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Security chief warns that foreign spy agencies plotting cyber attacks against Russia

The Russian Security Council chief has warned about potential cyber attacks targeting the vote-counting system ahead of the presidential election

ROSTOV-ON-DON, February 20. /TASS/. Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev has warned foreign intelligence services have stepped up their activity to plot intricate scenarios of cyberattacks against Russia.

"It is noteworthy there has been considerable expansion in the range of tasks pursued by foreign computer intelligence services," Patrushev told a conference devoted to cybersecurity matters. "Sophisticated scenarios are being devised and implemented of using IT software and hardware aimed at obtaining information circulating in the information and telecommunications networks and information systems of Russia’s critical information infrastructures.

Three mass encrypting virus attacks disabled over 500,000 computers in Russia in 2017, he said. "In 2017, three incidents of the mass infiltration of malware encrypting user data occurred," the security chief said.

"The attacks disabled over half a million of computers, including at the facilities of Russia’s IT structure. The viruses infected the information systems of Russia’s Interior Ministry and the companies Rosneft and Evraz," Patrushev said. 

Patrushev said that Russia in general had gained a firmer foothold in the field of forming a system of international information security. At the same time he criticized the situation in the Southern Federal District, where information resources in his opinion were highly vulnerable to spying.

Possible attack during presidential election

Patrushev has warned about possible cyber attacks against the national automated vote-counting system GAS Vybory ahead of the upcoming presidential polls.

"Ahead of the presidential election in Russia, we expect that the number of political, economic and information actions will grow," he said.

According to the Russian security chief, cyber attacks might be targeted against the GAS Vybory vote-counting system. He demanded security precautions be properly observed when connecting databases to computer networks of general use, first of all, to the internet. He also stressed the necessity to pay special attention to issues of observing constitutional guarantees and election rights and safeguarding public security during the election campaign.

Patrushev spoke about a serious threat posed by regional and local officials using foreign services of Google and Yahoo for work purposes.

"Regional and local officials using information and telecommunications resources located outside the Russian Federation - Google, Yahoo, and others - to solve work issues, carries a serious threat. This is a systemic issue for Russia in general, but it is particularly serious in the Southern Federal District," he said.

According to Patrushev, in a majority of regional government authorities, information protection laws "are still formal in nature". He noted that a large number of information systems raises the issue of centralized control over them. According to him, a special unified system is planned in the District.