back to article Anonymous wifi the latest casualty of Russia net neurosis

Russians will be required to hand over their passport-validated phone numbers to access public wireless networks under new laws. The laws ban the use of public wireless networks, creating confusion around precisely which networks would be affected and what form of identification would need to be provided. Leonid Levin, deputy …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same as China then

    Well, that one is marching across the world do we like it or not. China mandates that any hot-spot user is identified personally, so do quite a few other countries.

    I see a lovely market booming for SP WiFi systems in Russia - all mobile phones can do 802.1x off their SIM. Hmmm.. whose shares should I pick this time...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same as China then

      No, same as France.

      Of course, there is a gap between theory and practise as one can expect.

  2. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    I vaguely recall we came close to doing this in the UK a few years ago. To stop the kiddie porn traders, of course.

    1. Alfred 2
      Unhappy

      Lessons will be learnt

      "I vaguely recall we came close to doing this in the UK a few years ago. To stop the kiddie porn traders, of course"

      I am sure our political masters qill learn from the Russians and bring in simnilar legislation to this country. After all our great leader seems to spend a lot of time thinking of the children.

      1. frank ly

        @Alfred2 Re: Lessons will be learnt

        Over the weekend, The Independent carried three articles about online bullying (and 'grooming'), within which a former Government spokesman said that the internet was becoming too dangerous for children and that the Government needed to get tough on 'the industry'.

        This feels like an initial massaging of public opinion to enable acceptance of restrictions.

        One idea mentioned was to use Australian legislation about online bullying as a reference model. So, look to Australia as inspiration for future UK government attitudes and legislation of the internet.

        1. T J

          Re: @Alfred2 Lessons will be learnt

          "Over the weekend, The Independent carried three articles about online bullying (and 'grooming'), within which a former Government spokesman said that the internet was becoming too dangerous for children and that the Government needed to get tough on 'the industry'.

          This feels like an initial massaging of public opinion to enable acceptance of restrictions.

          One idea mentioned was to use Australian legislation about online bullying as a reference model. So, look to Australia as inspiration for future UK government attitudes and legislation of the internet."

          Oh god, please don't! We are a nation of 90% dickheads down here, we can't help you! In fact, we have been fearing idiocies like The Ring Of Steel making its way down here.

  3. veti Silver badge

    What about forriners?

    According to my mobile network, I can take a prepay phone with its own SIM, purchased with no identification whatsoever, and use that in Russia.

    So will foreign numbers work to unlock a wifi spot?

    I guess the answer to that will tell us, whether they just want to control their own population, or whether they're really serious about security.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: What about forriners?

      "whether they just want to control their own population, or whether they're really serious about security"

      Really, this is all about control of their population. Just like China, Russia has not quite got the idea of democracy at all, and the last thing the powers-that-be want is to be questioned by folk they can't simply "disappear".

      The fact the west is moving this way is a far more worrying sign.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: What about forriners?

        Just like China, Russia has not quite got the idea of democracy at all, and the last thing the powers-that-be want is to be questioned by folk they can't simply "disappear".

        Unlike in China and Russia, the Western governments understand the idea of democracy very well. Therefore, they first make sure that the majority of the voting population is properly scared into demanding the respective government to urgently implement these things in order to protect children and kill terrorists.

        You heard HMG criticising China for censorship of the Internet, right? Well, that was simply because our government was jealous of the Chinese...

      2. dan1980

        Re: What about forriners?

        "Just like China, Russia has not quite got the idea of democracy at all . . ."

        Just the opposite - they understand democracy quite well, which is why they won't have a bar of it.

        Both countries operate on a relatively simple principle, which is to control what the public knows. The reason for doing so is again simple - to control what the public think. North Korea does the same thing, but even more completely.

        And it works.

        You only have to look at a recent survey that showed that 80% of Russians apparently believe that MH-17 was shot down by the Ukraine, rather than (as is almost certainly the case,) Russian separatists equipped, funded and supported by the Russian Government.

        Freedom of speech is essential for freedom of thought - a concept that was explored by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four. If you control speech, you control the people.

        That's not always 'bad', because some thoughts we do want to at least curb, such as persecution of minorities. This is seen in 'hate speech' laws. I am not necessarily suggesting it is a great idea or that those laws can't be misused but the very basis of civilisation is a compromise between laws and freedom. In effect, all laws limit freedom in one was or another but that can be considered a good thing when the goal is the increase in the well-being of those the laws apply to, as a whole.

        Restricting my 'freedom' to steal from someone may disadvantage me but on the whole, society is better for it. Freedom of speech is a very thorny instance of this, however and any laws affecting it must be crafted and limited very carefully to avoid a slippery-slope.

        Another one of my diversions but, for once, I am sober.

