This week, Kyrgyz court ruled to block ‘suicide groups’; Armenian experts wrote an information security program; Belarus and U.S. to join efforts against cyber crime; Russia raised fines for personal data violation; Russian IT companies ask for the ease of state control; Uzbekistan plans to create free trade zone for IT businesses; DR Analytica to present at two forums in Kyrgyzstan.

1. A district court in Bishkek gave a verdict allowing the Kyrgyz State Committee for IT and Communication to block so called “death groups” on social media, which allegedly encourage suicides among teenagers. The exact mechanism and technical capacity for such selective blocking is unknown, yet. Several Kyrgyz media outlets reported on the spread of virtual games in Vkontakte and Instagram, which use hashtags, translatable as “#SeaOfWhales,” “#BlueWhales,” “#WhalesSwimUpwards” and “#WakeMeUpAt420” to promote suicides. However, the direct connection between teen suicides and the purported online games hasn’t been established.

2. Expert commission led by Samvel Martirosyan presented a new information security program of Armenia. The initiative followed the surge in cyber attacks in the country over the past two years and also covers the security of the Internet of Things.

DR comments: According to our sources, the program is a first official step toward creating a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Concept and Strategy in 2017.

3. Belarus and the United States signed an agreement on cooperation in information security and copyright law protection. Two countries also agreed to combat cyber crime, terrorism, extremism, illegal migration, and corruption.

DR comments: Recognizing the importance of ICT sector for its economy and security, Belarus government intensified its engagement with business and NGO sectors on developing frameworks on personal data protection and cybersecurity.

4. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed the law that toughens penalties for violations in citizens’ personal data collection, storage, usage, and dissemination. From now on, a public official who abuses citizens’ personal data will be penalized with an administrative fine for up to 10,000 rubles ($171). The fine is higher for the same offence committed by a legal entity – up to 50,000 rubles ($856).

5. Russian association of software developers (АРПП), which unites some 140 companies, appealed to the Minister of communication, Nikolay Nikiforov, asking for the ease of monetary control. The claim is that excessive requirements and paperwork hinder further development of domestic software, which generated an estimated $7 billion in exports in 2015 alone.

6. An Innovation center for ICT will be built at the Inha University in Tashkent as the first FTZ for IT companies. Members of the FTZ will get fiscal relief and other preferences aimed at the development of IT industry and domestic software production.

7. DR Analytica experts will participate and present at two events in February 2017. The first is Kyrgyz IT Forum held on Feb. 21 focusing on the development of IT industry in Kyrgyzstan and information security. On Feb 22-23, DR Analytica’s founding partner, Rafal Rohozinski, will address the Central Asian Security Forum’s conference on ”’Countering extremism online.” Digital.Report is the official information partner of the event.