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A Library Journal Best Book of 2015 A NPR Great Read of 2015 The Internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both. On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a b A Library Journal Best Book of 2015 A NPR Great Read of 2015 The Internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both. On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government's front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world's most intrusive listening device, monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks. But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia's antagonists abroad—such as those who, in a massive denial-of-service attack, overwhelmed the entire Internet in neighboring Estonia—there is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home. Drawing from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. From research laboratories in Soviet-era labor camps, to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and Internet communications in the 1990s, to the present day, their incisive and alarming investigation into the Kremlin's massive online-surveillance state exposes just how easily a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare. Dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world's most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world of The Red Web.


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A Library Journal Best Book of 2015 A NPR Great Read of 2015 The Internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both. On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a b A Library Journal Best Book of 2015 A NPR Great Read of 2015 The Internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both. On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government's front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world's most intrusive listening device, monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks. But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia's antagonists abroad—such as those who, in a massive denial-of-service attack, overwhelmed the entire Internet in neighboring Estonia—there is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home. Drawing from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. From research laboratories in Soviet-era labor camps, to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and Internet communications in the 1990s, to the present day, their incisive and alarming investigation into the Kremlin's massive online-surveillance state exposes just how easily a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare. Dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world's most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world of The Red Web.

30 review for The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Russia: The place Edward Snowden fled to because the US is too aggressive with internal spying?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris C

    Phenomenal book, a must-read if you're interested in the Russian internet. Soldatov & Borogan give an extensive and very readable account of the history of RuNet and current developments. The newest edition also includes an important chapter on the DNC hack, so it's as relevant as ever. Phenomenal book, a must-read if you're interested in the Russian internet. Soldatov & Borogan give an extensive and very readable account of the history of RuNet and current developments. The newest edition also includes an important chapter on the DNC hack, so it's as relevant as ever.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Dinaburg

