back to article From July, you better be Putin these Kremlin-approved apps on gadgets sold in Russia

The Russian State Duma has approved legislation that forbids the sale of unspecified devices unless they contain certain pre-installed government-authorized applications. According to Meduza, a Russia-focused publication based in Latvia, Russian legislators voted in favor of the bill, which is expected to take effect in July, …

  1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Gotta love the Russians

    No subtlety whatsoever.

    I have no doubt the west will follow suit, but obfuscating the raw pwnage through some mixture of British understatement or US Congressional mendacity.

    "This app is needed to keep children safe!"

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Gotta love the Russians

      Sophistication & subtlety are as alien to a Russian as finger-painting & pottery-making is to a dog.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Gotta love the Russians

        Read Chekhov, get back to me.

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Upvoted

          It's the apparatchiks who lack subtlety but that's the same the world over. It's just that Russia has always been in surplus in that area.

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Re: Upvoted

            Look at the size of the US federal and state governments. It's the same the whole world over. In the US the scandal is over the FCC and its interesting pro-lobby decisions.

            (It isn't whataboutery when you're pointing out that everybody is doing it, the problem is that we the people are absolutely rubbish at doing anything to stop it.)

      2. 's water music Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Gotta love the Russians

        Sophistication & subtlety are as alien to a Russian as finger-painting & pottery-making is to a dog.

        Exhibit 1, and B..

        Oh noes, rule 34. Any of them, just give it to me quickly ------------------>

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Gotta love the Russians

          So what you're saying is, the OP was correct but not in the way he or she* probably thought. Russians do sophistication and subtlety, but only with the assistance of young women, and on Youtube.

          *Or non-gender-specific pronoun of your choice.

  2. Mitoo Bobsworth

    Sorry comrade, your phone's caught a bad case of NKVD.

    Stalin would have creamed his khaki's for this kind of surveillance.

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I was going to say that this was pure big brother surveillance.

    But after reading the article, I think it is a bit more of a walled garden, with some surveillance thrown in. Silly Moscow, only Apple gets to do that!!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I was going to say that this was pure big brother surveillance.

      Not at all. At the moment, they aren't restricting what else the devices can have on them. I'm sure that comes later, but it hasn't come yet. What they are demanding is surveillance and control, pure and simple. And I'm sure the "applications" that come out won't simply be mandated bloatware that doesn't do anything if you don't open it, but will instead grab any and all data they can. For Android, this will be little problem, as device manufacturers cheerfully grant extra permissions, frequently either difficult or impossible without completely wiping the device to revoke, to preinstalled apps. I don't expect Apple to simply leave the market out of concern for human rights, but they probably will consider it after they are demanded to ensure the preinstalled apps have permissions that they normally don't make available and allow users to disable.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    This will start another black market

    for devices that are not 'kremilinised'.

    Just like there was for Levi's 30 years ago.

    1. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: This will start another black market

      Yeah, I have seen this happen.The Russians have never been averse to obtaining things they want by any method. I saw tons of products, not available in Russia, shipped across the border by people ready to take advantage of the law of supply and demand.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: This will start another black market

        I am concerned, however, that lots of people will still get devices with the surveillance software forced onto it and won't be technical enough to be concerned about it. If this experiment works in the sense that no major protest surfaces to block it and international manufacturers cheerfully comply, it might spread to other countries. I really want that not to happen.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: This will start another black market

          Russia... Major protests... Consumer rights? That's a combination of words I don't expect to see in the news anytime soon.

          And manufacturers don't need to do anything, it's the telecom providers who will do the dirty work. And they are clearly on board, even if they did have some choice about it.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: This will start another black market

            Telecom providers can only go so far, namely Android phones that they sell. They can't do anything about iPhones because Apple doesn't allow them (now), and they can't do anything about phones bought through other mechanisms, while the law still cares. I'm also sure that computers will be included in the class of devices, and those don't get sold by providers. So manufacturers will have to get involved, and probably retailers as well. I would like for there to be some type of protest by the citizens or the companies, but I don't expect it to happen. But please, please prove me wrong.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yeah, brilliant idea

      I'm sure actual criminals are absolutely going to fall over themselves to not have phones delivered from abroad that do not have said apps installed.

