Telecommunication networks in Sochi may have been modified with the intention of letting the FSB monitor virtually all phone and internet traffic in the city during the 2014 Winter Olympics, a news report said Monday.
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan — co-founders and editors of Agentura.ru, a website that covers security issues — said they had examined dozens of records of government equipment purchases via the official procurement website zakupki.gov.ru, and the public records of telecommunication watchdog Roskomnadzor.
They found that phone and Internet networks in Sochi have been retrofitted with a surveillance system, known by its Russian acronym Sorm, which allows the FSB to eavesdrop on phone and data communications in the city, Soldatov and Borogan told The Guardian.
"We found documents showing how the watchdog monitored how properly Sochi's ISPs were installing Sorm; we also found presentation documents about using Sorm at the Games that were drawn up by RNT, a firm tasked by the FSB with developing an information security architecture for Sochi," the journalists wrote.
Technology that would allow users to be identified by certain keywords is also being installed throughout Russia, Soldatov said.
"For example, you can use the keyword Navalny and work out which people in a particular region are using the word Navalny," Soldatov said, referring to opposition leader Alexei Navalny. "Then, those people can be tracked further."
The report also indicates that although the FSB needs to acquire a warrant to intercept a communication, it doesn't have to show it to anyone, which means that it can collect information without providers knowing about it.
Russia has tightened security around Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympics, citing the risk of violence spilling over from the neighboring volatile North Caucasus region, with direct threats being issued by rebels. Insurgency leader Doku Umarov in July ordered his followers to halt the Olympics using "all means permitted by Allah."
However, the an FSB official said last week during a news briefing that surveillance at the London Olympics was far more intrusive than will be the case at Sochi. In London "they even put CCTV cameras in, excuse me for saying it, the toilets," security official Alexei Lavrishchev said. "We are not taking that kind of measure."
The FSB has so far declined to comment on the report by Soldatov and Borogan.