencies as required under the law. We do not comment about the actions of
the special services -- they do their work in the best interests of Moscow
residents, Megafon said.
The decision to shut down encryption follows the double suicide bombings
that killed 14 people at the Krylya rock festival Saturday. A cellphone was
found on one of the female suicide bombers, and the FSB is examining its
SIM card for clues as to whether the bombers coordinated the attack with
accomplices, according to local media reports.
The last time Moscow callers saw the encryption alert on their cellphones
was during the Dubrovka theater crisis in October, when a group of 41
Chechen rebels took more than 800 people hostage. After a three-day
standoff, special forces piped gas into the theater to knock out the
captors and rescue the hostages. But more than 120 hostages died, most from
the effects of the gas.
The only court conviction in the theater tragedy was handed down last month
to Zaurbek Talkhigov, who was charged with using his cellphone to pass key
information about law enforcement activities during the crisis. The charge
was based on tapes of Talkhigov's cellphone conversations. A Moscow court
sentenced Talkhigov, 25, to 8 1/2 years in prison on June 20 and ordered
the tapes destroyed.
Mobile phone providers shut down their encryption systems in St. Petersburg
for security reasons during the city's 300th anniversary celebrations
attended by world leaders early last month.
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