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Huge data dump from Russia’s censorship agency posted online

A Belarusian hacking group has uploaded a mound of data from the Russian Roskomnadzor censorship agency.

user icon David Hollingworth
Wed, 15 Feb 2023
Huge data dump from Russia’s censorship agency posted online
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The 335GB dump contains files and emails from Roskomnadzor’s General Radio Frequency Centre (GRFC) division, and was posted overnight by a group calling themselves Belarusian Cyber-Partisans.

“Do you want to know who in Roskomnadzor was preparing reports on protests in Ukraine & Kazakhstan for the leadership of the Kremlin?” the hacktivist group’s tweet reports. “We published these reports and contact info of the RKN employees in our TG channel.”

The group also promised this dump was just the first tranche of data that it had acquired and that there is “more to come”.

The data was shared with whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets. The dataset was then added to the group’s online Hunter Memorial Library, where it can be searched by those with access to the library.

The progressive German news site Süddeutsche Zeitung has already had a close look at what the files contain, and how Roskomnadzor’s censorship regime works.

“On October 16, 2022, the Youtuber Tetiana from Rhineland-Palatinate comments on a Deutsche Welle video,” Süddeutsche Zeitung’s reporters wrote. “On the same day, Rudolf K. posted a post in Augsburg on the Russian social network Odnoklassniki. They write in Russian, lamenting the victims and violence of the war of aggression against Ukraine.”

“Shortly thereafter, both articles land in the email inbox of the Russian media supervisory authority Roskomnadzor, RKN for short. Subject: ‘Killing of civilians’, attached a table of all social media posts with ‘potentially illegal content’ found that day.”

On paper, the General Radio Frequency Centre has a far more benign job description. According to the division’s own website, it operates purely to “ensure proper use of radio frequencies and radio frequency channels”, such as monitoring communications from shipping and evaluating radio facilities.

Roskomnadzor itself is more technically known as The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, and it operates under the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media.

The data that GRFC is monitoring covers a wide range of topics beyond the social ebb and flow of feelings around Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. The agency closely monitors opinions and rumours about President Vladimir Putin, along with possible terrorist activity and drug trafficking. But it also considers as “violations” anything to do with portraying LGBTQIA+ culture or practices in a positive light, as well as “images of persons that do not correspond to the traditional image of a man and a woman (for example, masculine female faces, men with makeup)”, according to Russian news site IStories.

Hacking and data leaks are often seen in a very negative light, but there is no denying that being able to peer behind the curtain of countries like Russia — especially now can be very useful in establishing just what, exactly, the Russian government is scared of.

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