FSB General: ''A war begins not with nuclear or missile strikes but information attacks''

Alexander Mikhailov expresses his opinion about the presidential doctrine on information security, ''spies'' in the pockets of the officials and the risks of ''Big Brother's'' attacks

FSB General: ''A war begins not with nuclear or missile strikes but information attacks''
Photo: oficery.ru

On 6 December, the official portal of the legal information of the Russian Federation published a new security doctrine of the Russian Federation approved by the decree of Vladimir Putin on 5 December 2016. The last document on this subject of 2000 has been repealed. At the request of Realnoe Vremya, a member of the Council on foreign and defence policy of the Russian Federation, reserved General Major of FSB Alexander Mikhailov gave his assessment of information threats to Russia, its defense, economy, and individual citizens.

Computers as a source of information for enemies

The information security doctrine is a very important document. The president has set the records straight. It contains the main tasks to combat information warfare and attacks on the Russian Federation in a very broad sense of the word — from equipping with own not only software but also component base. Because today, in fact, our entire life is built on foreign devices: computers, iPhones, iPads, phones and so on. But we, the Russians, are absolutely dependent on them, even not thinking about when the information from our devices is read without our participation and consent.

By and large, we can't affect the software purchased from foreign manufacturers. Therefore, whether we like it or not, but with current technology, our computers, as well as smartphones, are a source of information for intruders. But it's not the most important. Despite all efforts, a large number of our government agencies use overseas software, as a consequence, they are transparent and vulnerable to the attacks. I have noticed that modern war will not begin with nuclear or missile strikes but with information attacks in the first place. It also allows to paralyse the system of governance, livelihood, credit and banking system in a country… And even if they are not followed by the missile attacks, the loss can be not just tangible but irreparable. The United States has already created cyber troops ready for such attacks.

In fact, foreign manufacturers when selling us their software also give keys to it. However, modern technologies allow to form software in such way that it is impossible to exclude the integration of certain information and software bugs that can, for example, simultaneously switch off all devices operating on foreign software, or to incapacitate the whole system of information provision in a country.

''By and large, we can't affect software purchased from foreign manufacturer''. Photo: alterozoom.com

Almost all gadgets in Russia are vulnerable

The new doctrine suggests a solution of a large number of these problems. The first problem — the creation of own software and own database. Eventually, we will have to switch to it. After all, the West is constantly changing their software, demanding more and more new devices that can support their programs. Even at the household level. A classic example: a new game with new parameters is released, a consumer is forced to buy a new computer because an old one can't operate normally with that new program. We even at our own home are constantly in a state of this race. In the result, which is no secret for anybody, almost all gadgets in Russia, from the point of view of information security, are vulnerable. Laptops and phones, and other equipment. In general, all devices that have a self-contained power supply.

Why are the Americans switching to undismantled phones? In this case, you won't even be able to remove the battery and all the time you will be under ''Big Brother's'' supervision. At any time, to your computer, phone (even turned off but with the battery in) they will be able to connect and covertly take the information, not only audio but also video information.

A rush for modern devices has led to the fact that even high-ranking officials in the pursuit of prestige and fashion have begun to use foreign analogues, software and different really vulnerable devices by actually carrying 'spies' in their pockets. Someone else's ear and someone else's eyes… So we will reach a situation when criminals will have a whole arsenal of tools for extracting the information (they have money), including from the phones of employees of internal affairs bodies and special services. And it's not just about wiretapping but background information: for example, an operative agent is sitting in a car and talking to colleagues, and those against whom he is working are tapping him. I am convinced that soon there will be a compact device that will allow you to determine even the appearance in an area of private security, private space of new devices and their activation, and ideally they will be able to intercept a signal from these devices. It is not a primitive scanner but specially adapted one.