    I do not understand the appeal of e-books. Sure, I’ve used reference PDFs on my laptop and browsed documents on my phone, but a tablet or e-reading device? You have to charge it; It cannot be dropped; It cannot get wet. It seems like the convenience of having a lot of books in a small space, books that are always available, is far outweighed by the hassles of yet another electronic albatross. Environmentally, an e-reader is a consumptive device requiring electricity borne likely from fossil fuel I do not understand the appeal of e-books. Sure, I’ve used reference PDFs on my laptop and browsed documents on my phone, but a tablet or e-reading device? You have to charge it; It cannot be dropped; It cannot get wet. It seems like the convenience of having a lot of books in a small space, books that are always available, is far outweighed by the hassles of yet another electronic albatross. Environmentally, an e-reader is a consumptive device requiring electricity borne likely from fossil fuels—about .005lbs of carbon emissions per hour of use. It requires rare earth metals to make—which are finite—and you are a rare breed if you actively recycle your electronic waste. No doubt, paper books take a lot of energy to manufacture, ship, and store—but so do servers, broadband, and electricity. Remember, there is no cloud; it is all just someone else’s computer, slurping up juice continuously, a marketplace whose shining lights never dim. In an effort to stop hypocritically chiding the reading audience—I am, after all, putting this piece of writing out into the yawning abyss called internet, where it will fester on my Google Drive, the Goodreads servers, and my work and home laptop hard drives—I will reiterate that I prefer paper books for a plethora of reasons: some of which are personal and some of which might be applied universally. The supportive quotes that adorn front and back covers of physical books stem from such universalist logic. What is the remaining half-life for these signifier quotes of praise? You know the ones: “Perfectly told tale of Wonder for the Modern Age!” or “Couldn’t put it down, a spectacular debut!”, designed to entice a bookstore browser or impulse bibliophile into following through on their fleeting desire. Are these ebullient words doomed to languish on the Kindle storefront, only to be seen by a fractional percentage of readers? Are they the province of splash pages and teaser trailers, divorced completely from the text, severed and banished to a completely different form and format? Are there—or will there be soon—a smattering of ads to click through each time you want to return the pages of your story? Will I stop positing hypotheticals? I really don’t know. It is unfortunate that those outlying pieces of writing have been marginalized; they remain part of a book—part of the experience of reading a complete, contained work—no matter how attenuated they become. When you pick up a hardcover copy of The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and The New Online Revolutionaries, it is easy to spot the floating quote, suspended by its lonesome on the back, that states boldly:“[Andrei Soldatov is] the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus.” —EDWARD SNOWDEN. That is pretty high praise, and, given the context and my experience with how books work—not to mention standard practices in publishing—it seems that Edward Snowden has read this book and cited it for prominence in the field of the Russian Surveillance State. That is not exactly the case. Before we get to the misleading nature of the Snowden quote, however, there are about two hundred pages to discuss that are moderately not enjoyable to read. It doesn’t need to be a secret, anymore, that I worked on this game; I spent nearly six months researching the KGB, FSB, and the driving personalities that shaped those institutions. So when I picked up Red Web, the quote that excited me wasn’t Snowden’s back-cover blurb but the epigraph: “This is not a phone conversation.” –a Russian expression meaning a wish to discuss something in person because somebody else might be listening Those first two-hundred pages—the ones that I said were moderately unenjoyable?—they contain a cultural history that is required to make sense of what is presented as Russia’s modern status quo. I have no dispute with the concepts and facts presented, just with the presentation. It’s clunky and it isn’t fun to read: the focus jumps too much, highlighting obscura one minute and glossing it over the next; there seems to be no steady cadence to the narrative, no driving voice to push you from page to page. I learned things, and Red Web wasn’t a waste of my time, but I didn’t really like the front half. The fun stuff that comes through later in the book paints a vivid picture of a bland world: Then, one day in 1957, a nice young woman from the KGB section walking to his room. Fridkin had known her. She had a pretty face, wore plain clothes, and Fridkin often spent time drinking tea and chatting with her. But she brought bad news. “I have to take away your device and destroy it,” she said. Fridkin asked whether she knew that this was the first copying machine in the Soviet Union. “I know, but people who come over to you can copy some prohibited materials,” she replied. The first copying machine in the Soviet Union was smashed to pieces, and the parts were taken to the dump. One critical part of it, a slab of mirror, was salvaged and put up in the women’s restroom. Fridkin’s institute did not carry out secret research, so the decision to destroy his machine was not protecting anything at the institute; rather, it reflected the broader and deeper paranoia of the Communist Party. The party maintained a stranglehold on power and a chokehold on information. It could not tolerate the possibility that Fridkin’s invention might be used to freely make copies of unapproved documents and allow them to be easily distributed. I really, really enjoy that the fate of the slab of mirror was included—it is verisimilitude at its finest, building out the