Russia: Nyet to Skype, Hotmail, Gmail?

skype and gmail logo over Russia flag

skype and gmail logo over Russia flag
Skype and Gmail logo over Russia flag

Russia's security service wants to ban access to Skype, Hotmail and GMail, saying their "uncontrolled use" could pose problems for national security.

"The uncontrolled use of these services could lead to a large-scale threat to Russian security," Alexander Andreyechkin, an official with the Federal Security Service (FSB), said on Friday, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

I's not clear why the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB secret police, sent up this trial balloon just now, though Russia wouldn't be the first country to voice suspicions about reliance on computer servers based outside of its borders. However, any future limitation on the domestic use of Internet would make it easier for the country's security services to maintain control in the event of popular demonstration movements, such as those which have erupted in the Arab world these last several months.

The comments triggered some confusion with the Kremlin apparently trying to walk back talk of a ban. Reuters quoted the country's communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev, indicating that no such prohibition was in the offing. It also spoke with an unnamed Kremlin source who said that the FSB proposal was radical and not worthy of comment.

However, Tass is reporting that Prime Minister Vladamir Putin's spokesman said that the proposed ban was the official position of the security service. Putin heads a committee that's charged with coming up with a plan on how to regulate mass use of encryption technology. The report is slated to be ready by Oct. 1.

All this takes place against the background of a cyber attack this week that crippled LiveJournal, Russia's largest social network, and the country's biggest opposition newspaper. The denial-of-service attacks fed rumors that the nation's security service was involved.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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