Posted 22 июня 2023,, 06:45

Published 22 июня 2023,, 06:45

Modified 22 июня 2023,, 07:10

Updated 22 июня 2023,, 07:10

Foreign messengers are banned: what threatens WhatsApp and Telegram users?

Foreign messengers are banned: what threatens WhatsApp and Telegram users?

22 июня 2023, 06:45
Ирина Мишина
The Federation Council approved the law on administrative responsibility for civil servants, state-owned companies and banks for the transfer of personal information using foreign messengers. Where and how can foreign messengers be used now and who will be fined for it?


For the using of a foreign messenger — a fine of up to 700 thousand

… It all started a few weeks ago, when Russian officials were obliged to switch to the new VK messenger, which the company developed specifically for civil servants. It was no longer possible to conduct working correspondence in the usual Telegram and WhatsAp. The new messenger works both on gadgets and computers, among the functions are audio and video calls, corporate mail and calendar, file storage. The fact that such an order was given by the Ministry of Finance, «NI» was confirmed in the office of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko.

Actually, in Russian schools, teachers were transferred to the VKontakte messenger a year ago. When asked how convenient it is, everyone throws up their hands: «What should I do?».

Now the turn has come to more radical measures. From now on, state organizations and banks will be responsible for messages containing personal data, financial information, as well as for connecting information systems for money transfers to foreign messengers. Fines from 30 thousand rubles to 700 thousand rubles are provided.

Roskomnadzor classifies nine messengers as foreign: Discord, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Snapchat, Telegram, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp (owned by Meta Corporation, recognized in Extremist and banned in Russia) and Chinese WeChat.
The bill was submitted to the Duma by a group of deputies headed by Deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Information Policy Anton Gorelkin. As the author of the bill explained, civil servants will be able to continue using foreign messengers for personal purposes and sometimes for work communication, but they will be prohibited from providing state or municipal services, as well as performing state orders and municipal tasks through these resources. According to the deputy, the bill is needed, among other things, in order to «shift the emphasis» towards domestic alternative platforms.

«We are talking about using them [messengers] to transfer payment documents and personal data when providing state and municipal services, performing state or municipal tasks, selling goods and services by banks and state—owned companies, » the press service of the lower house of parliament clarified to NI.

What can't be transmitted via messengers?

Why was all this done? And is it true that everyone will now be fined for using foreign messengers? With this question, we turned to the initiator of the bill, Anton Gorelkin.

«I've written about it many times, but I still get questions like „why are you banning WhatsApp?“ and „Is it true that the use of Telegram will be fined?“ There will be, but only those who will begin to deeply integrate these and other foreign messengers into their work processes related to the turnover of personal data and financial information. Civil servants will not be allowed to do this as part of a state order or a municipal task. And financial organizations are prohibited from connecting foreign messengers to their information systems. Any other communication of civil servants or bank employees in foreign messengers, including for work purposes, is not prohibited. Accordingly, they will not be punished for this either. But personally, I have long stopped sending any documents to WhatsApp and Telegram — instead I use VK Messenger», — explained the initiator of the bill, Deputy Anton Gorelkin.

Now let's list the main prohibitions for financial and credit organizations. They are not allowed to use foreign messengers for:

➜ Transfer of payment documents
➜ Providing information containing personal data of Russians
➜ Transmission of data on money transfers for non-cash payments
➜ Transfer of information necessary for making payments and information about accounts and deposits of Russian citizens in banks
➜ Carrying out various forms of non-cash payments

Banks are also prohibited from integrating their services into the infrastructure of foreign messengers. For example, to create chatbots that will have access to financial information of Russians. For violations of these prohibitions, the fine for officials can range from 30 thousand to 50 thousand rubles, for legal entities — from 100 thousand to 700 thousand rubles.

How will digital import substitution turn out?

As the authors of the law explain, its main task is to develop domestic messaging solutions, attract corporate users and mass consumers to them. At least, the deputies explain it this way.

«We are following the path of creating a sovereign Russian information space in connection with the current geopolitical situation. My bill banning state institutions from using foreign providers is under consideration in the State Duma, » Ernest Valeev, First Deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Security and Anti—Corruption, told NI. — It is not right when the resources of the state are in non-friendly states. In addition, we need to promote our hardware complexes. Currently, state and municipal institutions have already installed their own hardware software complexes. For example, this is the Aurora complex. In terms of information security, a lot is being done now».

As the Information Security Committee of the State Duma explained to us, modern messengers are no longer just messaging programs. Developing, they have acquired functions for voice communication, video transmission, conferences, publishing texts and studying public opinion. The next step is the integration of financial instruments, marketplaces and city services.

«And the business that will be interested in this will begin to develop its solutions, thereby investing in the development of the platform. We are interested in ensuring that foreigners do not have the advantages at this stage. For Russian businesses to open their marketplaces and financial services based on Russian messengers. And thereby increased their competitiveness, — Deputy Anton Gorelkin believes. — I will emphasize: no one forbids all these messengers to Russian citizens, they can still be used at their own risk. Restrictions are imposed only for state and financial organizations and only within the framework of the performance of official tasks».

The Duma's information security committee also suggested that the list of RCN will soon be replenished with several more items: for example, Facebook* Messenger (owned by Meta Corporation, recognized in Extremist and banned in Russia) or iMessage. Therefore, Russian companies that still want to use messengers for work are advised to focus on Russian developments. You can search for something in the registry of Russian software or the marketplace of the Ministry of Finance. However, the category «messengers» is not there yet…

What are the prospects for all these bans and the creation of their own Russian messengers?

«In my opinion, the question is not about „foreignness“, but about the security of a particular security channel», — said Karen Ghazaryan, Director General of the Institute for Internet Research, Chief Analyst of the RAEC. — When interacting with a bank, for example, you should not use any messenger, as this is a third-party program. And in general, it is necessary to talk first of all about the information security of state institutions, this is much more relevant. And as for the employees, they will still use messengers as before, the law will not affect all this much. Half of the officials, as far as I know, correspond in the old-fashioned way in WhatsApp and Telegram. But everyone should assess the risks themselves».

For some reason, a funny analogy came to mind. Once upon a time, in the distant 90s, Russian officials were transplanted from foreign cars to domestic Volga cars by the order of one deputy Prime Minister in order to support the domestic manufacturer. But the statesmen traveled on them, I remember, for a very short time…