world instead of plopping a series of disconnected facts in your face. The vague shape of the plain-clothed, pretty-faced, friendly KGB agent gives form to the banal bureaucratic nightmare that destroyed advancement, I suppose; how they verified the prettiness of her face and the plainness of her clothes is a mystery for the ages. What Red Web does well is focus on the present. The nuances from the Snowden chapters—disregarding the questionable quotation—hits all the right notes of l'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs: Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance had outraged people around the world, and their anger was directed against the US government. Now Putin was presenting himself as a defender of freedoms and the only world leader strong enough to stand up to the United States. The human rights organizations, which Putin had been suppressing for years, were made props in Putin’s show, at least briefly. The meeting was a sign that Putin was not going to keep his distance from Snowden but rather would attempt to co-opt him for his own purposes. Snowden may not have known or realized it, but his disclosures emboldened those in Russia who wanted more control over the Internet. The State Duma debated Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance in special hearings. Sergei Zheleznyak, a vice speaker of the Russian parliament, suggested that the Snowden disclosures meant Russian citizens should be forbidden from keeping their personal data on foreign servers. “We should provide a digital sovereignty for our country,” he said. This is echoed in a New York Times Op-Ed that was published while I was writing this review: "When Edward Snowden disclosed details of America’s huge surveillance program two years ago, many in Europe thought that the response would be increased transparency and stronger oversight of security services. European countries, however, are moving in the opposite direction. Instead of more public scrutiny, we are getting more snooping." This is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Red Web does well by that aphorism: it builds out the facts that brought Russia into the modern era—a little too dryly, a little too slowly—and then makes good on the information provided. But what about that mysterious back-cover quote I mentioned at the top? In a discussion of Snowden’s appearance during a Putin press conference, the genesis of the quote is revealed:At first we were encouraged that Snowden at last started talking about Russia’s tightening surveillance of the Internet, hoping it could provoke a public debate about SORM—Andrei made this point in his public comments. But Snowden was heavily criticized for taking part in a Putin show, and the next day he published an op-ed in the Guardian answering his critics. “I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticize the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive,” he wrote. “I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question—and Putin’s evasive response—in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.” … Snowden added, “The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticized me in the past year), described my question as ‘extremely important for Russia.’” So the quote is technically accurate; Snowden was on record saying it. Yet his intention was to bolster his own position after being criticized by the press— “Hey, this guy doesn’t even like me and he thought I did a good job.” It has absolutely nothing to do with the book it appears to bolster; a mildly disingenuous tactic that casts a pall over the veracity of the evidence the book leans on to support its conclusions. That, then, is the meta-narrative lesson of Red Web: pay attention to everything, trust nothing, and think for yourself. You can trust me about the e-reading device stuff, though. No, really. Just trust me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    This book records the history of surveillance technology from the Soviet era to present-day Russia, which means it was probably the most important book I read all year. Unfortunately, most of the technical parts went right over my head. I did get a few main points, though, and here they are: 1) The technology that developed after the fall of the Soviet Union has capacities that its leaders would have salivated over, so we can consider ourselves somewhat lucky, except that Putin and his inner cir This book records the history of surveillance technology from the Soviet era to present-day Russia, which means it was probably the most important book I read all year. Unfortunately, most of the technical parts went right over my head. I did get a few main points, though, and here they are: 1) The technology that developed after the fall of the Soviet Union has capacities that its leaders would have salivated over, so we can consider ourselves somewhat lucky, except that Putin and his inner circle are all former KGB agents; 2) Russian engineers have very little training in the liberal arts, so they're not inclined to think about the broader ethical implications of the technologies they develop; and 3) In addition to the troll farms Russia finances to peddle fake news on social media, it is far along in the development of technologies that can identify faces and voices. In the wrong hands, and Putin's surely seem like the wrong hands, this technology could be dangerously invasive. In short, this is a depressing but important book. The one cheering point is that the human spirit may still be stronger than all the forces poised to suppress it. The Internet, as the book says, is horizontal. Use of social media organized the Orange revolution in the Ukraine, the Arab spring, and the women's march after Trump's election. We have to be vigilant that it isn't used as a weapon against us, particularly from the trolls who infiltrate just to sow discord and sabotage our goals, but used correctly, social media is still a powerful tool to promote democracy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    bibliotekker Holman

