Security News

Russian Government Surveillance Devices Leak Data for More Than a Year

Leonid Evdokimov at the Chaos Constructions security conference (YouTube).
Leonid Evdokimov at the Chaos Constructions security conference (YouTube).

Personal data has been leaked by equipment used by the Russian Government to spy on Internet traffic.

As reported in Meduza, the discovery was uncovered by Russian programmer Leonid Evdokimov, who found that mailing addresses, telephone numbers, login names, and geolocation coordinates were openly available. Some of the information even came from Sarov, a 'closed town' where Russia conducts secret nuclear research.

The data was leaked from SORM (System for Operative Investigative Activities) devices, which are used (lawfully) by the FSB, Russia's security service, to analyze and retain all data on Russian networks, including phone calls, emails, websites visited and credit card transactions. Russian ISPs have to install an FSB monitoring device for the collection of data and, while a court order is needed for this, they are secret and not even the ISP knows about what is being collected.

Evdokimov was initially alerted to what was happening in April 2018 and used an open-source security scanner (ZMap) to uncover 30 "suspicious packet sniffers" in the networks of at least 20 Russian ISPs.

"Like any honest person, the first thing I did was reach out to the Internet providers about this, to find out what was going on. They told me that this is a standard 'box' from the SORM developer and 'Revizor' (Auditor) system," said Evdokimov.

An unnamed source at one ISP told him that the sniffer equipment in question was manufactured by MFI Soft. However, when contacted by Evdokimov, MFI Soft refused to acknowledge its hardware was to blame, despite two of the addresses in the published data packages mentioning MFI Soft. Instead, they lay blame with the "corporate information security systems" operated by the telecoms' clients.

Even after Evdokimov’s 2018 findings, six SORM devices remained open until August 26 this year, the day after Evdokimov gave a presentation at the Chaos Constructions security conference in St. Petersburg.

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