        The Cliff's Notes version is that, while we must accept the loss of some freedoms for the sake of a harmonious society, you should be wary of anyone who looks to restrict what you can say because they are likely to want to restrict what you think and thus what you do.

        As an explanation, I am a big, big fan of free speech and I think that only the most utterly excessive and abhorrent instances should be even in the crosshairs, and even then, only when directly specifically at someone. Merely ranting on a blog that you think that <insert racial group here> is <insert vile insult here> is not protected (in my view). Going out and saying it directly to someone of that nationality while adding that they, their family and their entire race should be beaten and killed is across the line and you have impacted that person's freedom to live a relatively unmolested life.

        Needless to say, the desire to prevent people 'promoting homosexuality' or 'spreading rumours' doesn't quite meet the test.

        1. dan1980

          Re: What about forriners?

          ARRRGGHHH!! So careful and still messed it up. In the second-last paragraph, I meant to say that ranting on your blog is protected. I.e. should not be restricted.

        2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: What about forriners?

          My experience shows that people in the West are even more easily manipulated than in Russia. Perhaps this is because here people tend to think that what they hear/read/watch in the media is all true, while in Russia people are skeptical a priori.

          I find the "freedom of speech" here is very much restricted as well, but only by using more subtle social engineering and by "political correctness". It's not yet at the level of Russia but it's getting closer and closer.

          Also, if you look closely, the freedom of speech in Russia is fairly "democratic" - if you hold an opinion widely shared by the majority - you can pretty much say what you like. The problem is what happens when your opinion diverges...

          1. Captain Hogwash

            Re: What about forriners?

            "Also, if you look closely, the freedom of speech in Russia is fairly "democratic" - if you hold an opinion widely shared by the majority - you can pretty much say what you like. The problem is what happens when your opinion diverges..."

            Same as the West then. I imagine the majority opinion is probably the one dictated or manipulated by the powers that be too.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What about forriners?

            Based on my personal experiences, I cannot but second every word in Mr. Plouzhnikov's post.

            Incidentally, I had been wondering whether the person behind the Plouzhnikov handle was actually of Russian origin. The dry sense of humour in his last paragraph has answered that question. :)

        3. Ogi

          Re: What about forriners?

          I find this post a little ironic. As it turns out, in diplomatic circles there has been some rumblings that it might not have been the Russians/rebels who shot down the aircraft after all, but the Ukranians (whether it was the army, or one of the government/oligarch backed militias/private armies, I don't know).

          The media has also toned down the Russia bashing, and switched to saying things like "shot down using Russian-supplied missles", which is a meaningless sentence, because both sides use Russian supplied weapons.

          So, who is the one living in the mind-control matrix? Us, or the Russians? At least the Russians went through the whole propaganda thing, so they are always sceptical at news/media reports, and never trust them, nor take them at face value. They hardly ever think they are true. However westerners are more likely to blindly trust their news, which is a far more dangerous thing IMO.

          Food for thought :)

          (I'm not Russian, btw before any accuses me of it, and have no horse in the race, except a desire not to see WWIII erupt and an interest in geopolitics )

          Also, I know of no free business based wifi where I don't have to key in my phone number. Also, when I got a contract phone, they needed to take my passport and scan it to tie it to my account. It would be trivial to tie me to some wifi in starbucks by that alone, not to mention all the CCTV about.

          So the Russians are at least up front about something that is commonly done here behind the scenes. In many ways they are catching up to the surveillence used in the west, rather than overtaking them into some sort of police-state scenario.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What about forriners?

            > a desire not to see WWIII erupt and an interest in geopolitics

            Maybe it's time to get General Jackson out of retirement, and Cpt. Blount back in the service, before the Septics get involved too openly?

          2. JLV Silver badge

            Re: What about forriners?

            >never trust them, nor take them at face value.

            And what do you make of Putain's 80% approval rating? If that is untruly reported, fine, another buttress to your argument that we in the West are being manipulated.

            If his approval is anywhere near those numbers, then consider that Western national-level politicians can only dream of an 80% approval rating.

            Outside of national emergencies or wars, which are conveniently present right now. Which would make your "cynical and clever" Russians pretty similar to us in their propaganda absorption quotient, would it not?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      That may sound like a loophole, but I don't know if many Russians can easily get their hands on foreign-sourced SIM thingys.

      And let's not worry about the crims, shall we ? They'll get their illegally-imported thingamajigs whatever law is in place.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I wonder..

    if the US can be far behind then? But, it's all in the name of security and if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. I have nothing to hide but this sends a chill down my spine.....

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Enough with the nothing to hide bullshit

      If you have nothing to hide that doesn't mean you should bare it all for everyone to see.

      Especially if you're over 50 years old, like me. People do NOT need to see that.

    2. Crisp

      Re: if the US can be far behind then?

