Russian Security Service wants to move Russian cellphone users to domestic SIM cards

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) proposed to transfer the fifth-generation mobile communications in Russia to domestic SIM cards, Russian cryptography and replace networks equipment, in particular, on base stations from foreign to locally manufactured, reports

According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the initiatives were proposed by the FSB representatives at a meeting of the network infrastructure working group of the Digital Economy project on January 30.

Cryptographic algorithms are used to authorise subscribers, so SIM cards must support these algorithms, explained one of the interlocutors of Vedomosti.

In August 2018, the FSB military unit announced a closed tender for 3 million rubles with a proposal to develop requirements for the IT security of fifth-generation networks based on Russian crypto algorithms, SIM cards and equipment for both subscribers and providers. According to the website of public procurement, the FSB was supposed, to finalise the tender in September, and the winner to complete the research in December 2018.

The FSB has long believed that foreign cryptography and equipment pose risks to national security, and suggests switching to domestic cryptography, recalls Cisco security expert Alexey Lukatsky.

The FSB proposed improvements are very expensive, and it is necessary to assess the real need in order to decide whether to participate in this tender, said the Huawei representative. In order to use Russian crypto algorithms, the equipment of each base station will probably have to be certified according to the requirements of the FSB for encryption tools, explains Lukatsky, it is easier and cheaper to protect only traffic between base stations with Russian cryptography.

If traffic is encrypted between the end devices, he believes that base stations can not be certified, but this option is unrealistic because operators will not be able to fulfill SORM (Russian System for Operative Investigative Activities ) requirements and they will have difficulties with foreign networks. It is unlikely that Russian cryptography will be supported by international SIM standards.

  Russia, Federal Security Service of Russia