      No, never. Impossible.

      As one person mentioned, if you outlaw guns, only criminals will have guns. In this case, it'll be the criminals, the billionaires, and anyone with any kind of connection to the other two.

      Hey, kinda like backdooring encryption, come to think of it.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Yeah, brilliant idea

        "I'm sure actual criminals are absolutely going to fall over themselves to not have phones delivered from abroad that do not have said apps installed."

        Well, that's the Russian government covered...

  5. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Linux

    Is Russia going to fork AOSP, because that comes with nothing pre-installed? AOSP is the open source version of Android for those not familiar with it.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Last I heard they were looking at Sailfish or a variant.

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    So which is better, protectionism and surveillance by the front door or the back door?

    Either way, your rights are undermined or diminished.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    What is to stop the end user simply removing the government mandated apps after purchase? I know on Android phones they could be installed as system apps that would need root to remove. But on PCs it would be trivial to just go in and delete the exe and remove any registry entries even if there was no uninstaller

    And on Android you can always flash a new ROM over the vendor installed one to remove any bloat

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "And on Android you can always flash a new ROM over the vendor installed one to remove any bloat"

      A lot of manufacturers don't provide bloat-free ROMs, and most Android phones will balk on an unisgned ROM, which requires the manufacturer to sign.

      It could simply be a matter of a unique version being available exclusively for Russia. Which means its own signature keys and so on, meaning it wouldn't be possible to install anything BUT Russian ROMs (with their concomitant spyware).

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Because in a country the size of Russia they can have someone come round to your house and ask to inspect your handset.

      Then it is time to see how many tress you can count in Siberia - without an app to help you do it.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Fawlty

        I know,

        un, dos, tress ...

        or was that "on those trays"?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unless they do something nasty like mandating something akin to IEEE 802.1x from the network providers that will only let a device see its authentication server until it crypto-authenticates itself, the software to do such being built into the spyware app; no app, no Internet. Foreign SIM? Install the app or no data for you (app store access would therefore also need to be available.) No app installed? Add the phone's voice and texts to a special watch list.

      If the apps can be disabled or uninstalled, there's no guarantee they won't leave something behind that's invisible to the user.

    4. o p

      what is to stop?

      15 years in jail for removing it should do.

      The issue is not technical, do not believe you are smart because you can launch regedit.

  8. alain williams Silver badge

    Too early to tell

    As the article says this is a bit vague, there is no real explanation of "apps", but I guess it does not mean operating systems. Gosuslugi - OK it might be useful - but will it, or something, run continuously - reporting to Putin what the user is up to ?

    Also not mentioned is: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software ? If so: then why the fuss ? If they cannot then why not, what is the real purpose of the Russian software ? China seems to be far worse at insisting that state spyware is installed on 'phones, etc.

    I can see plenty of other countries doing the same, if only "to save our children from pedophiles".

    We need to wait & see.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

      Are you out of your mind ? I can already not uninstall Samsung Drive, Facebook, Excel (!?), Hangouts, OneDrive, PowerPoint, Samsung Cloud, Samsung Health, Skype, Word or YouTube on my current Galaxy A3. They're disabled, but I can't get rid of them.

      You really think those government apps imposed by Moscow are going to be removable ?

      'Cause if you do, I have a bridge to sell you.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

        If it's a 2016 A3, you could install LineageOS instead: https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/a3xelte

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

        @Pascal Monett

        Keep your bridge (and your snark).

        Anyone with a rootable phone can remove any app.

        Whether their phone meets that criteria or they are willing to root it are separate issues.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

          "Keep your bridge (and your snark)."

