SORM (Russian: Система Оперативно-Розыскных Мероприятий, literally "System for Operative Investigative Activities") is a technical system for search and surveillance in the internet. A Russian law passed in 1995 allows the FSB to monitor telephone and internet communications.
SORM-1 system has been established in 1996 to monitor telephone communications.
In July 1998 the system was replaced by SORM‑2 to allow monitoring of the internet, in addition to telephone communications. According to some reports, under SORM‑2 Russian Internet service providers (ISPs) must install a special device on their servers to allow the FSB to track all credit card transactions, e-mail messages and web use. The device, which has been estimated to cost $10,000-$30,000, must be installed at the ISP's expense. Other reports note that some ISPs have had to install direct communications lines to the FSB and that costs for implementing the required changes were in excess of $100,000.
On July 25, 2000, Russia's Minister of Information Technology and Communications Leonid Reiman issued the order No 130 "Concerning the introduction of technical means ensuring investigative activity (SORM) in phone, mobile and wireless communication and radio paging networks" stating that the FSB was no longer required to provide telecommunications and Internet companies documentation on targets of interest prior to accessing information.
Access by seven additional government agencies
On January 5, 2000, during his first week in office, president Vladimir Putin amended the law to allow seven other federal security agencies access to intelligence gathered via SORM. The newly endowed agencies included:
- Russia's tax police
- Russian Police
- Federal Protective Service
- Border patrol and customs
- Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Kremlin Regiment
- Presidential Security Service
- Parliamentary security services
Acquisition of communications by entitled security services in general requires court warrant, but at the same time they are allowed to start wiretapping before obtaining such warrant. The warrant is also only required for communications content, but not metadata (communicating parties, time etc), which may be obtained without the warrant.
In late 2000, a Russian Supreme Court ruled that the FSB was required to inform ISPs when its agents were using the system. The case was started by a complaint filed by a 26 year old St. Petersburg journalist who was "fed up waiting for civil rights groups and ISPs to protest".
2014 Winter Olympics
The FSB made secret arrangements for significant upgrades to Sorm equipment in Sochi prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Russian Ministry of Communications also introduced new regulations for ISPs regarding Sorm in March 2013. All communication and Internet traffic by Sochi residents is now captured and filtered through deep packet inspection systems at all mobile networks. Media watchdog Roskomnadzor reported that several local ISPs were fined by the government after they failed to install FSB-recommended SORM devices.
- SORM, Lenta.ru, 21 August 2000; full text of the order in Russian: Russian full text, Libertarium.ru
- Tracy, Jen (13 January 2000). "Police Get Window Of Access To E-mail". Moscow Times. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- Russia: Surveillance Policy (Report). Privacy International. 12 December 2006. https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/russia/ii-surveillance-policy.
- "Слушать подано". Kommersant. 2008.
- "As Sochi Olympic venues are built, so are Kremlin's surveillance networks". The Guardian. 6 October 2013.
- Russian Spies, They've Got Mail - Regulations Allow Security Services to Tap Into Systems of Internet Providers. Sharon LaFraniere, Washington Post, March 7, 2002
- Russia: Surveillance of communications. Statewatch, June 2000.
- New KGB takes internet by SORM, Mother Jones Magazine, February 2000.
- SORM - Russia's big brother...., Issue #21, Numbers & Oddities Newsletter, 1999 December 20
- Об утверждении типовых Требований к плану мероприятий по внедрению технических средств для проведения оперативно-разыскных мероприятий 15 January 2008 (Russian) (document removed)
- Об утверждении Требований к сетям электросвязи для проведения оперативно-разыскных мероприятий. Часть I. Общие требования 16 January 2008 (Russian) (document removed)