|abalashov at evaristes...
|Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:42 pm Post subject: [asterisk-biz] Russian meddling in Kamailio project
|(Filed by the Geostrategic Open Source Alliance.)
ATLANTA, GA (1 April 2018)--In a twist of events that has shocked the global
technical community, the well-known open-source VoIP professional Alex Balashov
has revealed himself to be a deep cover intelligence operative of the GRU
(Main Intelligence Directorate of the military of the Russian Federation) and
the FSB (the Federal Security Bureau, the successor agency to the Soviet-era
Balashov was reported to be seeking US political asylum and immunity from
prosecution in return for an exposť of the ways in which the Russian foreign
intelligence apparatus has sought to influence the direction of the open-source
communications project "Kamailio", widely used in telecommunications carrier,
service provider and enterprise environments to deliver high-scalability
routing services and other SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) platform building
In connection with these sensitive ongoing negotiations, Balashov was debriefed
on behalf of the US Government by Fred Posner of The Palner Group, a
counterintelligence think tank and security consulting firm based in
Gainesville, Florida. This debriefing was coordinated with the German BND
(Bundesnachrichtendienst) agency and other agencies representing security
cooperation partners of the European Union and NATO.
GOSA have been able to obtain exclusive excerpts from the portions of this
interview not deemed top secret:
POSNER: Please state your full name, age, place of birth, physical
characteristics, serial number and any other relevant professional asset
POSNER: You have made the claim that Kamailio has been infiltrated by Russian
spy agencies. Given that it's an open-source project, that's a bold and
provocative claim. Where's the evidence?
BALASHOV: Infiltration is perhaps strong word from spy novels. Reality is less
thrilling. As you are knowing from controversy about election of our Donald,
covert global influence today is mainly question of soft power.
POSNER: Is there an obvious way in which this applies to the Kamailio project
you can show us? I remind you that you have staked your personal freedom on
BALASHOV: Influence is delicate matter. Da, of course there are some
POSNER: Such as?
BALASHOV: For example module to support language Squirrel. What is Squirrel?
Who uses it? If you take a look at code is a bit complicated, da? What does it
POSNER: It is a bit complicated, But I'm not convinced. Sell me.
BALASHOV: It was in fact committed to GitHub by former Eastern Bloc
personality, yes? Very complicated code for unknown mystery language support
from Eastern Europe...
POSNER: Yes, from the main developer and leader of the project.
POSNER: What else?
BALASHOV: There is a Ukranian [redacted] who is in charge of many SIP captures
with system which diverts them to central database, yes? Something with name
from ancient Greek troubadour or myths maybe?
POSNER: We'll have to look into that.
BALASHOV: Kamailio World is held every year in East Berlin. Every year back to
POSNER: So what?
BALASHOV: Where do most guests of it spend their night?
POSNER: [audible crack of pistol whip] This is not a quiz show! I ask the
BALASHOV: Yes, yes, okay, they are at the Park Inn at Alexanderplatz.
BALASHOV: The history of this hotel in East German times and Stasi presence
POSNER: That aspect of history is well-known.
BALASHOV: Da... then is clear.
POSNER: What are the strategic goals of Russia with regard to open source
BALASHOV: From news lately can be seen that is soft power leveraging and
POSNER: Economic sabotage? How will they achieve that with open source?
BALASHOV: Again is question of delicate influence in small ways. This is not
time of Arab dignitaries visiting KGB hotels in Moscow in 1970s or this kind of
naked and obvious trick.
POSNER: [raises pistol] You are here to provide specifics.
BALASHOV: Yes yes, okay. Well, I am not policy architect at Khoroshovskoe
Shosse, but general point of view with colleagues is that best approach to
Western countries is to encourage kind of "boondoggles" [air quotes] which
consume large economic resources with very little benefit.
POSNER: Does Russia create boondoggles in America?
BALASHOV: No no. We don't have this level of direct influence to create per se.
