On Wednesday, the world-renowned hacking collective Anonymous made headlines by releasing a massive data dump of over 100 gigabytes of documents. The documents, which Anonymous claims it acquired from the Russian internet service provider Convex, reveal shocking evidence of widespread illegal surveillance by the Kremlin on its own citizens and private corporations.
In a Twitter post, Anonymous stated that Convex launched a project known as “Green Atom,” which involves installing and maintaining extensive surveillance equipment to monitor the online activity of all traffic in and out of Convex. The group claimed that this constitutes “espionage, unauthorized wiretapping, and surveillance of civilians without a warrant,” which violates Russian law and the public statements of the Russian authorities.
The data dump contained the information of thousands of Russian citizens who were clients of corporations targeted by the surveillance program, which Anonymous alleges is operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The existence of the program was not previously known to the public.
In an email to the Kyiv Post, Anonymous stated, “Documents confirming the existence of this project, as well as the correspondence of Convex employees with the FSB, are now available not only to us, but also to you.” The group also hinted that there is more information yet to be released, which could shed further light on the FSB’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
It should be noted that Russia has a history of spying on its citizens through its System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM) network, established in 1995. This network operates as a “back door” giving the Russian government access to the call, messages, and data of customers of Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the largest phone provider in the country. The act of snooping on citizens’ phone records is legal under Russian law, and changes to the legislation in recent years have extended the reach of SORM to cover internet providers and web companies, requiring them to install SORM equipment. In fact, several companies have been fined by the state internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, for failing to comply with these requirements.
The release of this information by Anonymous is a significant event, shedding light on the extent of government surveillance in Russia and highlighting the important role that hacktivist groups can play in holding those in power accountable. The data dump serves as a reminder that even the most powerful organizations are not immune to the actions of determined individuals and groups fighting for justice and transparency.