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There are three ways to get electronic passes for traveling around Moscow under quarantine. All three of them have severe glitches.

Source: Meduza
Pavel Golovin / AP / Scanpix / LETA

Moscow’s electronic permit system is kicking into gear. On April 10, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin issued an order that will make the new permits mandatory beginning April 15 for anyone traveling in a private vehicle or by public transit (with a few exceptions). Passes are already available on the website, by text at the number 7377, or by phone at +7 (495) 777-77-77.

Since early morning on April 13, the website has been crashing regularly. City Hall said the failures were due to hacking on an unprecedented scale, including hacker attacks from abroad. “For the last three hours today, we have experienced attacks — intentionally organized ones, I think — more of them than we have seen in the last two quarters. In other words, someone is very persistently trying to break us down,” said Moscow’s IT director, Eduard Lysenko. The city’s COVID-19 task force announced that it has already reported the attacks to law enforcement.

The other two means of receiving transport passes have also been working poorly. City officials say that up to 90 percent of applications received by SMS so far have not contained the right text message and therefore can’t be processed by the city’s computer program. “Some people have even been sending texts that say anything they want — ‘give me a permit,’ for example. To get a digital pass, Muscovites must send a text message that conforms strictly to the application form,” mayoral officials clarified. Meanwhile, the BBC Russian Service reported that an attempt to request a pass correctly via SMS received a response from the city’s system only after two hours of waiting.

City Hall said phone calls are currently “not the best way” to get a travel pass because “a lot of people ask questions,” which boosts the average length of each call to 3.5 minutes. This means callers have to wait for an extended period of time before speaking to an operator because only 1,000 operators are receiving the calls.

By the evening of April 13, City Hall reported handing out 1.8 million passes. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin acknowledged that “this work isn’t going smoothly” and said there is a chance that he will push back the deadline for passes to become mandatory. “If we see that there are some problems, then maybe we can extend this process for some small period of time to ensure that we can work out all the kinks in a polished way and keep things calm for our citizens,” he said. Moscow City Duma Speaker Andrey Shaposhnikov added that Moscow residents should not “submit requests [solely] to test the system.”

Text by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Hilah Kohen

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