IBM, Microsoft, Oracle beware: Russia wants open source, sees you as security risk

And even Russian software products could be banned from government agency IT systems if they're built on US-made software platforms.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Russia's State Duma is drafting a new law that promotes open source and casts an even wider net than existing restrictions on state IT procurement.

Image: Gubin Yury, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Russia is drafting a new law requiring Russian government agencies to give preference to open source and to block US software from computer systems, citing security concerns.

Just weeks after Moscow committed to removing Microsoft Outlook and Exchange on 600,000 systems under orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin, the nation's lower house, the State Duma, is drafting a bill to make it harder for agencies even to buy Russian software products that are based on foreign-made proprietary middleware and programming frameworks.

The bill marks Russia's latest attempt at substituting imported software with local products, but casts a wider net than existing restrictions on IT procurement by agencies and state-run enterprises.

If passed, the law will require local agencies to give preference to open-source software and justify any purchases of proprietary software. As reported by Russian news site, Kommersant, the Duma views products based on closed-source software as costly and unsafe to public IT infrastructure.

"The draft law is aimed at filling some legislative gaps in the field of intellectual property, the strengthening of Russian positions of the companies working in the field of open-source software and the qualitative expansion of the IT market by controlling middleware and open-source software in the public and in the private sector," the bill's Google Translated explanatory note reads on a story by Russian news agency RIA Novosi.

The law could create higher barriers for Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle in Russia's public sector IT budgets.

As Bloomberg reports, it would complement legislation introduced last year, limiting public IT procurement to a registry of 2,000 local software makers. It was that law that prompted Moscow's migration away from Outlook and Exchange, which may also extend to Windows.

According to the Duma, under the existing system, many Russian products are based on US-made platforms, such as Microsoft's ASP.net.

"Many local software firms are offering products based on foreign frameworks such as IBM's WebSphere or Microsoft's ASP.net," Bloomberg quotes Andrey Chernogorov, executive secretary of the Duma's commission on strategic information systems. "We are seeking to close this loophole for state purchases as it causes security risks."

The bill's explanatory notes also highlight potential vulnerabilities to the government's website zakupki.gov.ru created after IBM's partnership with Russian vendor Lanit ended last year.

Moves against US software products come amid several disagreements between the US and Russia, spanning a stalled anti-nuclear proliferation treaty, failed peace talks in Syria, and US sanctions in place since 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Duma had also drafted a bill in 2014, following US sanctions over the Ukraine, which would require government agencies and state-run enterprises to give preference to Russian hardware and software.

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