The roots and current state of the Russian FSB security and  intelligence service

Once upon a time, during the cold war, the name KGB was very well known around the world. It took care for every aspect of intelligence the soviet leaders needed. Including, but not limited to scientific intelligence, operative intelligence, military intelligence and not in the last place – the political assassinations needed. Many people in the Soviet Union feared the name. After the end of the cold war, KGB was transformed, some of the most feared agencies were shutdown, and new agency was created to take care of international and internal “problems” – the FSB – Federalnaia Slujba Bezopasnosti, or Federal Security Service. It inherited many of the structures of the old KGB security service, created some new, and with the time its structure became even bigger and with more people working in or for it than its predecessor. With the emerging local conflicts the FSB grew again, and as it is now very big service with more everyday information work, it became very interesting potential client for many software manufacturers around the world, as a deal with it would be a great thing in the time of worldwide economical crisis.

The interesting piece of news

In an interesting press release from Microsoft stated that they reached an agreement with the scientific and research center “Atlas” to give it access to core source files for Windows 7, Widnows Server 2008, Microsoft Office Suite 2010 and Microsoft SQL database engine. This was kind of a surprise as “Atlas” is basically a department of the FSB, doing its technical researches, and developing new technologies to be used in the day to day “work” of the agency. It is explainable though, because any intelligence agency around the world would like to have absolute certainty over the software it uses. As you can see the pieces of software mentioned are the newest Microsoft business applications, and given the state of the client, it may decide to sacrifice some knowledge and gain big profit – after all, if the whole government agency decides to purchase Windows 7 along with Office 2010, the rice will be pretty good, and in times of crisis, no company can allow to miss such opportunity.

Of course FSB can decide to go another way – rework Linux OS to maker it suitable and bulletproof, as the US NSA did, but this is time consuming and costly job. Such approach will require many full time skillful programmers doing full time source rewriting. Also some maintenance related problems may arise – Linux is not the most administrator friendly operation system in the world, requiring new specialist to be trained – not an easy task, knowing the specifics of the day to day work in such institution.

Given the past experience of FSB using only Microsoft based products in their “office” day to day work, it may be the best decision for both sides to stick with each other anyway.