          In that case, I'll hold onto this bridge. Other people will eventually buy it. You'll get the snark anyway, though. Because your "what's the fuss" statement is bad. First, there are lots of phones out there that aren't rootable. And even if a phone is rootable, the user has to know:

          1. What rooting is.

          2. Why they want to root.

          3. How to root.

          4. How to deal with the bootloader which, in some cases, is English only (or in a rarer case, Chinese only).

          5. How to find a trustworthy replacement ROM.

          6. How to deal with the situation if their replacement ROM doesn't actually work, including how to obtain a manufacturer ROM and replace it.

          Some people here know all these things. But that's in a community with a lot of technical people. The general public does not know these things, and it's not completely self-explanatory. But let's leave rooting aside for the moment. What would happen if Russia wanted this done, but everyone was able to uninstall or root at will? Simple answer. They would make another law requiring manufacturers to prevent that. Russia-specific models without rooting capability and/or mandatory malware that watches for use of ADB and inserts a compromised ROM in place of the real one (or just notifies the police).

          I assume you or someone with similarly bad beliefs may look at my arguments and come to the conclusion that none of this matters for us, as we know how to evade this kind of interference. Why should I care if this happens; my phone will be malware-free? The reason I care is that many around me will have this surveillance on their devices. I care about other people, but that's not all of it. If they have surveillance on their devices, then they have surveillance on me every time we communicate. Every time their device is near me. And the malware can be updated, meaning I have to worry every time I receive something from them that could exploit a security flaw that their malware may have been developed to exploit that mechanism to spread itself. And we've seen that plenty of times before, so don't accuse me of extrapolating to extremes.

          It is not at all acceptable to have a preinstalled application from a government. It is rarely acceptable to have a preinstalled application from someone who isn't the manufacturer, but at least I hope some of them check the payload and don't allow purely malicious software. It does not matter if the device has an "Uninstall this app" button because I cannot trust that button to do what it says. It does not matter if the device might in theory be rootable because most people won't go to that extent. It is not acceptable.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

            I'm sure that in the many 'Prospects' that surround the major cities in Russia a thriving industry will be there to root phones, remove the Kremlinware or even install a clean OS. IT was there before the USSR fell and in the years afterwards, the markets held periodically at the Projects allowed you to buy pretty well everything. The Russian people are remarkable adept at ignoring Moscow. After all they have had centuries of rulers from the Czar to Stalin, to Gorby and now Putin (Stalin mk 2) to develop their skills.

            1. Benson's Cycle

              Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

              Peterburgers have been trying to ignore Moscow since before the Revolution.

          2. veti Silver badge

            Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

            The way the Russians will do it is simply to forbid rooting of phones.

            That way, there will be yet another handy crime that they can add to the charge sheet when they want to take someone down. Of course, it won't be enforced against those whose "connections" are up to date.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

            @doublelayer

            "It is not at all acceptable to have a preinstalled application from a government."

            That may be your view but in Russia, the authorities disagree. As do the Chinese, and if came to it, probably the British.

            But when you live in a country where the authorities can make your life change for the worse at their discretion, whether you're able to root your phone or not is probably the least of your worries.

            1. quxinot Silver badge

              Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

              To be completely honest, I suspect the entire thing is a redirect. Make a big show and a fuss, then back away from the proposed law.

              In the meantime, it's already been done in another form, more quietly--I'd imagine network level, but possibly also at the device itself. And now everyone is more convinced that their phone is 'safe'. Gotcha!

      3. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

        @https://forums.theregister.co.uk/user/1881/

        Most people wouldn't even think to disable them.

        Disabling them or removing them just makes you look suspicious to the average police state cop.

        We noticed in 2002 that we were getting intercepted on peace actions, and decided to leave our phones turned off outside the room when we were planning one. The very fact a bunch of known activists phones were in the one place and simultaneously turned off was an obvious alert to the police.