Today this doctrine provides these things. Even in a declarative manner, but this is enough for each of these items to develop a separate program for implementation of the doctrine of national security. Yes, there have been attempts to prohibit the officials to use WhatsApp and other networks, which servers are not located in Russia. But, by and large, many of them are not going to refuse them. This resource is too convenient. We don't have our own yet. Yes, in all honesty, we are not living in the stone age. And information exchange is only quickening. And it is because all the prohibitions were only at the level of administrative documents of internal character. The doctrine also allows to adopt regulations and amendments to the laws governing these issues.

''Yes, there have been attempts to prohibit the officials to use WhatsApp and other networks, which servers are not located in Russia. But, by and large, many of them are not going to refuse from them. This resource is too convenient.'' Photo: bnews.kz

The weapons of a coup — information

The information security issue is connected not only with that this information must be protected. You can use the information base to conduct your offensive operations. This is also a very important point. In brief, we should understand the following. A modern war will begin primarily in the information sphere, and, in fact, it is already underway. Its characteristics can be an emergence of a large number of materials of extremist nature, and the individual impact on the Russian citizens through information channels and networks. Missile or air strikes may even not be required — it is enough to create such atmosphere in society in terms of information that will lead to a change of the existing order. The same as during the ''yellow" and ''orange'' revolutions. It is first.

The second very serious issue: this document provides not only protection of the credit and banking system, the state information in the military sphere, in the economic, military-technical, but most importantly — information protection of the rights and freedoms of the citizens. By and large, all these social networks lead to the fact that all of our information initially is on the other side. When the servers are abroad, they do not need to study people through agents — we ourselves put all the information on someone else's network.

The doctrine has an interesting point — 27 ''d'': ''ensuring the protection of citizens against information threats, including through the creation of a culture of personal information security.'' People themselves publish almost everything from the menu to personal accounts. At the same time, the representatives of government agencies in some regions very loosely relate to the culture of personal information security. On the contrary, they encourage publishing of materials that may pose a threat to a specific person. For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation always advances some strange initiatives which, in the opinion of the officials, will change the attitude to the police. They regularly hold idiotic action for posting on the websites of not only photos the officers themselves but also of their relatives. That's what it means, not having an operational school, to be engaged in the information systems! Ignorance and adventurism. People who do not realise that the risk of such games is endangering people who risking their lives. And then there's the mothers, children… It's a complete disgrace! Well, how can an investigator who conducts serious business, constantly faces with the attempts of the collapse of criminal cases and blackmail, suddenly puts on display a photo with his mother…

The refrain of this document is to protect the rights and interests of the citizens

So, the doctrine is a very necessary document, but a little late. We should have adopted it before we these colour revolutions began. But, on the other hand, now we have a direct indication of the state order for the development of new devices and own software, the control over the information space. In order all of the resources that we use, from banking to social networks, were on the territory of the Russian Federation. Besides, the doctrine solves some disputes about the Yarovaya package. Because here, the main refrain of this document is to protect the rights and legitimate interests of the citizens, their privacy and the inadmissibility of the information disclosure, which today, unfortunately, we are most afraid of.

Meanwhile, a huge number of public officials in the country continue to enjoy the gadgets, do working calls, without thinking whom they give access to their service information. The vector has been directed towards the exclusive use of certified equipment, not allowing to take the information and to listen it. And this moment will have to be adjusted. I think a political decision will correspond to each of the points of the doctrine.

''The main refrain of this document is to protect the rights and legitimate interests of the citizens, their privacy and the inadmissibility of the information disclosure, which today, unfortunately, we are most afraid of.'' Photo: ribalych.ru

This document gives attention to clearly identified aspirations of enemies to our information flows, trying to steer them in the best direction… One of those flows is the media. In fact, the doctrine calls to conduct not only defensive but also offensive operations from the point of view of the media. And the media, unfortunately, very often take a wait and see position, based on traditional mass communications. But such offensive position in regard to key issues not just a little, it's just inefficient. So we need to go on the offensive, in the format of effective cooperation of not only the media but also the society, its active part. There should be a brand new, modern system of influence, which excludes a direct effect on specific people.

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper