Russian Spy Agency FSB Hacked in Largest Breach Ever Exposing Effort to Crack Tor Anonymous Web Browser
Russian intelligence agency, Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, (FSB) or Federal Security Service in English was the target of a cyber attack. According to the BBC, hackers stole 7.5 terabytes of data including Russia sponsored plans to gather data from social media accounts and hack encrypted Tor browsing sessions. Russia’s FSB is the equivalent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s Security Service known as MI5.
Hackers breached an FSB contractor, Sitec on July 13. The hacking group named 0v1ru$ defaced Sitec’s website with a smiling YOBA Face, or ПеКа-фейс, along with the names of discovered secret projects. Federal Security Service project names exposed: (Arion, Relation, and Hryvnia) are all names of employees at Sitec. 0v1ru$ sent the hacked data to hacking group Digital Revolution which in turn sent the files to media outlets and posted the news on Twitter.
Russia is trying to crack Tor anonymous web browser. Hacked FSB project plans were sent to local news outlets by Digital Revolution as proof of the activity. Hacked information includes plans to strip anonymity from Tor browsing, scraping of social media sites (including Facebook and LinkedIn for personal information, and plans to segregate Russian internet from the rest of the world. It appears that the FSB has been trying to decrypt Tor web traffic since 2012.
Hacked FBS Projects
- Nautilus collected information of internet users seeking to anonymize online activities
- Nautilus-S was developed by Sitec to work on intercepting anonymized Tor web traffic. The project was launched in 2012 under the direction of Russia’s Kvant Research Institute
- Hope and Tax-3 are the names of the projects that are working toward a separate internet for Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation to ensure stable operation of the Russian Internet (Runet) disconnected from the global internet services.
0v1ru$ downloaded part of the project files before deleting them from Sitec servers. Digital Revolution is the organization that hacked Kvant Research Institute in December 2018. Kvant is administered by the FSB.
A BBC post states that Sitec’s projects were mostly contracted with FSB Military Unit 71330, part of FSB’s 16th Directorate. Military Unit 71330 handles signals intelligence. The hacked projects do not involve state secrets.
What is Russia’s Federal Security Service?
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is the successor to the former Soviet-era Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or KGB. FSB was created in 1994 and is headquartered in Moscow. The FSB is responsible for counterintelligence gathering, antiterrorism efforts, military surveillance, and electronic surveillance abroad. FSB’s Military Unit 71330 of the 16th Directorate is accused of emailing spyware to Ukrainian intelligence officers in 2015.
What is TOR Browsing
Tor browsing is a technology used to keep internet traffic including web browser activity, messaging, forums, and other communications private and secure. Tor browsing thwarts network surveillance or traffic analysis. All internet traffic is funneled through a global overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays from volunteers who runs servers for free. Tor traffic cannot be intercepted between or at the nodes.
Tor web browser is a open source web browser used to ensure that all web traffic is kept anonymous. It connects automatically to the Tor network. Brave browser is another lesser known private web browser.