The Russian ICC (IV): A bit of history: FAPSI

fapsiWhen talking about Russia in the area of cybersecurity or, more specifically, information warfare, we must by force mention the FAPSI (Federal Agency of Government Communication and Information), operative between 1991 and 2003 and considered the Russian equivalent to the US NSA (Roland Heickerö, Emerging Cyber Threats and Russian Views on Information Warfare and Information Operations. FOI. Swedish Defense Research Agency, March, 2010.), which inherited the attributions and capabilities of the 8th (encrypted) and the 16th (Decryption and interception) General Directorates of the KGB. Among its functions there was the figure (cryptology and cryptanalysis), the interception of communications and even the incident response capabilities as a CERT. In 2003 this powerful agency was dissolved by the Russian government, possibly because of corruption, although it also shows that an agency with more than 50,000 people was becoming a great uncontrollable monster, as it was with the KGB at the time. After transforming the Special Information and Communications Service, an agency heir to the FAPSI that lasted only five months, its attributions were distributed among the four large Russian services, the GRU and the KGB derivatives: SVR, FSB and FSO. Each of these services has different attributions, although they obviously share capabilities, information, tactics or interests … or compete among them. In fact, in his Putin’s Hydra: Inside Russia’s Intelligence Services, and European Council on Foreign Relations, May 2016, Mark Galeotti presents us with a curious graphic summary of the roles of the Russian intelligence community, from which we then select only the main services – at least in our cyber sphere:


As we see in the image – in which the main roles of each service stand out in dark blue and the secondary roles in light blue – no service maintains hegemony over a given role, all of which are approached by at least two different groups, in greater or lesser depth, and even in some case by all of them at the same time: let us look at the field of counterintelligence, in which all services have capabilities … remember: Russia is in danger.

The dismantling of the FAPSI was a battle between these Russian services, since the power of the old agency was undoubtedly very high. The FSB, which received the most inheritance, was made with the main capacities, oriented to the interception of telephone communications, fixed and mobile, and data through the Internet, as well as with the control of the secure communications of the government, departments of numbers and capacities (and the legal recognition of these) of foreign intelligence. On the other hand, the powerful FSO managed to snatch some of the key functions of the FAPSI from the rest of the services, including the control of the government’s special information systems or, directly, the equivalent Russian capacity – more or less – to the American NSA: the Spetssviaz. For its part, GRU, in support of the SVR, inherited the intelligence and electronic counterintelligence capacities of the General Directorates 8 and 16 of the former KGB.

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