It seems that the journalism community is up in arms over Richard Engel’s misleading story, claiming his phone was immediately hacked in a cafe in Moscow. According to The Wire, NBC has made attempts to clarify the story adding that Engel had clicked on malware to initiate the download.
Does this completely negate the concept behind the story? No.
The Russian government has an organization, mandated by law, completely dedicated to tapping into electronic devices through a ‘back-door’ in their Internet Service Provider (ISP) address. Система Оперативно-Розыскных Мероприятий, or “SORM” or “SORM-2″is the system they use solely dedicated to this collection of information. In 1995 and 1998 laws were passed granting them access to every ISP operating in the country.
In 2000 this law was updated to allow the government to collect information from Internet and telecommunications providers WITHOUT requiring prior approval or notification. Later a judiciary court struck this down and said the Russian government should be required to notify the ISP before collecting the information.
Furthermore, ISPs who fail to allow access to their data are surreptitiously fined by the government.
For the 2014 Olympics, the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) – akin to the U.S. CIA or FBI – is monitoring all traffic at the Olympics and collecting it for up-to-the-minute filtering and later uses. According to The Guardian, “Rostelecom is installing DPI (“deep packet inspection”) systems on all its mobile networks, a technology which allows the FSB not only to monitor all traffic, but to filter it.”
Sure you may have nothing to hide and nothing to worry about. But if you do have something to hide – don’t use your phone, the Internet, or even a microwave shot to transmit that information.