Will Russia hire tech-savvy prisoners to corporate IT?

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Faced with a brain drain of smart people fleeing the country following its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Federation is proposing a new strategy to deal with a growing shortage of qualified IT experts: to force tech-savvy individuals within the nation’s prison population to perform IT labor costs for domestic companies.

Several Russian media published articles on April 27 saying that the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service had announced a plan to recruit computer scientists from Russian prisons to work remotely for national commercial companies.

Russians sentenced to hard labor will serve their sentence in one of the many correctional centers spread across dozens of Russian regions, usually in the center closest to their hometown. Alexander Khabarovdeputy head of the Russian prison service, said his agency had received proposals from businessmen from different regions to involve IT workers serving sentences in correctional centers to work remotely for commercial companies.

Khabarov told Russian media that under the proposal, people with IT skills at these facilities would only work in IT-related roles, but would not be limited to working with companies in their own region. .

“We are approached with this initiative in a number of territories, in a number of topics by entrepreneurs who work in this field,” Khabarov told Russian media organization TASS. “We are only at the initial stage. If it’s in demand, and it most likely is in demand, we think we won’t force people in that field to work in other industries.

According to the Russian media site Lenta.ru, since March 21, almost 95,000 vacancies in IT have remained vacant in Russia. Lenta claims that the number of vacancies has actually decreased by 25% compared to the previous month, officially because “many Russian companies are currently reviewing their plans and budgets, and some projects have been postponed”. The story doesn’t even mention the recent economic sanctions currently affecting many Russian businesses thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

the Russian Electronic Communications Association (RAEC) recently estimated that between 70,000 and 100,000 people will leave Russia as part of the second wave of emigration of Russian IT professionals. “The study also notes that the number of IT professionals wishing to leave Russia is increasing. Experts consider the United States, Germany, Georgia, Cyprus and Canada to be the most attractive countries to move to,” Lenta reported of the RAEC survey.

It’s unclear how many “IT specialists” are currently serving a prison sentence in Russia, or precisely what that might mean in terms of an inmate’s IT skills and knowledge. According to the BCC, approximately half of the world’s prison population is held in the United States, Russia or China. The BCC reports that Russia currently houses nearly 875,000 detainees, or about 615 detainees per 100,000 citizens. The United States has an even higher incarceration rate (737/100,000), but also a much larger total prison population of nearly 2.2 million.

Sergei Boyarskydeputy chairman of the Russian State Duma’s information policy committee, said the idea is worth pursuing if there are indeed a significant number of IT specialists already incarcerated in Russia.

“I know we have a general need for IT specialists, it’s a growing market,” said Boyarsky, who was among the Russian leaders sanctioned by the US Treasury on Marc. February 24, 2022 in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Boyarsky is the head of the Saint Petersburg branch of United Russia, a strongly pro-Putin political party that holds more than 70% of the seats in Russia’s State Duma.

“Since they are still working there, it would probably be fair to give people with a profession that allows them to work remotely not to lose their qualifications,” Boyarsky said of potentially qualified inmates. “At a minimum, this proposal deserves attention and discussion if there are many such specialists.”

According to the Russian prison service, the average salary for those sentenced to forced labor is around 20,000 rubles per month, or around 281 US dollars. Russian media RBC reports that companies began to use prison labor after the possibility of creating correctional centers in organizations appeared in 2020. RBC notes that Russia now has 117 such centers in 76 Russian regions.

*** This is a syndicated Krebs on Security Security Bloggers Network blog written by BrianKrebs. Read the original post at: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2022/05/russia-to-rent-tech-savvy-prisoners-to-corporate-it/

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