      The US are way in front with episodes like the McCarthy era. Except that now they actually have the technology to do it properly.

  5. Steve K Silver badge

    What if you don't have a mobile?

    How will this work if you don't have a mobile but do have a laptop or tablet with WiFi only (i.e. No SIM)?

    (Possibly unlikely scenario, but if you rely on VOIP or Skype-type services then is feasible)

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: What if you don't have a mobile?

      Your fckd'd. One way or another, your fsck'd.

      This is "Papers citizen!!!" at every opportunity.

    2. stanimir

      Re: What if you don't have a mobile?

      >>(Possibly unlikely scenario, but if you rely on VOIP or Skype-type services then is feasible)

      Bonus points: you'd never lose your phone ever again, you don't have to switch it off in business meetings or cinema. Actually it's quite viable.

  6. Tromos

    Not just Russia

    Happens a lot here too. Even my local(ish) ASDA wants a mobe number before condescending to let you attempt to use their Wi-Fi whose signal is only reliable if stood on top of one of the self-checkout machines.

    1. Peter Clarke 1

      Re: Not just Russia

      Is that the British way? Make a series of 'security' recommendations until most large companies follow them, then 'We'll just tidy this up with a new law'

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Not just Russia

      ...whose signal is only reliable if stood on top of one of the self-checkout machines

      If you want an even horizontal coverage, the easiest way to get it is to use a vertical whip antenna - but coincidentally, that has a null coverage exactly along its axis: on top and below. Based on what you're saying, the idiots clearly mounted the RF box sideways...

    3. MyffyW Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Not just Russia

      @Tromos "Unexpected item in bagging area"

    4. Andrew Somerville

      Re: Not just Russia

      In Italy similar rules apply. If you don't have a local mobile number you typically have to show ID to the hotspot operator to get a PIN code for access.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, to read The Register

    You would have thought they would be happy that finally someone is taking the trouble to "secure" all those open access points.

    Article about open Wifi in the UK → SECURITY FAIL!

    Article about open Wifi in Orstralia → SECURITY FAIL!

    Article about open Wifi in Rossiya → REPRESSIVE REGIME!!!

    Well, which one is it, gents? I'm confused now.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Well, to read The Register

      You seem to have missed the point, its not about securing Joe Public against a wi-fi driver trying to intercept their connection, it is about tracking everyone who attempts to speak.

      Tying it to a phone is a nice touch: it allows them to easily follow the locations most folk who ever use the internet as well (unless they are sufficiently paranoid to only switch it one when absolutely necessary).

  8. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    New idea for some "malware"

    I should write some kind of application that by all accounts, looks like a botnet client. The program would then connect to some random IP/port to appears as though its getting instruction, then just grab a specific file off the user's device and post it to a public blog. The file it grabs would of course be written by the user of the device but make it appear as though its some kind of payload that a botnet operator would be interested in.

    Then the user would have the excuse "It was the botnet that posted that, not me" when the thought police come by. At the very least, the Russian government will start to bring the hammer down on botnet operators and the like.

    1. veti Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: New idea for some "malware"

      ... I may be missing something here...

      You're proposing to write a program that users have to instal and configure voluntarily, whose sole purpose is to draw a crosshair on their backs for Russian spooks?

      And your "at the very least" benefit is that it will also draw a crosshair on your back?

      Your username is well chosen.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: New idea for some "malware"

      Better plan would be something that infects the most routers and opens a small percent of bandwidth for tor or similar, while disabling remote updates from any ISP (or just updating version number so it looks as if it worked).

      If a large percentage of connections were infected it would be a major deal to try and get them all cleaned and plenty of plausible deniablity.

      Not that I would promote breaking the law, of course.

  9. JCitizen
    Coffee/keyboard

    Dissidents already have a plan..

    I remember reading that the protesters in Tibet use the bot-net as a communication medium, they have to take control of at least one bot herder command and control server though. The underground apparently has access to the random links that this program is available on. That is apparently timed and passed by courier or other ingenious method. For obvious reasons the messages are completely in the open send as spam broadcasts, and are buried in the huge spam traffic that is all over the world. I assume dissidents can simply check their email or spam folder for messages and decide from the messages whether they apply to them or not. I supposed they could be encrypted, but disseminating the keys would be more difficult that providing the command and control download.

    I imagine the bot herders will be finding ways to block this, as it reduces their advertising effectiveness. This may become unnecessary as I read on Krebs On Security, that some enthusiast groups have found ways to discover bot infected machines and reverse engineer a way to take over the command and control servers that way, or even create one from said bot infected machine.. Of course the PRC authorities are close behind these developments, and will be happy that our open discussions of these tricks will help them defeat these groups by fiat. Funny how freedom destroys itself - or at least seems to some days. Where there is a will there is always a new way!

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