Since Russia invaded Ukraine a few days ago, starting a terrible war on European soilwe have been able to see that the efforts of the international community seek to pressure the Kremlin government with more tools than weapons.
Many companies have left Russia leaving many people unemployed and an unprecedented economic crisis in the country with the ruble at a very low value. The technology sector wants to put pressure on the Moscow government with different tactics such as blocking software updates, leaving citizens without access to many technological services or with hackers who can cyber spy on Russia and protect Ukraine in the cyber war parallel to the armed conflict.
But the Kremlin, which historically is not characterized by having very diplomatic relations with many of the world’s largest countries, has already been preparing its cyber-sovereignty for years. He has taken many steps so as not to depend exclusively on the services that arrive from countries with which it maintains a complicated relationship, as is the case with the United States.
We remember decisions taken by the Putin government in its history that have led it to have some resistance to all attempts for technologically pressuring the Russian government coming from the tech giants.
The power of Vladimir Putin
The current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has been in this position since 2000. Between 2008 and 2012 he was prime minister, with Dmitri Medvedev, who was his right-hand man. In 2012 he was again elected president. All this with a lot of controversy and accusations of tongo In the elections. We must not forget that the creator of Telegram, of Russian nationality, had already had problems with Putin in the past because in his previous social network VKontakte or VK.
In this social network, citizens shared information about possible irregularities in the 2012 voting and the FSB (Federal Security Service) contacted Pavel Durov, its founder, to block certain groups of opponents hosted on VK. Something that VK not only refused to do but this letter was made public. And besides, opposing Putin publicly can be life-threatening.
In Genbeta we already analyzed in the past what it would be like to surf the Internet from a Russia in which the state has a strong omnipresence and great control over the use of the Internet and social networks by citizens.
Key moments towards cyber-sovereignty
All these years in power, have served the president of Russia to make decisionswith his government cabinet, towards his sovereignty in the analog world and also towards cyber-sovereignty to depend less on the ICT giants that came from the United States.
Free vs Proprietary Software. At the end of 2010, the Kremlin government confirmed information that was circulating: it had begun to install free software, including Linux, on its computer equipment. At the time he said the plan was to finish in 2015. The government of the russian federation announced that it would develop its own license of the system for your computers.
It can be said that it is quite common for this to happen, for the freedom it provides and also because it represents cost savings compared to proprietary software. Here in Spain there is a long list of examples of this, as in other European countries or in the rest of the world. Although it is common for public administrations to opt for free software, many researchers had already analyzed before this war how Russia was working to have its technological sovereignty in a model similar to that of China.
Own mobile operating system vs iOS and Android. Another noteworthy event dates back to 2014. After China launched an operating system development program called COS (China Operating System), Russia started a mobile OS development program. Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov at the time announced that his country was working with the Finnish startup Jolla in a national version of Sailfish OS, with the aim of reducing the share of Android OS and iOS in the Russian market from 95% to 50% by 2025. It should be said here that right now, with a Finland that also wants to join NATO, such as the In the case of Ukraine, relations between Helsinki and Moscow are very tense.
In 2014 the Russian entrepreneur Grigory Berezkin became a co-owner of Jolla, and since 2016 the company Open Mobile Platform, linked to him, has been developing a version of Sailfish for the Russian market which they have called Aurora OS. In 2018, the Russian telecommunications company Rostelecom took over 75% of the shares of Open Mobile Platform and came to control its development.
Commitment to remove Microsoft software. In 2016, the Moscow government promised to remove Microsoft services, as published by the Free Software Foundation Europe. This promise was kept over time. The replacement for Windows would not be its own development as the Chinese government would have decided, but rather the Kremlin announced that it would use Astra Linux, an exclusive distribution of the open source operating system.
Astra Linux is a Debian derivative developed by the Russian company RusBITech since 2008, which was created for use within the Russian private market. Soon after, the company began to implement it within some government offices where it even became part of some military departments.
Prohibition of the use of foreign software. Another measure of the country regarding its cyber sovereignty is found in the fact that it has been wanting to put a stop to software that arrives from other countries for some time. In 2019, the Duma, the main legislative chamber of the Russian Federation, approved a bill to impose, as of July 2020, pre-installation of software developed in Russia in all those devices that intend to be marketed in the country, from PCs to smartphones, through tablets and smart TVs.
Already at that time, RATEK, the association that represents technology manufacturers, expressed its concern about this decision: they allege that not only equips the Russian government with a potential surveillance toolbut it does not take into account the difficulty that compliance may entail on some devices.