        This is in a democracy, nobody was killed, just a few careers blacklisted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

          "This is in a democracy, nobody was killed, just a few careers blacklisted."

          Ah yes, by the "good guys".

          Makes you proud to be British...

          1. Benson's Cycle
            Coat

            Re: will the user be able to uninstall Russian made software

            At least these days they can tap your phone without putting a load of whistles and crackles on the line and the volume dropping.

            Mines' the one with the relative being positively vetted in the pocket. I'm putting it on to go down to the call box - not the nearest one - to contact my nonexistent KGB minder.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

    But these sort of ideas are exactly what UK law makers salivate over, as well.

    For your own protection, of course.

    A fully compliant society is a happy society :/

    War is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

      OBEY.

    2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

      You have bad case of whataboutism, have you sought help yet?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

        What's so bad about whataboutism? Where I come from, that's called paranoia, and to quote: "Paranoids are just people with all the facts."

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

          Whataboutism is bad because it very often is a way of getting people to accept the unacceptable.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

            Because often the unacceptable turns out to be the inevitable. I mean, most people hate death, but it happens anyway.

      2. Tomato42 Silver badge

        Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

        for it to be whataboutism it would need to say that it's not bad because the others are doing worse

        while the OP is condemning both governments

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

          Not really. Whataboutism is a cheap arguing tactic that makes one bad thing outweigh any other bad thing committed by the other side. Consider this example using a political campaign:

          Side A: A member of the team, let's call him Bob, is caught taking bribes. That member is fired, but it raises an entirely logical question about why that person wasn't caught earlier and what they might have done.

          Side B: Makes these logical arguments, making people turn against side A.

          Side B: Someone's caught stealing money. They deflect questions with "What about Bob?".

          Side B: Suggests very unpopular idea. Questions deflected with "What about Bob?".

          Side B: Well, it's not technically bribery, but a lot of money went in one side and a preferential decision came out the other side. "What about Bob?".

          Side A: Has completed investigation into Bob's crimes, proven that this was the first time, and Bob's actions had no chance to have an effect. They think their troubles are over.

          Side B: Their candidate seems to have committed fraud a few years ago. "You know, our opposition just released a report on that guy they had taking bribes."

          Side B: Their candidate proposes warrantless access to all communications information at all levels. "Sure, there are questions about how to implement this, but what there isn't a question about is that bribery is wrong. Now, this guy Bob..."

          Bob, not connected to side A anymore: Is given a fine for committing illegal activity.

          Side B: A major supporter of the campaign has been in a complex conflict of interest situation and has thereby gotten millions in dirty money. "They're being investigated, but innocent until proven guilty and all that. Now about this fine that was recently given to Bob..."

          And so on. The reality is that Side B may be much worse than Side A, but the discussion is all about side A because their one incident keeps being brought up. The problem with whataboutism isn't that it's bringing up the original problem, as that deserves discussion. The problem is that all the other things deserve discussion as well, and the issue that may be old and unimportant at that point is preventing that from happening.

          In this case, the new event is Russia's law, which is really bad. Nobody here fully supports the surveillance systems put in place by western governments. But two factors are at play right now. The first is that Russia's law is quite a bit stronger than anything the NSA or GCHQ have managed to get through. The second is that the discussion about the thing that actually happened is being derailed to talk about the things that are already well established or things that don't at the moment exist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

            And that was supposed to make things clearer?!?

            You must be a lawyer.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

            @doublelayer

            FTR what "one bad thing outweighs any other bad thing committed by the other side" are you claiming I was referring to?

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

              Clearly, my attempt at an example failed. I'll try again, attempting to be more concise this time.

              Whataboutism is a cheap way of not answering a question by bringing up some other topic. It is likely that the other topic is worth discussing, but it's only brought up in order to throw discussion off the original question. As an arguing tactic, it's on par with an interviewee who simply refuses to listen to a question and starts talking about something irrelevant, but it's a more subtle version and thus is more often accepted.

