Russia is a relatively untapped tech market and U.S. and Western tech companies are routinely sharing sensitive product info with Russian agencies in order to access the market.
Russian officials call for tech companies to give them their source codes for security products like firewalls, anti-virus apps, and encrypted software before allowing these products to be sold in the country.
A Reuters investigation recently revealed that several American/Western firms (from Cisco, IBM, SAP, and more) agreed to give the Russian Federal Security Service their sensitive information.
While a number of U.S. firms say they are playing ball to preserve their entree to Russia’s huge tech market, at least one U.S. firm, Symantec, told Reuters it has stopped cooperating with the source code reviews over security concerns. That halt has not been previously reported.
Symantec said one of the labs inspecting its products was not independent enough from the Russian government.
U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products’ source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions.
From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market. The companies say they only allow Russia to review their source code in secure facilities that prevent code from being copied or altered. (Graphic on source code review process: tmsnrt.rs/2sZudWT)
The demands are being made by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which the U.S. government says took part in the cyber attacks on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the 2014 hack of 500 million Yahoo email accounts. The FSB, which has denied involvement in both the election and Yahoo hacks, doubles as a regulator charged with approving the sale of sophisticated technology products in Russia.