Government Computers Face Anti-Espionage Restrictions

President Vladimir Putin has signed a pair of executive orders designed to protect secrets carried on government computer networks from sabotage by insiders by restricting connections between international and domestic computer networks.

The measures, signed Wednesday, restrict the ability of computers with access to "state or official secrets" to connect with networks that travel outside of the country, a move welcomed by computer security analysts.

Alexander Gostev, senior virus analyst at Kaspersky Computer Security in Moscow, praised the law, which he said contained the type of measures his company would recommend to its own clients.

"Filters might solve the problem of attacks from outside hackers but not the problems posed by insiders," Gostev said.

The decree stipulates that all "information systems, information and telecommunications networks, and computer equipment used to store, process or transmit information that contains state secrets or information from a state agency that contains official secrets," may not operate on networks connected to others that travel outside Russia's borders, according to a copy posted on the Kremlin's web site.

Any government network with access to state secrets seeking to connect to foreign networks must apply for special permission from the Federal Security Services, which will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

If they choose to grant the request, the approved computers will be provided with special encryption software by the FSB.

But despite all the praise, at least one voice questioned the decision.

Anatoly Baranov, editor of online journal Forum-MSK.ru and an adviser to the government on issues of Internet security, attacked the decision as part of what he described as continuing government efforts to restrict freedom of speech on the Internet.

"Everything they're trying to do could be accomplished through the use of ordinary Internet filters," he said. "It's part of this war mentality that our government has."