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Russian Web site fights government monitoring effort

Levenchuk publishes details of a reported new Russian secret police project called SORM  
August 11, 1998
Web posted at: 12:31 p.m. EDT (1631 GMT)

From Correspondent Mike Hanna

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Anatoly Levenchuk, who fears the Russian government has plans to monitor all Internet traffic in the country, is fighting back.

On his own site, the Web-savvy Muscovite has published details of what he says is a new Russian secret police project known as SORM -- system for ensuring investigative activity.

Levenchuk calls it the Russian Internet wiretap project. "I'm afraid that this is (a) return back to Big Brother," he told CNN.

His Web site -- mostly in Russian but with a separate section written in English -- also includes an image of a bear, Russia's national symbol, dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Mike Hanna reports on one man fighting for an unmonitored Internet
Windows Media 28K 56K

As Levenchuk explains it, SORM would compel all Internet service providers (ISPs) in Russia to construct a dedicated link to the government's FSB security agency, formerly the KGB.

This theoretically would enable the police to monitor the Internet activity of each and every individual in Russia.

Fighting hackers?

The FSB won't comment on the project. But at its academy, where would-be spies learn their trade, a new subject has been introduced to the curriculum: the study of new information technologies and, in particular, how to ensure the security of data on government and corporate computers.

SORM Internet page
Internet page detailing SORM -- Russian Internet wiretap project  

"Hackers have appeared who try illegally to enter information networks. They should be stopped," says an FSB officer.

"In fact ... we spotted a few of these hackers and they were stopped," he adds.

While unwilling to appear on camera to discuss SORM, some ISP officials have confirmed that discussions on the matter are being held with the secret police.

It's been only a few years since the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, so the concept of freedom is difficult for most Russians to understand, says Levenchuk.

On his Web site, he is attempting to explain what freedom really is. To do that, he's using the same information highway the authorities reportedly want to police.

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