This week, Tajik government took total control over the telecom sector; Russian state arms contractor Rostec launched an anti-hacking center; first digital TV multiplex deployed in Moldova; CIS countries agreed to create a single payments area. 

Also, Azerbaijan will build its own High Technologies Park; Russian regulator blocked LinkedIn and an IP address of GoDaddy domain registrar with 17,633 websites; Uzinfocom appointed a new director; Dutch law enforcement began using AIPSIN database developed in Belarus for drug identification.

1. Tajikistan government began test run of a single communications switching center on the premises of state-owned Tajiktelecom. The expressed intent is to ensure national information security due to centralized control over internet traffic and telephone communication.

DR comments: By establishing state control over communication channels, the state monopoly may exert stronger control over private ISPs, which in turn may cause a drop in quality of internet services. It also enhances state capacity for mass surveillance and censorship, since public officials and security services can wiretap phone conversations, monitor websites, and selectively limit internet access.

2. In Tajikistan, which ranks very low on cybersecurity, infosec industry is in its early stages of development. To address infosec breach issues the government and IT businesses talk about establishing a computer emergency readiness team (CERT).

3. Russian state arms contractor Rostec opened its own anti-hacking center to counter attempted cyber attacks. It will report any suspected cyber activities to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). It plans to fully monitor 20% of the most vital Rostec businesses by the end of 2017, including helicopter and missile manufacturing.

According to Alexander Evteev, director of information security at the company’s IT wing Rostec Inform, last year Rostec registered thousands of suspicious incidents, including external attempts to install spyware or malware viruses in the company’s systems.

4. Russian government backed the idea of creating a state Big Data operator. Within two months, the executive team led by the president’s aide Igor Schegolev has to present a concept for the new operator that will accumulate and process big data on consumers.

5. First digital television multiplex was deployed in Moldova. It broadcasts eight channels but has a capacity for 15. The government plans to fully switch from analogue TV by the end of 2017. However, experts remain sceptical about the announced timelines saying the majority of population still doesn’t have equipment to receive digital signal – neither special antennas nor set-top boxes required for older TV sets.

6. On Nov. 10-11 the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Peter Burian, hosted a conference in Bishkek on prevention of violent extremism in the region. Two weeks prior to it, regional experts and government officials gathered in Tashkent to discuss preventive measures against the use of internet for terrorist purposes. Both events indicate rising concerns of Central Asian states over the global issue. Social media and messengers are seen as the primary tools for the massive recruitment, promotion of destructive ideas, and communication between terrorists. Experts say that tackling this issue not only requires special IT training for law enforcement officers but also should be reflected in legislation in a way that it doesn’t restrict access to the internet.

According to the 2016 All Juhad Is Local: What ISIS’ Files Tell Us About Its Fighters study by Nate Rosenblatt, high proportion of fighters joining ISIS came from Osh in Kyrgyzstan, Fergana in Uzbekistan, and Dushanbe in Tajikistan, as well as from adjoining to Central Asia Xinjiang province in China.

7. Russian National payment cards system and payment service providers of Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan passed a resolution to create a single payments area on the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union similar to the one existing in the European Union. It means the technological and financial unification of domestic payment systems such as Mir, Belcart, ArCa, Tengri-cart, and ELCART, that will give the card holders free access to the services in the CIS region. Currently, the sides agreed on three steps towards the transborder payments: consolidation of ATM and POS-terminal networks, issuance of card chips based on technology of Russian National payment cards system, and transfer of cross-country settlements to national currencies.

DR comments: Taking into consideration the labor migration and business cooperation between CIS countries, the idea of a single payments area has practical value. In countries like Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, money transfers from migrants working in Russia or Kazakhstan make significant contributions to their national GDPs. According to the Central Bank of Russia, in 2015 migrants sent $2.2 billion to Tajikistan and $1.3 billion to Kyrgyzstan.