Don’t look now…

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Sometimes even the spooks get spiked

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22 July 2019 | 0

Under the heading of heading of it could happen to anyone, Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, has had one of its subcontractors hacked with the loss of some 7.5 TB of data that reveal some deeply worrying efforts.

According to a story on Information Security Magazine’s web site, the contractor called SyTech was breached and documents were exfiltrated which show that the Russian intelligence services have been trying to de-anonymise Tor traffic since 2012, as well as other efforts to isolate Russia from the Web. Projects “Hope” and “Tax-3”, are described as the efforts by the Putin regime to develop the ability to separate Russia’s internet from the global web.

A group calling itself “0v1ru$” is said to have carried out the hack, before passing on the cache to Digital Revolution group, and then on to journalists.

While the files are still being examined, other efforts revealed were around tracking and storing instant messaging, file transfer services and P2P networks.

Given the fate of so many journalists, activists and human rights defenders within Russia in recent years, this is a deeply worrying development. While it is not really a surprise, it shows the level of organisation and industrialisation being applied to hacking and signals intelligence in Russia, and beyond, that are not aimed at the inter-state level.

While probably no worse than the various Manning and Snowden et al revelations, one still feels slightly more concerned at how such programmes would be leveraged in Russia, where media scrutiny can be a dangerous game.

No doubt, as the massive tranche of documents is sifted through, more intelligence will emerge. But for now, it is still quite unusual for such documents to emerge from a state being hacked, particularly one outside of the West.

Coming as it does in the aftermath of the Russian Navy’s submarine disaster in which 14 servicemen died, it is likely to produce a frenzy of activity where hatches are battened and traffic tightened up. The marine disaster befell what is thought to be a deep sea vessel that can tap submarine cables. It was a major embarrassment for Russia, as well as an unspeakable tragedy for those aboard.

There are likely to be quite a few reprisals too, as the intelligence services look to gather information in the hope of identifying the culprits and their methods, as well as any associates.

It is going to be a busy time in the Sig-Int sector for the next few weeks.

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