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Russia can listen to phone calls and read messages - here's how

(Image credit: Image Credit: Flickr / Matt Reinbold)

Newly uncovered, classified information, has shed more light on how the Russian government taps into its citizens' phone calls and messages. In an exclusive report, Tech Crunch says that a Nokia employee, who maintained the hardware necessary to keep the surveillance (opens in new tab)going, exposed the files by connecting a USB file with old work documents to his home computer.

Given that his computer wasn't properly configured, the data was made accessible via the internet, without necessary authentication.

According to the report, the Russian government, together with Nokia, used large hardware, sometimes the size of a washing machine, to make surveillance possible.

This type of surveillance (opens in new tab), however, is legal in Russia, and it's called “lawful intercept”. It’s also legal (and exercised) in other countries, including the UK and the US. It’s usually used by law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism and to conduct other investigations. All telecoms companies need to comply with these laws or face fines and penalties.

The problem with Russia, however, is that there are doubts the country would use this advantage legally, and not to break fundamental human rights.

“The companies will always say that with lawful interception, they’re complying with the rule of law,” said Adrian Shahbaz, research director for technology and democracy at Freedom House, a civil liberties and rights watchdog. “But it’s clear when you look at how Russian authorities are using this type of apparatus that it goes far beyond what is normal in a democratic society.”

Nokia claims its tech is used to “respond to interception requests on targeted individuals received from the legal authority through functionality in our solutions.”

The full report can be found on this link (opens in new tab).

Sead Fadilpašić
Sead Fadilpašić

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.