You can see from recent activities of Internet Research Agency for example that
the successful approach is the one which will amplify or grow existing
boondoggles which lead to kind of systemic dysfunction, through for example
injection of kind of "memes" [air quote gesture] and "trolls" [air quote
POSNER: Where has Russia been successful at this specifically as it relates to
the Kamailio, the VoIP industry, and real-time communications?
BALASHOV: The GRU are very successful at disinformation campaign to convince
business executives about cloud things. They are always listening to our
"thought leadership" [air quote gesture] to move to cloud, mostly Amazon Web
Services, which is great for us since is worst possible approach. At industry
events our people are always pushing very much cloud cloud cloud, you know,
like a stampede of rhinoceroses to cloud, don't miss out on cloud! Don't be
left on the ground, fly away to cloud! We have great podcas--
POSNER: --stop. But there is a legitimate value proposition for service
providers in moving to the cloud, isn't there?
BALASHOV: Yes, for some maybe, but for example AWS is platform not designed at
all for telecom, is kind of Node.js and Ruby on Rails hosting service.
POSNER: Where is the economic sabotage?
BALASHOV: Well they are spending one month $30,000 to Amazon, next month
$35,000, next month $40,000, always bigger instances, bigger, bigger, to handle
even very basic work. Official sexy seduction mythology is you can fire all the
system admins and no longer replace hard drives at 3 AM and forget all this
messing with hardware.
Is very hard to resist for big business leaders who follow classical Western
management consulting sermon from 90s about "divest yourself of non-core
competencies" [air quote gesture]. You know, it is same advice they come to
give to us in Gaidar and Yeltsin days. From my memory was not working out well
until First Marshal Putin took different approach...
POSNER: Let's stay focused. Surely companies can run the numbers for themselves
and see if it makes sense for them?
BALASHOV: Maybe, but where we have the success is in the exploit of the fear of
missing out, I think is called "FOMO" [air quote gesture] nowadays. Everyone is
moving to cloud, don't get left behind, even if unit economics of it are
disaster for your product and your company. Have you heard about the cloud?
POSNER: And this has been successful?
BALASHOV: Hard to measure but for example there is major increase in mailing
list posts about putting Kamailio in Amazon EC2, EC2, endless EC2 from people
for whom it is obviously wrong thing. Lots of wheels spinnink, spinnik, making
fire and sparks, light and heat going into cold, empty outer space, to keep warm
our GLONASS satellites. But where is result? All cost increase. And still the
$3000/mo instance does not process small amount of packets that is nothing for
bare metal server.
Meanwhile spendink, spendink, solvink big amounts of kind of fake problems... I
heard this expression once in Atlanta, "keep up with Jones" [air quote
gesture]. I don't know who is Jones but everyone agrees is very important to
keep up with h--
POSNER: --back up. Fake problems?
BALASHOV: Maybe is better word: unnecessary problems that come from way AWS
inside workings. Stupid network constraints, stupid puzzles for puzzle-solvers.
What is American term, "eager beaver" [air quote gesture]?
POSNER: Apart from tying up resources, how does this enthusiasm for AWS help
BALASHOV: Well it should be obvious that having whole industry pay huge premium
price to centralise their infrastructure at one entity is both economically
wasteful and precarious. Fragile and expensive setup is like our Soviet economy
at end of eighties. Also havink resemblance to old-times mainframe computing is
top secret irony nobody sees.
POSNER: Where else is Russia seeding economically harmful memes?
BALASHOV: Other big initiative is encourage huge overinvestment in WebRTC
because is supposedly future of real-time communications.
POSNER: But WebRTC is real.
BALASHOV: Da, of course, sometimes workink fine, but eats up big engineering
capital and talent fighting always browser bugs and incompatible
implementations and always changink changink changink. Meanwhile who is caring
for fundamental SIP services?
POSNER: And this is a form of economic sabotage?
BALASHOV: Of course is sabotage. If you can make much of a sector of economy to
obsess always about some toy and create kind of echo chamber of "visionary"
[air quote gesture] commentary about it it is negative for GDP and innovation.