    This book has been recently recommended as one of a handful of books to help us understand the complexities of the modern Russia we are intertwined with in these surreal times. A fascinating insider guide to the struggle against and acquiessance to the powers of a state that has never known true democracy. Modern Russia is the antipode to America in many ways and shows us what we could become if we are not vigilant. Although, in terms of digital surveillance, we are possibly not all that differe This book has been recently recommended as one of a handful of books to help us understand the complexities of the modern Russia we are intertwined with in these surreal times. A fascinating insider guide to the struggle against and acquiessance to the powers of a state that has never known true democracy. Modern Russia is the antipode to America in many ways and shows us what we could become if we are not vigilant. Although, in terms of digital surveillance, we are possibly not all that different.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    “This is not a phone conversation.” —a Russian expression meaning a wish to discuss something in person because somebody else might be listening ORIGINS - Kuchino...became the KGB’s main research center for surveillance technologies, including the all-pervasive Soviet system of phone tapping and communications interception. From this day forward, speech recognition research and telephone wiretapping were bound together, funded and directed by the KGB. - The Soviet secret services wanted to make su “This is not a phone conversation.” —a Russian expression meaning a wish to discuss something in person because somebody else might be listening ORIGINS - Kuchino...became the KGB’s main research center for surveillance technologies, including the all-pervasive Soviet system of phone tapping and communications interception. From this day forward, speech recognition research and telephone wiretapping were bound together, funded and directed by the KGB. - The Soviet secret services wanted to make sure they could properly intercept any call, and identify the person who made it. They wanted to make sure that information in the Soviet Union—all kinds of information, including communications between people—was under their control. CONTROL INFORMATION - “I have to take away your device and destroy it,” she said. Fridkin asked whether she knew that this was the first copying machine in the Soviet Union. “I know, but people who come over to you can copy some prohibited materials,” she replied. The first copying machine in the Soviet Union was smashed to pieces, and the parts were taken to a dump. - The party maintained a stranglehold on power and a chokehold on information. - The few photocopiers that were brought from abroad were kept under lock and key in party offices or in the Academy of Sciences - The Bolsheviks wanted newspapers to organize and mobilize the masses, not to inform them. RUSSIA STEPS (RELUCTANTLY?) INTO THE INFORMATION AGE - the Soviet Union did indeed need international telecommunications—Moscow would host the Olympics in 1980 and the Kremlin wanted to go about things properly. - It was against his engineer’s nature, and it tortured him for years. His usual sad joke was to tell his friends that he got his first government award for increasing international communications capacities, and his second award came for cutting them off. - On August 28, 1990, the very first Soviet connection to the global Internet was made when the Kurchatov programmers exchanged e-mails with a university in Helsinki, Finland...Finland was chosen for a reason: Finland was the only country after the Moscow Olympics in 1980 whose automatic international telephone connection remained. EXPANDED INFRASTRUCTURE - In 1991 Russia had only two thousand international lines for the whole country, and all of these lines were analog, copper cables. - In three years, during a period of intense upheaval...increase the number of international lines in the country to sixty-six thousand, all of them digital. - By 1995 Russia had established modern, national communications. 'M9' IS A CRITICAL DIGITAL CROSSROADS IN RUSSIA - In 1995 Relcom, Demos, and the Moscow State University’s network went to M9, the very first Moscow station that provided automatic international connections for the 1980 Olympics. - M9 was pointing toward the West and relatively new made it the logical choice to be the exchange point for the Internet in Russia. - M9’s main engineer, Vladimir Gromov, agreed to give the Internet networks space on the twelfth floor at the top of the building. - The gathering on the twelfth floor became Russia’s first Internet exchange point, named MSK-IX...The MSK-IX was to become the main Internet exchange point in Russia for years to come. - Russia has only a dozen Internet exchange points (compared with more than eighty in the United States). And nearly half of the Russian Internet traffic passes through one of them, MSK-IX. PERESTROIKA - For the first time in their lives, she noticed, many people were talking openly and freely not only about their private lives but about everything, from the misery of living standards to Stalin’s repressions and modern music. Western movies, books, and music that for years had been prohibited now flowed to the country. INNOVATION IN THE SHADOW OF REPRESSION - (Workers at Soviet research facilities had more liberties) - At the same time, the institute enjoyed a degree of freedom unthinkable for others at facilities far less important. - It was in this elite environment of relative freedom that programmers and physicists first connected the Soviet Union to the Internet. FIRST RUSSIAN COMPUTERS - Elbrus, the first Soviet super-computer, and the ES, a Soviet-made replica of the IBM mainframe. - Kurchatov built a Russian version of Unix and applied it to a network. It was named Demos, an acronym for the Russian words meaning “dialogue united mobile operating system,” FIRST RUSSIAN NETWORKS - In 1990 Soldatov and his team began to think about how they could connect the institute with other research centers in the country. When they needed a name for this network...He came up with Relcom. When Antonov suggested this could