Russia is one of the most advanced cyber states, but according to the media President Vladimir Putin ‘s personal PC is apparently still running Win XP.
The news is curious and it probably has little real if not the fact that Vladimir Putin is not a super cyber security expert, although he knows its importance very well.
According to the Russian website Open Media, President Putin’s computers in his office at the Kremlin office and at his official residence are still running Windows XP, which reached the end-of-life in 2014.
Open Media is an opposition-friendly, independent Russian news website.
Nowadays it is a suicide to use a computer running Windows XP because the OS doesn’t receive security updates and it is quite easy to find working exploits online.
We have also to consider that Windows XP was designed with security requirements that are not effective against current cyber threats.
Open Media pointed out that that Windows XP is the last operating system developed by Microsoft that was approved by the Kremlin for use on official Russian government computers. Microsoft Windows 10 is only allowed only for government systems that don’t manage secret information.
“Windows XP, released in 2001, was the last Microsoft operating system given the green light for use on official Russian government computers, the Open Media website reported, citing defence ministry documents.” reads the post published by The Guardian. “The more recent Windows 10 is only approved for devices that do not contain state secrets – something that would not seem to apply to Putin’s computers.”
The Russian Government plans to gradually phase out Microsoft and Google on government computers and replace them with Russia’s Astra Linux operating system.
In June, the Russian military announced it was in the process of replacing the Windows system with the Linux distribution Astra Linux .
Astra Linux is a Debian-based distro developed in Russia by the Scientific/Manufacturing Enterprise Rusbitech RusBITech about ten years ago.
The Astra Linux distribution was initially used only by private companies, later Russian government agencies started using it after it was certified to handle classified information.
In 2019, the Russian Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEC) granted Astra Linux the security clearance of “special importance.” This level of authorization allows the use of the Linux OS in Russian Government offices with the highest standards of data privacy and the highest degree of secrecy.
The certification was granted for Astra Linux Special Edition version 1.6, (aka Smolensk).
The adoption of the Astra Linux distro in the Government environments will allow reducing costs security verification used by the Russian armed forces. Software and hardware qualification remain a crucial problem for almost any government that fear the possible presence of hidden backdoors.
In the past, Russian Army officials raised concerns about the possible presence of hidden backdoors in the Windows operating system installed by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The announcement of a move to Astra OS was made in January 2018 by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Recently, Russia successfully concluded a series of tests for its RuNET, aimed at country disconnection from the Internet.
The exercises aimed at testing and ensuring the integrity and the security of Russia’s Internet infrastructure, so-called RuNet.
The tests were conducted over the past two weeks, the simulation saw the involvement of the country agencies and Internet Service Providers.
The tests were carried out over multiple days, starting last week, and involved Russian government agencies, local internet service providers, and local Russian internet companies.
“The Russian Communications Ministry said on December 23 that the drills were aimed at ensuring the “integrity” of the Internet.” reads a post published by RadioLiberty.
“The purpose of the task is to ensure the reliable operation of the Internet in Russia in any conditions and under any circumstances,” said Aleksei Sokolov, deputy communications minister, in televised remarks on December 23 from the Monitoring and Cyber Threat Response Center.”
The Russian experts tested the RuNet in a scenario that sees it disconnected from the Internet where the Internet traffic was re-routed internally.
The Russian authorities did not reveal the type of tests conducted on its infrastructure, it is only known that the experts also simulated a cyber attack from a foreign state-actor that forced the country from disconnecting from the Internet.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, did not comment on the news of Putin ‘s computers running Windows XP operating system.
“It’s unclear how great a threat Putin’s use of Windows XP poses to Kremlin cyber security: the ex-KGB officer is said to be an irregular user of the internet, which he has previously called a “CIA project”. The predecessor of the internet was the Arpanet, which was founded by the US Department of Defense.” concludes The Guardian.
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