At a glance.
- Russian government moves to exclude opposition from online platforms.
- Crypto sanctions may have a role in controlling ransomware.
- Estonia's record of digital transformation.
Navalny advisor: Apple and Google “caved” to President Putin’s pressure.
As we heard last week, the Kremlin was pressuring Apple and Google to take steps against a Navalny-aligned group’s Smart Voting resource in advance of the Duma elections. The entreaties were apparently successful: the tech giants last Friday removed the voter guide app from their stores following a heated Thursday meeting with the Russian Federation Council’s sovereignty commission, renewed public threats against US businesses operating in country, and a spate of DDoS attacks on Smart Voting’s website, Atlantic Council reports.
The piece traces the progression of recent censorship efforts in Russia and the Government’s justificatory allusions to extremism and foreign interference, concluding, “there is no doubt that this decision represents a major blow to internet freedom.” While praising the companies for dragging their feet in obeying the Kremlin’s orders, Wired calls the outcome “a troubling new precedent” that highlights Western firms’ “uncomfortable compromises” abroad and could embolden authoritarian regimes worldwide. Google’s concession reportedly came after employees were threatened with criminal prosecution.
In addition to blocking Smart Voting, Apple deactivated its privacy-enhancing iCloud Private Relay function in Russia. Telegram also muted all campaign bots Friday evening in compliance with local law, RadioFreeEurope reports, but the firm’s founder took the opportunity to denounce Google and Apple’s dominance of “the information distribution food chain” as a “threat to free speech.”
US preparing cryptocurrency sanctions as part of a response to ransomware.
The US Treasury Department is planning new cryptocurrency industry guidance, reporting requirements, anti-laundering rules, and sanctions with the goal of interrupting ransomware enterprises’ infrastructure and disincentivizing associations with bad actors, according to the Wall Street Journal. Who or what the sanctions will target is not yet known, but onlookers suspect either Russian profiteers or complicit wallets, exchanges, and owners are in for a reckoning. Stakeholders disagree about how best to weed out crime from the digital finance ecosystem without stifling innovation or weakening security.
Purandar Das, Co-founder and chief security evangelist of Sotero, sees the Government's planning as indication of the problem's scope:
“These steps are indicative of the enormity of the problem as well the use of digital currency to facilitate crime. Whilst decentralized digital currency has its advantages, the predicted downsides are being realized. Digital currency has made it possible for criminals to anonymously collect huge windfalls that would have been impossible a few years ago. While these are good steps in combating the rise wave of ransomware attacks, it remains to be seen if choking the payment gateways will be sufficient to deter criminals. As the recent escalation and sophistication of attacks have demonstrated the potential monetary benefits has created a huge opportunity that criminals may not let go easily. It may also make it harder for organizations hit by ransomware to recover their data and operations.”
Estonia’s experience with digital transformation.
Security Intelligence documents Estonia’s journey to becoming a digitalized society with ninety-nine percent of public services available online through, for example, digital health care, ID, voting, currency, parking, and driving initiatives. Countries looking to follow Tallinn’s lead should design for security and transparency, and invest in targeted cyber literacy campaigns. Leaders should integrate cyber education into primary through postsecondary school and beyond, and maintain openness about data access, breaches, and how the technology works.