signify “reliable communications,” NETWORKS DURING AN ATTEMPTED COUP - But Relcom worked in both directions, spreading and collecting information. It was a horizontal structure, a network, a powerful new concept in a country that had been ruled by a rigid, controlling clique. - Another principle was also demonstrated during the coup: the programmers did what they thought was right and did not ask permission. - But the KGB never bothered once to interfere with Russia’s first connection to the Internet, neither at Demos nor at the Computation Center of the Kurchatov Institute. But at that moment and in years to come the KGB never went away. RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE - In 1991 the KGB was split into a handful of independent security agencies. The largest, initially called the Ministry of Security, then the Federal Service of Counter-Intelligence, or FSK, would be responsible for counterespionage and counterterrorism. In 1995 it was renamed into the Federal Security Service, or FSB. - The division of the KGB responsible for electronic eavesdropping and cryptography became...the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information, or FAPSI. - director of FAPSI...suggested...Relcom would use FAPSI encryption equipment...to protect information so to create a secure channel for business communications in the country. - But behind the offer...were unseen motives: the agency wanted to create its own network and make big money by using Relcom’s expertise....Relcom had found its backer: a government security service. SORM? - (System for Operative Investigative Activities) - the birthplace of SORM was...at Kuchino, about twelve miles east of Moscow. Kuchino was the oldest research facility of the Soviet police state, and it had been in service as far back as 1929 for Stalin’s NKVD, a forerunner to the KGB. Kuchino had a storied history of accomplishments, such as figuring out how to intercept a human voice from the vibrations of a window. - ...the first generation of SORM had begun when the Soviet KGB had tapped telephones. Then it was known as SORM-1. - When it moved to the Internet in the 1990s—capable of intercepting e-mail, Internet traffic, mobile calls and voice-over Internet such as Skype, that was SORM-2. - ...SORM-3—which encompassed all telecommunications. All Russian operators and ISPs were required to install the black boxes, about the size of an old video tape recorder...and permit connection to the regional departments of the FSB. - The result: the FSB could intercept whenever anyone on Russian soil made a phone call or checked an e-mail. - Putin was FSB director only for a year, from July 1998 to August 1999. One of his accomplishments was to turn on SORM monitoring of the Internet. *** BELOW ARE A LIST OF RUSSIAN METHODS FOR CONTROLLING INFORMATION *** 1. USE FOREIGN HELP (EAST GERMANY) - Moscow had extensively borrowed technology and know-how from the feared secret police in East Germany. The Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi - The KGB learned at the knee of the Stasi officers, envying the technical level of Stasi surveillance. - The Stasi possessed what the KGB so badly wanted—a national system of eavesdropping on communications. (CHINA) - Inside Russia the Kremlin, worried about the disastrous consequences of its efforts to control the Internet, turned to China for guidance and technical support. 2. USE OF KOMPROMAT (COMPROMISING MATERIALS) - A mix of intercepted phone calls and analytical profiles...became known as kompromat, or compromising materials. - (Because of kompromat being often acquired by journalists) What was missing from this picture was the fact that the public began to slowly turn against journalists. 3. BUY OUT/TAKE OVER MEDIA OUTLETS - The Kremlin was not happy with the explosion of bloggers and turned to means already proven to be effective in dealing with newspapers: having loyal oligarchs buy off the Internet platforms. 4. GET OTHERS TO DO YOUR DIRTY WORK - But who were these hacker patriots? During the 2000s the Kremlin had created large pro-Kremlin youth organizations, which mostly consisted of youth recruited in Russia’s regions. - The Kremlin had been outsourcing its hacking activities, making attribution difficult—which was no accident. The Kremlin had used outsourced groups elsewhere to create plausible deniability and lower the costs and risks of controversial overseas operations. - In Russia all kinds of informal actors—from patriotic hackers, to Kremlin-funded youth movement activists, to employees of cybersecurity companies forced into cooperation by government officials—have been involved in operations targeting the Kremlin’s enemies both within the country and in former Soviet states. - The report further claimed that the FSB “often uses coercion and blackmail to recruit the most capable cyber operatives in Russia for its state-sponsored programmes” with the goal “to carry out its, ideally deniable, offensive cyber operations.” 5. USE OTHERS (LIKE SNOWDEN) AS PAWNS - Lokshina told us later that she was certain it was not Edward Snowden who invited them. Snowden did not speak Russian and did not know the people there. Lokshina concluded it was all a show, orchestrated by the security services. - They heard Snowden talk, and then he disappeared. It was a clever manipulation. Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance had outraged people around the world...Putin was presenting himself as a defender of freedoms and the only world leader strong enough to stand up to the United States. The human rights organizations, which Putin had been suppressing for years, were made props in Putin’s show... 6. BLOCK INFORMATION SHARING - The Kremlin had tried to pressure Golos and others, repeatedly, not to report election violations to the public. Once they did so, a wave of cyber attacks began, apparently intended to stop the information from spreading. - This phase had a different objective than the first: instead of suppressing information about election fraud, the goal was to eliminate reporting about street protests. 