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The East: Internet News Briefs

Washington, 26 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Improved Internet access in Russia and Uzbekistan, a hacker's break-in of a Polish government Web site, and a U.S. company's sale of encryption software to Russia round out these news briefs.

MCI To Install Largest Internet Access Connection To Russia

MCI Communications Corporation, a U.S.-based telecommunications firm, announced this month that it will provide the largest Internet access connection ever installed in Russia.

According to an MCI spokesman, the firm was chosen by AO Rostelcom, the primary international telecommunications carrier in Russia.

Rostelcom and MCI plan to install special circuits that will permit data to be transmitted at a speedy rate of up to two megabytes a second. In simpler terms, this would allow the transfer of approximately 500 pages of written text every second.

Greg Libertiny, MCI area director for the CIS and Baltic states, said: "This Internet project will not only advance the telecommunications infrastructure in Russia, it will also lead to strategic opportunities in the educational and commercial sectors of the country."

Citing a report by the International Telecommunications Union, MCI says that Russia has an estimated 21,940 Web sites and 220,000 connections to the Internet.

Uzbekistan Launches Networking Project

Uzbekistan, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), last month launched the nation's first inter-governmental networking program designed to facilitate information exchange between government agencies and provide them with better access to the Internet.

The Uzbek Department for Coordination of External Economic Activities of the Cabinet of Ministers developed a three-year plan which will physically link local area networks within various ministries and other government organizations, introduce an electronic document management system for information exchange, and will provide Internet access to some 15 participating institutions.

Financing for the project will total approximately $600,000 and is being provided by the UNDP and a World Bank loan. Additional funding is still being sought from a variety of other donors.

Hacker Breaks Into Polish Cabinet's Web Page

According to the Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza," a computer hacker broke into the Web site of the Polish cabinet earlier this month, altering the contents of the page and calling it, among other things, "The Government Disinformation Center."

Those Internet browsers trying to visit the Polish prime minister's page were instead referred to the site of "Playboy" magazine.

The newspaper quoted a government spokeswoman as saying the cabinet's Web site was not connected to the government's internal computer, so no state secrets or information had been compromised.

U.S. Company to Sell Encryption Software Via a Russian Firm

Sun Microsystems Inc., a U.S.-based company, has announced plans to sell worldwide sophisticated data-scrambling software via a Russian firm formed by scientists who formerly worked on Soviet space programs.

The announcement caused consternation in the U.S. computer industry because it poses a direct challenge to U.S. laws forbidding domestic companies from exporting such technology.

There are three bills already pending in the U.S. Congress which deal with this matter, all encouraging tighter regulations. U.S. government officials warn that encryption software could be utilized by terrorists and other international groups to penetrate sensitive computer networks.

But most software firms are opposed to such restrictions and are lobbying hard to have the laws changed. Companies that produce encryption programs say the regulations are senseless because foreign competitors with similar products already sell them worldwide without restrictions.

Sun says its decision to sell software is legal because the Russian-based company, Elvis+ Co., developed the software, although it used some of Sun's established technology in the process. Sun says the fact that it did not provide actual technical assistance to the Russian firm while it developed the particular software, makes the final product foreign-made and not domestic.

The U.S. Commerce Department has so far declined to comment.