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Press review: Washington’s latest proposal on Syria and cyberattacks on Russian banks

December 07, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, December 7
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© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

 

Izvestia: Cyber security experts to run hacking vulnerability test on Russian officials’ messengers

Russian anti-hacking specialists will test the vulnerability of civil servants’ messengers to cyber-attacks, Izvestia writes on Wednesday citing Russia’s Institute of Internet Development (IID). Experts say it is dangerous for officials to use this service without carrying out security checks.

The institute has already chosen 13 messengers to undergo tests in regional government bodies and the checks are expected to be completed by January 2017. To ensure security, all participants will be examined by cyber security specialists and the messenger itself will be integrated into an antivirus program developed by the Kaspersky Lab, according to the newspaper.

"Experts of several major players on the market of information security and countering cyber threats suggest fulfilling a concept of active information security in a state messenger. This model consists of an efficient antivirus and a series of checks into the vulnerability to cyber-attacks and cryptography system," said Arseniy Scheltsin, who is the director of IID’s projects.

If the antivirus program is introduced on a commercial basis, the final price of the program for state bodies will grow, the founder of one of the messengers told the paper.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia blasts Washington’s latest proposal on Syria

The United States has withdrawn its initiative on settling the crisis in Syria’s Aleppo in a move seen by Moscow as an attempt to "buy time" for the terrorists remaining in the eastern part of the city, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The previous document, presented by the US in Rome, aimed at pulling out the militants from eastern Aleppo and a gradual establishment of a ceasefire, was dropped by the US Department of State a couple of days before the expert-level consultations in Geneva.

Leonid Isaev, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science at the Higher School of Economics, said over the past several months Washington has had no a strategy whatsoever for Aleppo. "That’s why they have nothing to offer for us." The US can reach a compromise with Moscow, but not with official Damascus, the expert said. "Even if we stopped supporting it, the regime would nevertheless take Aleppo with the help of its own forces. There can be no influence on it here."

Moscow’s attempts to reach an agreement with the US on the routes for the militants’ withdrawal are probably aimed at reducing anti-Russian criticism, but this is not expected to yield any result. "These accusations are part of a propaganda campaign," said Boris Dolgov, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The expert hoped that this campaign may lose steam as soon as the new US administration takes the reins.

 

Izvestia: Ukraine to scrap blacklists of Russians for Eurovision Song Contest

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is currently in talks with Ukraine’s authorities and also the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTU) on eliminating blacklists of Russian performers during the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, who are barred from entering the country, Izvestia writes.

The EBU, the largest international alliance of public service media entities, told the paper that Ukraine will have to comply with the generally accepted rules and won’t create obstacles in broadcasting the song contest for Russian TV channels and accreditation for Russia mass media representatives.

Ukraine’s authorities, including the Culture Ministry, have drawn up several blacklists for Russians, which have been expanded several times, the paper writes. Besides, Russian mass media outlets may face problems as two Russian-Ukrainian agreements were torn up at Kiev’s initiative.

A member of a working group of the Eurovision’s committee, Timur Miroshnichenko, said the rupture of agreements between Russia and Ukraine is unlikely to create obstacles for broadcast or accreditation of Russian mass media outlets. "The accreditation will be through the EBU. It is just temporarily based in Kiev. There should not be any problems."

Former head of the National Television Company of Ukraine, Zurab Alasaniya, told the paper that Ukraine may be unable to complete all the preparations for hosting the song contest, which will be visited by tens of thousands of guests from around the world in May.

 

Vedomosti: Russia’s financial regulator instructs nation’s banks on how to fend off cyberattacks

The main department of Russia’s Central Bank for the Central Federal District has sent notifications to banks with recommendations on how to prevent cyberattacks following a warning issued earlier this month by the Federal Security Service. Vedomosti writes that the regulator has asked the banks to provide themselves with liquidity.

Besides, the Central Bank requested that banks inform it swiftly if clients massively withdraw money from their accounts or if any negative information is disseminated in mass media outlets, social networks, or by SMS.

"I don’t remember that the Central Bank had earlier advised banks to provide themselves with liquidity. Apparently, the threat of cyberattacks remains," a member of the bank management said.

No attacks have been recorded by the banks, except for the VTB, which reported about a weak DoS (denial-of-service) attack on the websites of its group. The banks briefed by Vedomosti have not encountered these problems. "We do not see any abnormal growth in activity on withdrawing money, that’s why we think that the preventive measures on increasing liquidity in branches are redundant," a representative of the SMP bank said.

"For an average Russian bank to collapse due to the lack of liquidity, it would have to lose more than 25% of its clients’ funds within a short time," Alexander Danilov, an analyst at Fitch Ratings, said. But this is a huge outflow that may take place only as a result of significant stress on the economy, or the financial system, or due to problems in the bank, or negative information about it in mass media," he explained.

 

RBC: Russian jewelers in ring of troubles

Russia’s jewelry exports dropped 46% over nine months of 2016, year-on-year, to $89 mln, RBC writes, citing the Federal Customs Service. This amounts to a decrease from 77.8 to 21 tonnes. The tapped markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are undergoing a crisis, and the entry to other markets is impeded by expensive loans and red tape.

Gold jewelry exports are facing the worst crisis. Eduard Utkin, CEO of the Russian Jewelers Guild, said jewelry production in Russia has almost halved since early 2016. Amid the crisis and falling purchasing power among Russia’s consumers, manufacturers cannot have major circulating funds or loans and this is a necessary condition for operation on foreign markets, he said.

Many wholesale deals are reached at exhibitions, Utkin said. However, under Russian legislation a manufacturer first has to bring the items back to Russia and only then supply them to a partner under a contract after undergoing customs procedures. This takes around a month. No major foreign retailer is ready to wait so long, he added.

The exports of jewelry to Russia also fell in three quarters of 2016 by 11%, according to the Federal Customs Service. Russia’s imports of gold and silver jewelry dropped 10% and 3%, respectively, according to the Russian Assay Chamber. Due to the ruble’s devaluation, Sunlight switched to the products of Russian manufacturers, the company’s Director General Alexei Konovalov said.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press reviews

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