7. INTERNET FILTERING - A month after Putin took office for a third term, the Kremlin finally found a way to crack down on social media. On June 7, 2012, four members of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, introduced legislation to begin a nationwide system of filtering on the Internet. The pretext was to protect children. It included a single register of banned sites, which was really, in simple terms, a blacklist. - Websites blocked in one region remained accessible in others. The arrival of a single register made it possible to close down sites across all of Russia, all at once. 8. USE INTERNATIONAL BODIES TO ADVANCE GOALS - Russia intended to actively participate in “establishing international control over the internet” by using the capabilities of the Int'l Telecommunications Union (ITU). It was an audacious idea: to control the Internet using a century-old UN agency. - With headquarters in Geneva, the [ITU] was originally established in 1895 to regulate the telephone and telegraph. - The ITU intended to amend the treaty to include the Internet and, thus, make it subject to ITU regulation....The direction of the drafts was the same, giving nations “the sovereign right… to regulate the national Internet segment.” - (On December 10, without explanation, the Russian delegation withdrew [the proposal]... 9. USE INTERNATIONAL EVENTS (OLYMPICS) TO COLLECT INTEL - We told the group that Syromolotov’s appointment was significant. It could mean that Russia viewed the games as an opportunity to collect intelligence. - (This was a bad time to be asking questions about surveillance at the Olympics. The bombings in Boston made many people more tolerant of surveillance because of tangible fears of terrorism.) 10. USE "OVERT SURVEILLANCE" - (During the Olympics) They admitted that “technological equipment of special services provides for eavesdropping on telephone conversations, as well as for analyzing social network and e-mail correspondence” and said that “this kind of control is the best way to spot terrorist activity and nip the problem in the bud.” - The Russian secret services have had a long tradition of using spying techniques not merely to spy on people but to intimidate them. The KGB had a method of “overt surveillance” in which they followed a target without concealing themselves. - the FSB primarily used them for intimidation; they wanted to showcase their surveillance and did not hide it, like the “overt surveillance” of the KGB. - counterintelligence officers tend to play a long game. It cannot be ruled out that someday, long after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, any one of these people could be approached with the information collected (kompromat) in February 2014 in Sochi. *** FACTOIDS - In the far north of Moscow the Kurchatov Institute sprawls over nearly 250 acres. Once an artillery range, the institute was founded by Igor Kurchatov, who developed the first Soviet atomic bomb within its walls. - Oracle technologies, which were subject to export restrictions in the United States (Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, once famously said that the Russians would take Oracle only in missile warheads) - Kaspersky (founder of a global anti-virus company) has never denied his KGB background, and the picture of him as a young officer in uniform is available on the Internet. - In one of their most ambitious and successful exploits, the experts at Kuchino planted a listening device inside a large replica of the Great Seal of the United States and presented it as a gift to the US ambassador in August 1945, and it was hung in the ambassador’s study. The device transmitted sound waves out of the ambassador’s study to the Soviet secret services until it was exposed in 1952. - When they arrived, the issue of speech recognition opened up a vista for surveillance the KGB had never imagined possible—applying computer technologies to phone tapping meant that not only could a speaker be identified but that what he said could be used to trigger the interception system (the surprising byproduct of the project was the computer game Tetris, designed on one of the KGB computers). - The voice recognition technology can identify the speaker, regardless of language, accent, or dialect, based on physical characteristics of the voice. - Mexico’s national database of voices was made up of speech fragments recorded from criminals, law enforcers, and many law-abiding citizens, who are obliged to supply vocal samples for state regulated activities, such as obtaining a driver’s license. - Ukraine’s security services possess their own SORM; except for a period after the Orange Revolution in 2005–2010, they always kept close ties with the Russian security services...“The Ukrainian SORM is tougher—they have the right to interrupt the conversation and we have no such powers,” - Yandex also attempted to tread carefully in the minefield of the Ukraine war. In March the service started offering different maps of Ukraine for Russian and Ukrainian users. The Russians would see a map showing Crimea as part of Russia, while a user in Ukraine would see the peninsula as still part of Ukraine. - the White House and the Kremlin established the Direct Communications Line. Essentially a secure communication line, it ran between the US Cybersecurity coordinator and a deputy head of the Russian Security Council and could be used “should there be a need to directly manage a crisis situation arising from an ICT [information and communications technology] security incident.” It was the digital era’s equivalent of the mythical Cold War red telephone - Cyberwarfare had been an FSB monopoly for more than two decades, and the Russian Ministry of Defence set to form its own so-called cyber troops relatively late, only in 2014. - (The prison) Lefortovo is an exception. Its guards make every effort to prevent inmates from seeing one another. When escorting prisoners guards use little clackers—a circular piece of metal—or snap their fingers to make their presence known to the other guards. If two escorts meet, one puts his charge into one of many wooden cabinets lining Lefortovo’s corridors. This has been the practice since Tsarist times...Most cells house two people, and as a rule a newcomer is placed with an undercover FSB agent as his inmate for several months—to spy on him constantly inside the cell.

