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Nokia Leaves Russia, but the Surveillance System Remains

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Since the beginning of March, Nokia has announced a halt to sales in Russia, but it appears to have left behind a network of surveillance equipment and software. And according to the New York Times , he would have played an essential role in the Kremlin’s cyber espionage . Even if the company denies any direct involvement.

Nokia leaves Russia but surveillance remains

According to the New York Times , when Nokia stopped sales in Russia it did not mention an important aspect. In other words, that ” he was leaving behind: equipment and software that connect the government’s most powerful digital surveillance tool to the nation’s largest telecommunications network “.

The reference is to the SORM (Investigative Assessment System). A Kremlin network capable of tracking bank payments but also intercepting communications, from faxes to emails to calls. Born in 1995, over the years the FSB secret service has modernized it, even controlling social media and online browsing. It is also used by the presidential police SBP and the federal police FSO , which recently targeted Putin’s opponent Aleksei Navalny.

According to the Times, Nokia allegedly provided equipment and services to connect SORM to Russian telecom giant, MTS. And according to Time, he helped to ” plan, optimize and solve the connection problems of the Sorm system to the M TS network”, aware that he was “enabling the Russian surveillance system”.

While analyzing over 2TB of emails, contracts and licenses, the Times concluded that Nokia was ‘ essential’ to the operation. And in return he “got hundreds of millions of dollars “.

Update: Nokia’s response

Nokia responded to what the New York Times published with a press release, in which it made clear that

“Nokia does not manufacture, install or support SORM equipment or systems. Any allusion in this regard is not correct “.

He also explained that he is “one of several network infrastructure providers that have supplied the Russian market. The article claims that Nokia networks play an active role in enabling SORM equipment. This is incorrect. Like any other network infrastructure provider, Nokia is required to ensure that the network products sold have the passive ability to interface with law enforcement interception equipment. This is governed by internationally recognized standards, as well as local regulations.”

Finally, Nokia makes it known that “Despite numerous requests from Nokia , the documents on which the New York Times allegedly based its article have not been provided”. However, the NYT confirmed to Nokia that the documents are the same as published by a TechCrunch article in 2019. And as at the time, they do not show a direct link to the SORM equipment.

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