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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 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, 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.