  7. 4 out of 5

    CHAD FOSTER

    An amazing description of how the Russian security services, resurrected in the years after the end of the Soviet Union, slowly and deliberately learned the power of the internet and came to use it effectively as a tool to undermine foreign enemies and domestic critics. Sewing division is an old Russian trick, but in the age of internet and social media the Putin regime has become the master manipulator. This book is a cautionary tale for those living in free societies.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Salome Pachkoria

    A very good book for those interested in Kremlin's attempts to exert control over the internet.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Allen Hornung

    Informative read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Lowery

    I enjoyed parts of this book, while a larger percentage was irrelevant to me as the reader. Written by Russian investigative journalists, it's really a book written by Russiand for Russians. Reading the book provided some insight into the Russians militarization and control over the internet both in within their borders and beyond. Written in 2014, it provides some backdrop to what became the Russian influence over social media during the 2016 US elections. Most of the Russian character we meet I enjoyed parts of this book, while a larger percentage was irrelevant to me as the reader. Written by Russian investigative journalists, it's really a book written by Russiand for Russians. Reading the book provided some insight into the Russians militarization and control over the internet both in within their borders and beyond. Written in 2014, it provides some backdrop to what became the Russian influence over social media during the 2016 US elections. Most of the Russian character we meet are forgettable, and the narrative is disjointed. The better sections included the coverage of Edward Snowdens NSA leaks, where the authors discuss the Russian security apparatuses control of his movement and security, and events that involved the relationship between Russia and the US. It's an interesting book but I dont know if I would recommend it to anyone but those seriously interested in cyber-politics, as the authors coin.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    This book is phenomenal. As I said when I reviewed The New Nobility, Borogan and Soldatov are hero-geniuses, I hope they are never murdered or jailed, and I don't understand how they have the access they do. There are a lot of bullshit books about Russia out there. This is a book that is not only 0% bullshit, it is 100% fascinating and essential reading if you want to understand contemporary Russia. This is the story of how the Internet age began in the USSR against the wishes of the security st This book is phenomenal. As I said when I reviewed The New Nobility, Borogan and Soldatov are hero-geniuses, I hope they are never murdered or jailed, and I don't understand how they have the access they do. There are a lot of bullshit books about Russia out there. This is a book that is not only 0% bullshit, it is 100% fascinating and essential reading if you want to understand contemporary Russia. This is the story of how the Internet age began in the USSR against the wishes of the security state, blossomed briefly, then entered into a war-like phase where a government threatened by horizontal networks struggled against freedom of information and in fact its own people. It's also about the rise of Putin, the revival of KGB thinking, two Western white guys blunderingly supporting autocracy and censorship (Snowden and Assange), how the 2011-2012 protests were the culmination and kind of the end of the RuNet. They also got the tea on those DNC hacks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cario Lam

    Reading this I thought I was in a spy novel. Russia honing its skills in cyber warfare for the 21st century and beyond. I enjoyed this very much in that it presented a darker side of the Internet.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really enjoyed this book a lot and found it to be extremely informative. I highly recommend reading it!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Harry Allagree

    This is an interesting & helpful book for understanding a bit of what was going on & what was motivating the Russians to meddle in the 2016 election, written by two veterans of journalism in Russia. Likely, some of the same names mentioned in the book will appear in the potential meddling in the 2020 election. This is an interesting & helpful book for understanding a bit of what was going on & what was motivating the Russians to meddle in the 2016 election, written by two veterans of journalism in Russia. Likely, some of the same names mentioned in the book will appear in the potential meddling in the 2020 election.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    Fascinating study of how the Soviet Union's distrust of outsiders and its own populace permeated though the actual end of the Soviet government and how the security services ended up filling the vacuum left by the fall of communism. This book can get a bit difficult as the names thrown around get very similar and parts tend to get technical but the authors do adequately tell the story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Cahillane

    Excellent chronological explanation of communication surveillance in Russia, from WWII until modern times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Great read about the internet history from the fall of the USSR till the modern days.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    An important and timely book. There's so much that's revealing here, from the discussion of the relationship between Snowden/Wikileaks and the Kremlin; to the thoughtful examination of why engineers should be trained in ethics; to, critically, its explanation of Russian "information warfare." The authors explain that this concept, not to be confused with cyber warfare, "encompasses something political and menacing, including 'disinformation and tendentious information' that is spread to incite p An important and timely book. There's so much that's revealing here, from the discussion of the relationship between Snowden/Wikileaks and the Kremlin; to the thoughtful examination of why engineers should be trained in ethics; to, critically, its explanation of Russian "information warfare." The authors explain that this concept, not to be confused with cyber warfare, "encompasses something political and menacing, including 'disinformation and tendentious information' that is spread to incite psychological warfare, used for altering how people make decisions and how societies see the world." Definitely worth a read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Gusev

