Hackers Are Taking on the Lukashenko Regime in Belarus
Seated in his chair since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko is a controversial leader. Ever since the election of August 2020, the nation has been in a state of distress. The reason for this unrest is loud and clear: People think the election was a sham and that Lukashenko is abusing his influence to stay in power.
Enter Belarus Cyber Partisans, a group of 15 information technology experts who has, prior to rising political tension, never before dabbled in hacking. The Partisans first surfaced around September 2020, defacing government websites as a high-profile protest, and have been active ever since.
What they got, so far
They have breached an array of sensitive governmental and police databases, published evidence on alleged criminal activity inside the police. They also uncovered how the regime obfuscated the real mortality rates associated with COVID-19 and voice recordings of officials ordering violent crackdowns on peaceful protests. The Partisans claim they have breached pretty much every part of the administration's systems and that they released just a mere fraction of it thus far.
According to the coverage from MIT Technology Review, some other notable findings include, "audio recordings from emergency services and video feeds from road speed and surveillance cameras" and also video feeds from "isolation cells where detainees are held."
The dissidents within
What's more interesting is that the Partisans actually have "insiders". There's another group in the country which dubs itself BYPOL, which includes ex and current government officials. Some of these names provide support and guidance from abroad while some are keeping their position inside the regime to undermine it from the inside. Just like a spy movie.
Apparently, the Partisans approached BYPOL in December 2020, they asked for help to understand the structure of the country's cyber infrastructure. Ex and current security force personnel from BYPOL helped the hacktivists understand the structures they must overcome and some insiders even reported back on how the country's security forces reacted to the hacks.
For their part in this perilous project, BYPOL requested data from the Partisans to conduct investigations on the regime. The findings are published on BYPOL's Telegram channel (which reportedly has 77k followers)
"No professional hackers"
While many of them were already IT experts, the Belarus Cyber Partisans claim that none of their members are actual hackers, they even note that some of their cybersecurity specialists "learned on the go.”
After the 2020 elections, the major opposition candidate Viktor Babariko gathered up a bunch of tech experts with a cyber investigation in mind as well. He was abruptly arrested and put on trial and eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption. The country is currently actively sanctioned against internationally and the internal turmoil doesn't seem like it'll go away anytime soon.
H/T: MIT Tech Review, Bloomberg