"Vision" has shown the big success for us; is perfect concept in hand of
intelligence agency because nobody is knowing what it is but everyone so
desperate to show they have it.
POSNER: So a large-scale movement of VoIP service providers to the cloud and
big development around WebRTC represent Russian attempts at sabotage of the
Western real-time communications industry?
BALASHOV: Well again, these tendencies are existing before. It is more question
of amplifying and boosting and promoting them so many actors are distracted
from important things. American business guys are very vulnerable to it; every
time they are asking, "this does not seem to be worth it for us?", always they
hear from friends at country club, "you need more bold vision and company
culture of innovation, my friend".
We have learned after some years and applying KGB psychology training to
exploit their big personal insecurities about many things. For example they see
competitor have Cloud Business Analytics, they too must have now Cloud Business
Analytics, not for any reason, just fear, insecurity, the angst about not
having enough "Big Data" [air quote gesture].
POSNER: What else?
BALASHOV: In recent years can be found thought leadership to remove direct
sales because is inefficient, too high customer acquisition cost and so forth.
Always now resellers, channel partners this and master agents that. Common
sense shows industry cannot support chain with big depth of reseller of
reseller of reseller with everyone wanting to be reseller and nobody selling
actual products to the real people.
POSNER: That's not new to telecom.
BALASHOV: No, no, but now new twist! They are now having everything "as a
service" [air quote gesture], platform-aaS, infrastructure-aaS...
BALASHOV: But also now infrastructure management-as-a-service and kind of meta
approach, management-of-management-of-platform-aaS. Resellers of resale
platforms of platforms of platforms.
Maybe not quite clear, but this is special recursive sense of humour tradition
in Russia. Put endless things inside things inside things like matryoshka
POSNER: --matryoshka? Like the Russian nesting doll?
BALASHOV: Yes yes, nesting doll.
As I was saying key point is lots of "activity and buzz" [air quote gesture]
which is parasitism by another name. Lots of energy and enthusiasm, big
banners, hype from UC press, LinkedIn Pulse CTO insights, cheerleadink, but
where is result?
POSNER: How is this all tied to Kamailio?
BALASHOV: Some of it is not directly tied. It is more idea that Kamailio is
tool for executing "big ideas" [air quote gesture] and "platform plays" [air
When you are reading mailing list post like, "how to scale up with Kamailio to
deliver cloud WebRTC solutions for the enterprise?" and wonder with yourself
"from where this small guy got such 'big ideas'?" is often result of
Russian-sponsored so-called thought leadership. Who is he? He does not have
POSNER: What's wrong with that question?
BALASHOV: Well from our point of view nothing; great question, bold and
inspiring! We are encouraging them always to go build grandiose megalomania
ideas, telling to them, yes, "boil the ocean", "be disruptor 2.0", etc. Have
you seen ITEXPO? Ideally also raising some venture capital to erase value from
fund limited partners portfolio, like pension funds, university endowments.
Although sometimes we feel sorry, knowink they will not meet the success, and
almost have heart to tell them is just trollink, but our government is clear
about goal: work hard every day to suck money out of American economy.
POSNER: So it is in Russia's interest to see big ideas funded in America?
BALASHOV: Oh yes yes! Bigger is better! First mover advantage and network
effect, go big or go home trailblazink! On every time someone gets the Series A
for "completely transforming the way you do the business with UCaaS" [air quote
gesture] or like "a new kind of next-gen VoIP peering" [air quote gesture] we
are having another champagne bottle at the headquarters.
POSNER: This does not really sound like traditional intelligence work.
BALASHOV: Is not. We are livink in Internet cultural moment, is about memes,
engineering perceptions and mass behaviour, new kind of value creation.
POSNER: We will consider your asylum application in detail. In the meantime,
you will be detained at [redacted] as before.
BALASHOV: This is famous American tradition of "customer service"?
POSNER: We call it "customer success" nowadays.
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