    A well-researched story about Russia's quest to control information A good written an nuanced storytelling worth of New Yorker with a distinct feel as well. Sometimes diluted by coverage of setting events like Maidan or else, the authors aims is to set the stage where russian security authorities carry on the legacy of fear and intimidation to control the information flow in the world of social networks and viral means.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Great journalism that led you through the history of surveillance on the Internet and the political undertones of the movement. Wish it had had a bit more insight into the private business aspect of it. Really needed a better editor too, with many repetitive passages and unclear sentences that made it seem like it was cobbled together from essays instead of written as a proper book. Engaging though, and I learned quite a bit!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Excellent history of Russian telecom surveillance, with lots of discussion of Putin-era dissent repression and surveillance. Emphasizes tension between Putin's hierarchical worldview and horizontal world of emerging social networks. All in all a good tonic for the Russophobia that has colored much of the 2016 election.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    This book traces the history of the KGB using technology to spy on its people and the rise of the internet. It's technical and detailed as the authors are journalists with long histories and past bylines from reporting in Moscow. Why I started this book: Fascinating subject, and on my Professional Reading List. Why I finished it: This book dragged. I finally skipped to the end. Final thoughts, Russia and Putin have a long history of using their power to spy on their people. The tools that they are This book traces the history of the KGB using technology to spy on its people and the rise of the internet. It's technical and detailed as the authors are journalists with long histories and past bylines from reporting in Moscow. Why I started this book: Fascinating subject, and on my Professional Reading List. Why I finished it: This book dragged. I finally skipped to the end. Final thoughts, Russia and Putin have a long history of using their power to spy on their people. The tools that they are using have changed, but companies both international and local bow to the power of the Kremlin. I think that Edward Snowden got more than he bargained for when he spent a layover in Moscow. He may or may not be in Russia voluntarily.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine Amussen

    Russia -- our ugly, upside down, topsy turvy mirror. Take warning. This feels so timely, even though this edition had to be updated after the election. My tax return was held up by the government because my identity had potentially been hacked after the City of Atlanta was held hostage by ransomware. That wanted 50,000$ in Bitcoin. Still not sure if they paid or not, but just a forever reminder that I live behind weak walls and my nations enemies are slower to get there, but faster and crueler i Russia -- our ugly, upside down, topsy turvy mirror. Take warning. This feels so timely, even though this edition had to be updated after the election. My tax return was held up by the government because my identity had potentially been hacked after the City of Atlanta was held hostage by ransomware. That wanted 50,000$ in Bitcoin. Still not sure if they paid or not, but just a forever reminder that I live behind weak walls and my nations enemies are slower to get there, but faster and crueler in their reaction. I'm not a psychic but I feel stirrings of the future. Do you know how to speak Russian? Can you build radios? I might learn.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Egor Sofronov

    Hard to believe that surveillance is so intrusive and advanced, and that cyberwarfare, hacking, and poisoning of politics by online despoliation has been such a feature of the regime in Russia, especially that some other spheres of economy and basic infrastructure are so underdeveloped. Total facial recognition, policing, and ID matching on home-made software already in 2011! Voice recognition and ID'ing in 1950s already (invented by GULAG prisoners). Scrupulously researched investigative narrat Hard to believe that surveillance is so intrusive and advanced, and that cyberwarfare, hacking, and poisoning of politics by online despoliation has been such a feature of the regime in Russia, especially that some other spheres of economy and basic infrastructure are so underdeveloped. Total facial recognition, policing, and ID matching on home-made software already in 2011! Voice recognition and ID'ing in 1950s already (invented by GULAG prisoners). Scrupulously researched investigative narrative about current and historical surveillance in Russia.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eliot Peper

    The Red Web by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan is compelling and comprehensive history of the internet in Russia. Soldatov and Borogan are veteran investigative journalists who map out the ongoing struggle between oligarchs, dissidents, entrepreneurs, hackers, and spooks for Russian digital domination. This book unveils the complex interplay of technology and geopolitics, raising critical questions about civil rights, governance, and surveillance in a networked world.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This book was more a history of the Kremlin's technological achievements than anything else. Readers looking to learn more about the 2016 election meddling will be disappointed. The interference is mentioned only briefly towards the end of the book. The authors paint president Putin with all his mistakes and it makes for a convincing narrative. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in current affairs and also to anyone interested in geopolitics.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Willcox

    Very informative and as clear and understandable as is plausible, but probably only of interest to those intrinsically interested in the subject matter, which is naturally a little dry and in no way sexed up in the presentation. The author is a journalist's journalist and foremost concerned with accuracy, not gimmicks to grab your attention.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Very intense. I learned a lot from this book. There were a few times where I had to re-read passages, only because I had a hard time wrapping my mind around some of the things that were happening/happened, than it being a hard read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    It answered a lot of questions I had regarding the origins of what is called information policy in Russia and its roots in the Soviet Union. Some places I felt like I needed more factual details but otherwise it was rather good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    James

    Chilling. Much better translation than The New Nobility.

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