New York Times: With Coercion and Black Boxes, Russia Installs a Digital Iron Curtain

New York Times: With Coercion and Black Boxes, Russia Installs a Digital Iron Curtain. “Russia’s boldest moves to censor the internet began in the most mundane of ways — with a series of bureaucratic emails and forms. The messages, sent by Russia’s powerful internet regulator, demanded technical details — like traffic numbers, equipment specifications and connection speeds — from companies that provide internet and telecommunications services across the country. Then the black boxes arrived. The telecom companies had no choice but to step aside as government-approved technicians installed the equipment alongside their own computer systems and servers.”

Associated Press: Russians to stay off work for a week as virus deaths rise

Associated Press: Russians to stay off work for a week as virus deaths rise. “President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered most Russians to stay off work for a week later this month amid rising COVID-19 infections and deaths, and he strongly urged reluctant citizens to get vaccinated. The government coronavirus task force reported 1,028 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia’s death toll to 226,353, by far the highest in Europe.”

Reuters: Russia to go after Google this month with fine of up to 20% of annual turnover

Reuters: Russia to go after Google this month with fine of up to 20% of annual turnover. “Communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Google had failed to pay 32.5 million roubles ($458,100) in penalties levied so far this year and that it would now seek a fine of 5-20% of Google’s Russian turnover, which could reach as much as $240 million, a significant increase.”

Covid: Russia’s daily deaths pass 1,000 for first time (BBC)

BBC: Covid: Russia’s daily deaths pass 1,000 for first time. “The figure had been rising all week, with the Kremlin blaming the Russian people for not taking up vaccination. Only about a third of the population has had a jab, amid wide distrust of the vaccines. Russia’s figure of 222,000 Covid deaths is the highest in Europe, with another 33,000 infections reported on Saturday.”

Microsoft Blog: Russian cyberattacks pose greater risk to governments and other insights from our annual report

Microsoft Blog: Russian cyberattacks pose greater risk to governments and other insights from our annual report. “During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK.”

University of Texas at Austin: Ransomware Attacks Are Another Tool in the Political Warfare Toolbox

University of Texas at Austin: Ransomware Attacks Are Another Tool in the Political Warfare Toolbox. “Strategic inaction on the Kremlin’s part is an inducement to experiment with malicious software aimed at Western targets. There are documented instances of individuals and groups being co-opted by Russian security and intelligence services. The state provides them legal protection and occasional targeting guidance in exchange for information and corrupt material gains. In this way, ransomware has entered the Gray Zone. This is a realm where plausible deniability is achieved because of the cooptation and weaponization of private proxies.”

COVID Conspiracy: Foreign disinformation driving American vaccine resistance (WTOP)

WTOP: COVID Conspiracy: Foreign disinformation driving American vaccine resistance. “The U.S. has been a target of Russian intelligence disinformation operations for decades, dating back to the 1960s, when dropping flyers was their principal method of communication. But late last year, the State Department released a report exposing the Kremlin’s use of evolving digital technology to amplify divisions among Americans. And COVID-19 is a popular theme: Dozens of social media platforms are exploited to inundate millions of Americans, often without their knowledge, with anti-vaccine messaging.”

Wired: Apple and Google Go Further Than Ever to Appease Russia

Wired: Apple and Google Go Further Than Ever to Appease Russia. “As the tech industry grapples with how to address a host of complicated human rights and safety issues, the incident underscored the uncomfortable compromises that many tech companies strike in order to operate in certain regions, as well as the increasingly brazen demands of authoritarian governments.” I know I’m mentioning this a lot but I’m worried about where it leads. Google and Apple fold to Russia. What’s next? Turkey? Vietnam? India? Iran? China?

AP: Apple, Google raise new concerns by yanking Russian app

AP: Apple, Google raise new concerns by yanking Russian app. “Big Tech companies that operate around the globe have long promised to obey local laws and to protect civil rights while doing business. But when Apple and Google capitulated to Russian demands and removed a political-opposition app from their local app stores, it raised worries that two of the world’s most successful companies are more comfortable bowing to undemocratic edicts — and maintaining a steady flow of profits — than upholding the rights of their users.”

The Moscow Times: We Can No Longer Expect Google and Apple to Fight for Internet Freedom

The Moscow Times: We Can No Longer Expect Google and Apple to Fight for Internet Freedom. “For decades, the Internet giants existed believing public trust was an integral part of their business model. That all ended in 2016. The backlash that followed the Russian interference in the presidential election in the United States, primarily targeting Facebook, was massive, unprecedented and never actually stopped The non-stop Congress hearings, scandals, whistleblowers coming out with the most damaging accusations about manipulation of users’ data, promoting hatred and divide, even helping hostile states and malicious populists with horrible agenda, all of that would have killed the company if Facebook’s business model still involved public trust.”