RUSSIAN SECURITY COMPANIES have been given the green light to hack messaging services including Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp following the adoption of a controversial anti-terrorism measure known as Yarovaya Law.
A report in Russian newspaper Kommersant said that Russian security outfit Con Certeza, which works closely with the country's law enforcement agencies, has developed various tools to crack encrypted communications.
The tools will enable the agencies not just to decrypt and read the traffic, but to deploy man-in-the-middle attacks against users.
Russian law requires all communications companies to retain information about data traffic for three years and to hand over decryption keys to encrypted traffic on request.
Kommersant reported two weeks ago that Russia's Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is building a system that will be able to decode all internet traffic in, or traversing, Russia in real time. The system can scan the traffic by keywords, according to the report.
The Russian government's plans were revealed just a week after it was claimed that Israeli security software company Wintego has already developed an application called CatchApp that is capable of breaking the encryption protecting WhatsApp communications.
Details of the application are sketchy, but it appears to work via a man-in-the-middle-style attack in which the traffic is intercepted between the target device and WhatsApp's servers.
Wintego claimed that its software works with the latest versions of WhatsApp, although it's unclear whether Wintego has cracked the company's most recent cryptographic upgrades.
The claims were made by the company in sales brochures leaked to Forbes, but the brochures appear to be more than a year old.
WhatsApp only started encrypting its traffic in 2014 following an outcry over the lack of security provided by the otherwise popular and widely used app. The company was taken over by Facebook for $1.5bn in February 2014 and reached one billion users in February this year.
Facebook, meanwhile, has been criticised for changes to terms and conditions that enable the company to integrate WhatsApp identities with Facebook, effectively giving the social media site access to even more personal information.
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