Friday, September 22, 2023

They have leaked terabytes of Russian emails, but who is reading?

Must read

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

The city of Blagoveshchensk is located in the extreme east of Russia, about 5500 kilometers from Moscow and even further from Kiev. Across a river, the Chinese city of Heihe stretches south, joined by the first Sino-Russian road bridge† besides the bridge there is little about the city to make the news.

But the city’s public affairs are now being exposed to anyone willing to look in the form of 150GB of emails from Blagoveshchensk’s city government published online by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets — just one of many datasets. that have since leaked to the organization. the invasion of Ukraine began.

As the war in Ukraine approaches sixty days, leaks are pouring out of the country at an unprecedented rate. On April 20, DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best tweeted that the collective has published 5.8 terabytes of leaks since the invasion began, with no signs of slowing down.

On the day of that tweet, DDoSecrets released two new leaked email caches: 575,000 emails from property management firm Sawatzky and 250,000 emails from Worldwide Invest, a Moscow-based investment firm.

In the “Russia” category, the leaks now span a huge cross-section of Russian society, including banks, oil and gas companies and the Russian Orthodox Church. Compared to some of the other leaked content coming from DDoSecrets, Blagoveshchensk’s emails represent only a medium-sized leak. The smallest dataset (a list of the personal data for 120,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine) is only 22 MB, while the largest (20 years worth of emails from a Russian state broadcaster) is a whopping 786 GB.

DDoSecrets isn’t the only place to host leaks coming out of Russia, but it’s arguably the most active right now – though DDoSecrets member Lorax Horne says the organization does not attempt to explicitly publish information that is pro-Ukraine or anti-Russia.

“For people who haven’t heard of DDoSecrets until last month, they can be forgiven for assuming we’ve taken a stance,” Horne said. The edge† “But it really has to do with the data we get. If we got datasets from the other side, we’d consider that for publication as well. Coincidentally, the majority of data sets that come out are related to Russian entities.”

Still, it’s hard to deny that many of DDoSecret’s leaks are motivated by anti-war sentiments. (In an interview with NBC News, Emma Best described hacktivists who leaked to the collective as “yelling in response to the injustice of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the inhumanity of the war crimes committed by the invaders.” The call for hacktivism from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also helped, Horne says, directing energy towards a defined set of Russian targets. In addition to the moral clarity that comes with directions from the Ukrainian government, other experts point to a hands-off approach to actors who might otherwise curtail hacking activity.

The organization has been labeled a successor to WikiLeaks, the pioneering leak-sharing platform that appears to have slowly fallen into disarray in the years since founder Julian Assange’s arrest. When the conflict started, almost all of the site’s document submission channels were… found not workingmaking it virtually impossible to share leaks with the original transparency platform and meaning WikiLeaks played little role in hosting data related to the conflict in Ukraine.

That has given DDoSecrets a new strategic role, operating as a de facto front-end distribution system for the fruits of hacktivist activities against Russia.

“Traditional hackers were never fondly viewed by law enforcement or members of the security community, but it seems that in the current conflict they have been given free rein to attack anything Russian,” said Jeremiah Fowler, a security researcher who has published research. on hacktivism in Ukraine. “Russia has become Anonymous’ largest recruiter.”

But while the more chronically online among us may long for a world where data sharing can turn the tide of war, it’s not clear that this is the world we live in.

The leaked data would have the most impact if ordinary Russians had access to it and could browse the archives for concrete evidence of the elite corruption that is still endemic in the country. But with the information environment in the country, increasingly tightly controlled by government censorshipit is unlikely that the vast majority of leaked information will ever receive mainstream attention domestically.

Bret Schafer, head of the information manipulation investigative team at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, points to Russia’s continued suppression of independent media as a likely factor in limiting the impact of incriminating information in the recent leaks.

“Using the Pandora Papers as an example, they pointed to obvious corruption at very high levels within the Kremlin and it didn’t even really cause a ripple in Russia because it wasn’t addressed,” Schafer said. “You know, it was covered by a few independent outlets that no longer exist. So even the limited impact it had domestically probably won’t happen this time around, as independent media has been stifled even further.”

Schafer also points to the crackdown on internet freedom in Russia, exemplified by the blocking twitter and Facebook in the country since the invasion began. While some younger, digitally savvy Russians may be able to get around some of these measures, the result is that even digital news is increasingly being approved by the Kremlin.

In the long run, changing the Russian public’s understanding of the nature of the invasion will be a prerequisite for bringing the country back into international order, whether it takes place years or even decades in the future. Leak sites can play a role here, but so can diplomacy and other measures to support the eventual rebuilding of independent media.

Whatever the end is, we can’t come out the other side if 70 percent of Russians think this war was, well, not a war,” Schafer said.

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article