Russia leaks data like a sieve

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Names, birthdays, passport numbers, positions – personal information is placed on the pages and looks like a typical data leak. But this dataset is very different. It allegedly contains personal information about 1,600 Russian soldiers who served in Bucha, a Ukrainian city destroyed during the war with Russia, and the location of the events. multiple potential war crimes.

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The data set is not the only one. Another allegedly contains the names and contact details of 620 Russian spies registered to work for the Moscow FSB, the country’s main security agency. None of the information sets were released by the hackers. Instead, the Ukrainian intelligence services posted them online, and all the names and details were freely available on the Internet. “Every European should know their names,” Ukrainian officials wrote in a Facebook post, releasing the data.

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Since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine at the end of February, an enormous amount of information about the Russian state and its activities has been made public. The data provides unprecedented insight into closed private institutions and could be a goldmine for investigators, from journalists to those tasked with investigating war crimes. In general, there are two types of data: information actively published by the Ukrainian authorities or their allies, and information obtained by hacktivists. Hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of emails have been made public.

“Both sides in this conflict are very good at information operations,” says Philip Ingram, a former British military intelligence colonel. “Russians are pretty outspoken about lies,” he adds. Since the beginning of the war, Russian disinformation It has was consistently exposed. Ingram says Ukraine needs to be more tactful with the information it releases. “They need to make sure that what they publish is credible and that they won’t be caught lying in a way that could embarrass themselves or their international partners.”

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Both lists of alleged FSB officers and Russian servicemen were published online by the Central Intelligence Agency of Ukraine in late March and early April, respectively. Although WIRED was unable to verify the accuracy of the data, and Ukrainian cybersecurity officials did not respond to a request for comment, Arik Toler of the Bellingcat investigative agency: tweeted that the FSB details appear to have been amalgamated from previous leaks and open source information. It is not clear how up-to-date the information is.

However, this appears to be one of the first times that the government dox thousands of military personnel in one fell swoop. Jack McDonald, Senior Lecturer in Military Studies at King’s College London, researched privacy in war, says that throughout history, nations have kept lists of their opponents or attempted to compile them. But they were often associated with counter-insurgency efforts and were generally not made public. “Openly publishing such lists of your opponent, especially at the scale that digital operations allow, seems completely new,” McDonald says.

Till Doxing is, generally speaking, one of the most toxic online behaviors. and can destroy life, in war the stakes are different when gloves are essentially off. Macdonald says publishing people’s names and personal details during times of war is an ethical “dark area” but may be justified when it is linked to a military establishment or war crimes. Violating people’s privacy is “at the bottom of the list” of how someone can be harmed during a conflict, according to MacDonald. He adds that checking who is on the list and eliminating the possibility that it contains incorrect information is important in order not to cause additional harm. Demonstrating the complexity of the problem, Google blocked access to a PDF file with alleged Ukrainian lists of Russian troops in Bucha because the file violated its policy on publishing people’s personal information. When asked about the decision to block the document, Google declined to comment further.

“When you think about what will happen after the war, these lists can be an important feature of it,” MacDonald says. The lists – if the information they contain is reliable – can be a starting point for investigators investigating potential war crimes in Ukraine. For example, a name might be associated with a photo that is associated with a social media account, or with footage of someone in a specific location or event. Each piece of information can act as a tiny piece in a much larger puzzle. Researchers are in a hurry save and archive thousands of TikTok, Telegram and social media posts in formats that can be used as evidence. (Although this it is unlikely that Russia would extradite everyone accused of crimes will stand trial.)

Moreover, lists can be useful in other ways as well. “It shows the Russians they have access to him,” Ingram says. According to him, for people in Ukraine, the publication of data indicates that the Ukrainian intelligence services are monitoring threats against them. And at the international level, information can be useful to intelligence agencies such as the US Central Intelligence Agency or the British MI6. “They don’t have everything,” Ingram says. “It’s always good to get information from another source, even if you think you already have it, because it confirms the sources you have.”

Ukraine’s use of information warfare has been praised ever since Russia invaded Video by President Volodymyr Zelensky to “Ghost of Kyiv”— but it was not the only country actively publishing information about the war. U.S. and British intelligence officials have routinely attempted to thwart Vladimir Putin’s efforts by taking an unusual approach to declassifying information—from identifying potential false flag operations publish statistics on Russian military casualties. “The purpose of this activity is to show the costs that the Russian population bears at home and put the costs on individual actors,” says Jessica Brandt, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Security, Strategy and Technology. “But in general, doxing makes me uncomfortable.”

And the information released by global intelligence agencies is only the beginning. Ever since the war started Ukraine mobilized a volunteer IT army which targets Russian websites and companies in an effort to disable their services. The Ministry of Digital Technologies of Ukraine also became polished war machine. Hacktivists also was busy. In the early days of the conflict, the Anonymous hacker collective claimed to be waging a “cyber war” against the Russian government and claimed responsibility for attacks that took down sites and distorted others—despite possibility of unintended consequences. This activity has led to the publication of vast amounts of information about Russian-related companies and government agencies.

Transparency activists in the group Distributed Secret Denial or DDoSecretshave published more than a dozen Russia-related datasets since Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine in late February. “Putin has set his sights on Russian interests and they get hit right away,” DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best wrote in an interview. statement posted on twitter. DDoSecrets secrets has released over 700 gigabytes of data from the Russian government and over 3 million Russian emails and documents. He speaks.

DDoSecrets also claims to have released over 360,000 files from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulator; 62,000 emails from an investment company owned by a sanctioned Russian entity; 900,000 emails from the state broadcaster VGTRK; 230,000 letters from the Russian Ministry of Culture; and 250,000 emails from the Department of Education. The list goes on. Best said in a statement that DDoSecrets is committed to increasing transparency “where it is lacking, and publishing datasets in the public interest, regardless of where they originated.”

Break-and-leak operations are not uncommon – think about Hacking North Korea vs Sonyor any number of ransomware ransomware— but Russia has not often become the target of such operations. The Russian government has largely given country-based cybercriminals a free hand as long as they don’t target companies within its borders. Brandt says that some of the information released has parallels with the Russian hack and the “weapons information” leak. with reference to the 2016 DNC hack. For example.

Over time, the released files could prove to be a goldmine for researchers looking to understand how the Russian state operates, including its approach to censorship and media control. They can also provide a plan for future information operations in other countries or other wars. However, at the moment they have exposed Russia in an unprecedented way. “Honestly,” Best wrote, “we have never seen so much data from Russia before.”


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