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Russia gains control over the Belarusian Internet

Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

The Lukashenko regime has initiated the establishment of a cybersecurity center in collaboration with a Russian company associated with Russian intelligence services.

A new threat is emerging for our country in the form of the gradual transfer of the national segment of the Internet under the control of a neighboring state.

On February 14th of last year, Lukashenko signed the so-called Decree No. 40 "On Cyber Security," which outlines the creation of a National Cyber Security Center and similar centers throughout Belarus.

According to an order from the Operational Analytical Center under Lukashenko, dated November 11, 2023, the Cyber Security Center, established at the National Traffic Exchange Center, became the first certified structure of its kind in the country.

Just a month prior, the National Traffic Exchange Center (NCOT) and the Russian IT company Positive Technologies signed a memorandum of cooperation to jointly develop cybersecurity in Belarus.

Under this cooperation, concerted efforts are expected to focus on "enhancing the number of highly qualified information security experts and raising awareness among Belarusian companies about protection against cyber threats."

What kind of company is Positive Technologies, with which NCOT has embarked on such close cooperation?

As early as 2021, before the full-scale invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, Positive Technologies was subjected to American sanctions. Why? The reason is simple - the company provided support to Russian government organizations and hosted forums on practical security, where employees of Russian intelligence services could recruit hackers. This information was reported to the world by the American edition of Forbes several years ago. The Russian IT company also gained notoriety for trading technologies that could be employed to compromise organizations and individuals worldwide.

Following the commencement of Russia's war against Ukraine, Positive Technologies became subject to the 11th package of EU sanctions announced on June 23, 2023. Subsequently, in November 2023, Positive Technologies found itself on Ukraine's sanctions list as well.

And now, this company has entered the Belarusian market. It has not only entered but has also gained access to NCOT – one of two monopolistic providers in Belarus, through which all other providers purchase traffic to access the Internet outside Belarus. In other words, it has gained access to an organization that essentially manages the Belarusian Internet.

Let us recall that NCOT was established by a specialized agency – the OAC. This agency was directly involved in the internet shutdown in August 2020. Now, Lukashenko is granting Russia access to this "switch," this control mechanism of the Belarusian Internet.

The objectives of the Lukashenko regime, within its understanding of "cybersecurity," are clear – to monitor and exert maximum control over every step and action of Belarusian citizens. Additionally, they aim to organize cyber attacks, as was recently witnessed against the resources of democratic forces. It is worth noting that this attack occurred concurrently with Russia's cyber attack on Ukraine.

What are Russia's goals concerning Belarusian cybersecurity? To take control of it. And this process has already begun, with Lukashenko acting as the "guarantor of sovereignty."

“The guarantor”, actually, should also think about the implications. Someday, the Internet "switch" in Belarus may be turned off again. However, Lukashenko will no longer have control over this process. Moreover, the target of this shutdown may very well be Lukashenko himself.


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