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‘Vulkan Files’ Leak Reveals Unique Insight Into Russian Cyber-War Plans

Composite: CircleID illustration, Adobe Stock

According to reports on Thursday, an anonymous person has Leaked confidential documents of NTC Vulkan, a Moscow-based defense contractor. It is believed that the documents are authentic and have been provided by an anonymous source who was greatly disturbed by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The documents are said to include a suite of computer programs and databases that would allow Russia’s intelligence agencies and hacking groups to better find vulnerabilities, coordinate attacks and control online activity. The documents suggest the firm was supporting operations including both social media disinformation and training to remotely disrupt real-world targets, such as sea, air and rail control systems.

“The intelligence and cybersecurity experts said details in the documents also match information collected about Russia’s hacking programs—including in a smaller previous leak—and appear to describe new tools for enabling offensive cyber operations,” says the Washington Post. “Vulkan, they said, is one of dozens of private firms known to provide tailored cyber capabilities to the Russian security services.”

The cache of documents, ranging from 2016 to 2021, includes manuals, technical specification sheets and other details for the software Vulkan designed for the Russian military and intelligence establishment. It also includes internal company emails, financial records and contracts that show both the ambition of Russia’s cyber operations and the breadth of the work Moscow has been outsourcing.

The documents provide insight into the Kremlin’s aims to grow and systematize its ability to conduct cyberattacks with greater speed, scale and efficiency. The targets of these attacks appear to be anyone the Kremlin considers hostile to its interests, regardless of whether they are in Russia or another nation.

The documents include programs to create fake social media pages and software that can identify and stockpile lists of vulnerabilities in computer systems across the globe for possible future targeting. They also include illustrations for a Vulkan platform called Skan, which makes reference to a U.S. location labeled “Fairfield” as a place to find network vulnerabilities for use in an attack. Another document describes a “user scenario” in which hacking teams would identify insecure routers in North Korea, presumably for potential use in a cyberattack.

These documents have not been confirmed to have been used in any cyberattacks. However, they offer insight into the aims of Russia’s cyber operations and the breadth of the work Moscow has been outsourcing. The leak of the documents is an unusual occurrence for Russia’s secretive military-industrial complex and possibly demonstrates the unintended consequence of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to take his country to war.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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