Monday, October 8, 2018

How 305 Russian Government Hackers were Exposed

Amusing story:
The public identification this week of more than 300 suspected agents of Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, is being dubbed by security analysts the largest intelligence blunder in Russian post-Cold War history.

And the cause for the bungling comes down, they say, to the simple “human factor” of wanting to avoid traffic fines, including for drunken driving.

Prompted by the midweek disclosure by Dutch and British authorities of the identities of four Russian GRU operators accused of trying to hack the headquarters of the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the investigative journalism consortium Bellingcat subsequently trawled through a publicly available Russian traffic-records database to unearth the names and details of 305 other individuals thought to be working for the Russian intelligence agency.

Passport numbers and, in many cases, mobile telephone numbers were included in the vehicle registrations.

Bellingcat scrutinized the traffic database after one of the four GRU operatives named Thursday by the British and Dutch was found to have registered his Lada car in 2011 using the Moscow address of the GRU barracks housing his cyberespionage unit 26165.

The unit has been accused by Western authorities, including the U.S., of being responsible for a series of cyberattacks and the hacking of computer networks of international anti-doping agencies as well as organizations investigating Russia's use of chemical agents, including the alleged nerve-agent poisoning in the English town of Salisbury earlier this year of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

By searching for other vehicles registered to the same address Bellingcat came up with a list of 305 other individuals ranging in age from 27 to 53-years-old.
This story doesn't mention that the reason that database is "publicly available" is that corrupt officials within the Russian motor vehicle bureau sold it on the black market. And of course GRU operatives  want those special license plates because Russian traffic law is a nightmare of corruption.

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