Russia uses "pirated software" to supress dissent 8 replies

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Dragonelf68

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24th September 2007

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#1 8 years ago
IRKUTSK, Russia — It was late one afternoon in January when a squad of plainclothes police officers arrived at the headquarters of a prominent environmental group here. They brushed past the staff with barely a word and instead set upon the computers before carting them away. Taken were files that chronicled a generation’s worth of efforts to protect the Siberian wilderness. The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, was organizing protests against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal, a natural wonder that by some estimates holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy groups or news organizations that back the government. As the ploy grows common, the authorities are receiving key assistance from an unexpected partner: Microsoft itself. In politically tinged inquiries across Russia, lawyers retained by Microsoft have staunchly backed the police. Interviews and a review of law enforcement documents show that in recent cases, Microsoft lawyers made statements describing the company as a victim and arguing that criminal charges should be pursued. The lawyers rebuffed pleas by accused journalists and advocacy groups, including Baikal Wave, to refrain from working with the authorities. Baikal Wave, in fact, said it had purchased and installed legal Microsoft software specifically to deny the authorities an excuse to raid them. The group later asked Microsoft for help in fending off the police. “Microsoft did not want to help us, which would have been the right thing to do,” said Marina Rikhvanova, a Baikal Environmental Wave co-chairwoman and one of Russia’s best-known environmentalists. “They said these issues had to be handled by the security services.” Microsoft executives in Moscow and at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., asserted that they did not initiate the inquiries and that they took part in them only because they were required to do so under Russian law. After The New York Times presented its reporting to senior Microsoft officials, the company responded that it planned to tighten its oversight of its legal affairs in Russia. Human rights organizations in Russia have been pressing Microsoft to do so for months. The Moscow Helsinki Group sent a letter to Microsoft this year saying that the company was complicit in “the persecution of civil society activists.” Tough Ethical Choices Microsoft, like many American technology giants doing business in authoritarian countries, is often faced with ethical choices over government directives to help suppress dissent. In China, Microsoft has complied with censorship rules in operating its Web search service, preventing Chinese users from easily accessing banned information. Its archrival Google stopped following censorship regulations there, and scaled back its operations inside China’s Internet firewall. In Russia, leaders of advocacy groups and newspapers subjected to antipiracy raids said Microsoft was cooperating with the authorities because the company feared jeopardizing its business in the country. They said Microsoft needed to issue a categorical public statement disavowing these tactics and pledging to never cooperate in such cases. Microsoft has not done that, but has promised to review its policies in Russia. “We take the concerns that have been raised very seriously,” Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs for Microsoft, said in a statement. Mr. Kutz said the company would ensure that its lawyers had “more clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities.” “We have to protect our products from piracy, but we also have a commitment to respect fundamental human rights,” he said. “Microsoft antipiracy efforts are designed to honor both objectives, but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.” Microsoft emphasized that it encouraged law enforcement agencies worldwide to investigate producers and suppliers of illegal software rather than consumers. Even so, it has not publicly criticized raids against small Russian advocacy groups.

:cort:

Psst. Click the smiley. click it.


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MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#2 8 years ago

Looks like the Russian government is very scared of any form of opposition. Makes you wonder what kind of things they want to hide if they have to resort to such measures against small peaceful protest groups.

Someone should send those Baikal Lake activists a CD with free encryption software and an explanation how to do backups. If they keep their computer offline they could at least prevent Putin and his friends from discovering how much information they have.




Dragonelf68

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24th September 2007

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#3 8 years ago

Well we already know what's going to happen. The data on there is going to "go missing" due to some "bug." So it's too late to help them.


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Mihail VIP Member

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19th January 2003

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#4 8 years ago

*yawn*

The US uses "National Security Letters" which forces organizations to turn over any and all records, and to top it off, the organization afterwards isn't allowed to speak about it, being legally barred and bounded. We just haven't stepped over that hurdle of yet of being able to screw over anyone we want with legal context.




Bubbleteatroopa

I got them crazies.

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31st December 2008

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#5 8 years ago

Lol, this kind of thing would happen in Soviet days...mebe not quite as lenient, but, you know...




Pethegreat VIP Member

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19th April 2004

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#6 8 years ago

Mihail;5394451*yawn*

The US uses "National Security Letters" which forces organizations to turn over any and all records, and to top it off, the organization afterwards isn't allowed to speak about it, being legally barred and bounded. We just haven't stepped over that hurdle of yet of being able to screw over anyone we want with legal context.

Then there is the whole alleged "backdoors MS puts into the OS for the government to spy on people"




Nemmerle Forum Mod

Voice of joy and sunshine

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26th May 2003

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#7 8 years ago

It's just a side effect of the increasing centralisation of power coupled with a relatively high economic index due to cheap energy. Governments have always and without exception been subject to this sort of abuse, they're power structures and that attracts the crazy people who want power just because it's there.

"You get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you."

- Albert Jay Nock American Mercury

Turns out when you've got a good economy people's freedoms will stand a lot of abuse. As long as the TV's on and the food's cheap you can take everything else. Bar fringe groups that have little effect on national policy, who in the West or the East talks of fighting for freedom anymore? Wealth continues to flow into the hands of a few thanks to the increasing fluidity of capital, as does political power thanks to the increasing fluidity of information.

Different systems with different checks and balances progress at different rates. However, the question is no-longer whether our freedoms will be dismantled but how quickly.




Admiral Donutz VIP Member

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9th December 2003

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#8 8 years ago

MrFancypants;5394099Looks like the Russian government is very scared of any form of opposition. Makes you wonder what kind of things they want to hide if they have to resort to such measures against small peaceful protest groups.

Someone should send those Baikal Lake activists a CD with free encryption software and an explanation how to do backups. If they keep their computer offline they could at least prevent Putin and his friends from discovering how much information they have.

This would help, though then they might use hacking and suspicious programming activities as ane excuse. Ofcourse this sort of thing can and does happen in other countries for all sorts of reasons (national security and counter terrorism being a popular one I suppose). Yet, it's quite sad though.




Crazy Wolf VIP Member

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#9 8 years ago

So, would this have been a nonissue if they had used Linux instead?