              In this case, the comment that got us into this was about western surveillance systems. That's worthy of discussion, and I think we all pretty much agree on our opinions towards it. But nothing specific was mentioned about the systems that connected to the topic under discussion. Instead of talking about the original topic of Russia's new law, or making an effort to compare it to a western system with which there are similarities, the issue of western surveillance was just dropped into the thread. I don't think it was done intentionally to distract us from Russia; I think it was just a comment that didn't include enough context on why it was important, but the effect is to send the discussion off course.

    3. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: I know this is article just part of the anti Russia propaganda

      So it's anti-Russia propaganda for El Reg to report of the decision made in Duma?

      Living in an adjacent country to Russia where a whole lot of Russians are already making daily visits to buy food, clothing, electronics etc - this will just make more citizens to cross borders for their electronics.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least they are upfront

    and transparent, unlike any I.K. government.

    Ishy

  12. Tomato42 Silver badge

    oh, and I'm sure that those apps are perfect in every way (after all, they have been written For The Glory of Motherland), and as such will not expose users of those devices/phones to foreign hacking attempts /s

    well, what can I say, CIA is definitely very happy about it

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just don't forget

    Don't forget to say ni-night to the secret service when you go to bed at night.

  14. bonkers

    What is it with The Register and Apple Inc?

    Guys, can't you just get over it?

    Unthinkable as it might sound, did you piss them off at some point in the past?

    just asking...

    1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge
      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
        Thumb Up

        Re: What is it with The Register and Apple Inc?

        Wow, I hadn't seen that story. Thanks for posting.

        Bit of historic perspective on that story. I just listened to one of Trollope's Palliser novels dramatised on t'wireless yesterday. In which Lady Glencora describes the fearsome power she exercises over Ministers, MPs and other powerful people through their wives, by the threat of striking them off her invitations list. Clearly Apple's behaviour was well-known back in the mid 19th century!

        I suppose in a sense we could trace it back at least two and a half millennia to Λυσιστράτη - though she was perhaps more grass-roots than in the position of established power of Apple or Glencora.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What is it with The Register and Apple Inc?

          Lysistrata literally means "free from war", btw.

          I guess the nearest modern equivalent would be "if you uninstall these apps, citizen, your Pornhub account will be blocked."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What is it with The Register and Apple Inc?

        Entertaining read.

        Short version: Reg Reporter's outrage that his sense of entitlement doesn't trump Big Corp's perceived arrogance.

        Though kudos to Apple for telling a journo to get lost. Repeatedly.

        LOL

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: What is it with The Register and Apple Inc?

      Hmmm, I think you've had a rather good answer. But downvotes just for asking seem a bit harsh!

      Have an upvote for provoking Waseem's brilliant reply (which I already upvoted this morning).

  15. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    Back in the 1990s ...

    Dilbert's D-chip. Wikipedia tells us those have been legally required in the US for twenty years.

    And I didn't even mention DRM.

  16. Grikath
    Devil

    Or...

    In true Russian style, people will simply have the State Phone™ on the cheap, while actually using their other phone, helped along by a healthily thriving black market.

    It's not as if they haven't dealt with stuff like this for decades in the Good Old Days of the USSofR, comrad...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Or...

      Does the black market control the airwaves, too? Pretty sure cell phone providers can positively ID every phone on their network (since they have to be able to pass information to them specifically), so what's to stop Russia exerting control through control of the airwaves, which are theirs to begin with?

  17. Yolorag

    "The Register asked Apple for comment, fully expecting to be ignored. And so far, we've not been disappointed."

    Legendary Apple Keynote denial.

  18. Russ Tarbox

    Came here just to give kudos for the headline and byline.

    Great work.

  19. lotus49

    It will all be fine

    Government mandated apps. What could possibly go wrong?

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