Emma Best, best known for being the leader and co-founder of DDoSecrets, hasn’t been sleeping much lately. This is partly due to the news cycle filled with war, pandemic, global warming, and more wars. But that’s also because Best is doing something that would give anyone’s frayed nerves an extra shock: join the information war that Russia and Ukraine are fiercely fighting online.
On Thursday, Best’s Wikileaks-esque entity published what it claimed were a massive set of files that a member of the Anonymous group of hacking activists had stolen from Russia’s watchdog agency, Roskomnadzor. This includes a large number of emails and attachments. Forbes Last week it looked at how Roskomnadzor has asked US companies – Google, in particular – to monitor content over the past decade, from Ukrainian protests on YouTube to content from Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered a terrorist organization in Russia. If his internal data is leaked online, it could reveal how far internet censorship extends.
The agency had not responded to a request for comment at press time.
The data in the Roskomnadzor leak appears large at over 800 GB, totaling 340,000 files in the first batch released today. They do not cover the national Roskomnadzor operation, but within the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan, the country’s most populous (although not self-governing) republic.
DDoSecrets is now publishing the information, as they fear Russia will soon be cut off from the wider internet. In recent days, major Internet service providers have pulled out of the country, threatening its connection to servers outside Russia. The source, part of Anonymous, urgently felt that the Russian people should have access to information about their government. They also expressed their opposition to the Russian people’s disconnection from independent media and the outside world,” DDoSecrets said in a statement.
When asked if they were concerned about entering an information war at such a critical time, and by publicly releasing information from a Russian government body, Best — who uses the pronoun “they” — simply indicated Forbes to a GIF of a cute animated monster pressing a keyboard, and a message from her Twitter profile that read: “Бáба-Ягá UwU,” or, in English, “Baba Yaga UwU.” Baba Yaga is a mysterious figure of Slavic folklore, often depicted as a fierce woman. UwU is a cute face emoji. The seemingly ambivalent jokey refers to Best’s sometimes-branched nature, along with the knowledge that they’re doing something that’s likely to upset certain authorities.
This is not the first time that DDoSecrets has leaked data on Russia. In 2019, it published a massive cache of emails and files that BEST said came from Russian politicians, journalists, oligarchs, religious figures, and nationalists/terrorists in Ukraine.” Much of it focused on Russia’s operations in Ukraine after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, allegedly Some of them were stolen in a hack of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
However, the best is not a diversion from any patriotic duty. We were previously pleased to publish data on American organizations, in particular the police. “I don’t yearn to have any citizenship,” Best adds. “I’m not happy because I’m an American. It’s accurate. I’m not happy about that.” Why not? “Imperialism. Uber capitalism. Neo-colonialism, military expansion, surveillance, the militarization of the police, the police system itself.”
Forbes He was unable to independently verify the latest leak, which came after the release of emails and plans allegedly stolen from Belarusian arms manufacturer Tetraedr, just days after the invasion of Russia. (Tetraedr did not respond to a request for comment.) But DDoSecrets, an organization built on almost complete transparency of data it best believes is in the public interest, has yet to be exposed by publishing any major fraud. It previously made headlines by publishing statements of abuses by police departments in the wake of protests over the killing of George Floyd and, most controversially, from victims of ransomware crews, whose files were made public when they refused to pay the ransom. Best says it has “received some corrections to the description of some of the datasets that they help clarify. . . . Many of the groups contain counterfeits, but we are proactively classifying them.”
While there are a lot of false claims about the legality of cyber attacks on Ukrainian and Russian entities, and persistent allegations of “fake news” on both sides, this is not a bad record. Best said the data came from a hacker allied to the crew of hacking activist Anonymous and there was no indication that the leak was fake until now.
“We were able to verify that it came from . . . the office identified by the source.” “We believe the source was serious and so far we haven’t found any flaws in the data.”
It’s not that Best is unaware of the possibility that the information in this latest leak has been tampered with. “With the file set to this size, it is always possible to modify or implant something,” they added.
There’s also the possibility that the release simply makes more noise, although DDoSecrets has its proponents. David Betz, professor of war in the modern world at King’s College London, said he was supportive of WikiLeaks, and, at first glance, felt the same about Beast’s latest publication. “I think it’s a positive thing. Censorship needs to be exposed,” Betz said.
And Best cautioned that anyone delving into the data should be wary. Email attachments inside files may be loaded with malware. DDoSecrets has a number of associated tools that can help users provide them with security, although, like any technology, they are not guaranteed to keep download tools secure.
As with the unbridled information war around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, treat with caution.