WikiLeaks has just published numerous documents under the heading “Spy Files Russia.” The documents suggest that Moscow uses a sophisticated state surveillance system to spy on Russian internet and cellphone users.
(TLAV) Ironically, this release comes after many claims made by the public and mainstream media that WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are influenced or controlled by Russia, as the organization has previously focused mostly on exposing U.S. secrets.
Whether this is a regime change in an attempt to refute these allegations or not, WikiLeaks’ latest information dump has certainly shed some light on how little privacy Russian citizens have.
NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden actually tweeted about it, which you can see below:
What documents are in the WikiLeaks “Russia spy files”?
WikiLeaks claims the files prove that a Russian software company is installing infrastructure all over Russia, thanks to governmental approval, which allows Russian state agencies to spy on citizens’ online and electronic activity. It’s no wonder Snowden tweeted about the matter, since the NSA used a similar surveillance program to spy on U.S. citizens.
The 34 WikiLeaks documents, dated between 2007 and 2015, all pertain to a St. Petersburg-based company called Peter-Service, which is the alleged contractor installing the mass Russian surveillance system.
PETER-SERVICE is uniquely placed as a surveillance partner due to the remarkable visibility their products provide into the data of Russian subscribers of mobile operators, which expose to PETER-SERVICE valuable metadata, including phone and message records, device identifiers (IMEI, MAC addresses), network identifiers (IP addresses), cell tower information and much more. This enriched and aggregated metadata is of course of interest to Russian authorities, whose access became a core component of the system architecture.
So, what kind of data does Peter-Service have on Russian citizens? Well, it’s a bit of a “Big Brother” scenario. WikiLeaks reported, “PETER-SERVICE claims to already have access to a majority of all phone call records as well as Internet traffic in Russia.” One document revealed that the company has access to specific information about your phone and your online payments if you live in Russia.
One of the systems covered in the WikiLeaks dump, referred to as Traffic Data Mart, “records and monitors” IP traffic for all cell phones registered with the company.
It’s important to note that the WikiLeaks documents do not actually refer to Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, whatsoever, but instead only reference “state agencies.” This could mean that law enforcement simply uses the data for legal purposes, but the documents also don’t mention what other state agencies use the data.
Some people have still been quick to criticize the released documents, claiming that, since they discuss a national system of online surveillance called System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM) that was already known to the public, there wasn’t enough new information within the documents to make them worthwhile.
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