"The inconspicuous office is in Moscow’s north-eastern suburbs. A sign reads:
“Business centre”. Nearby are modern residential blocks and a rambling old
cemetery, home to ivy-covered war memorials. The area is where Peter the Great
once trained his mighty army.
Inside the six-storey building, a new generation is helping Russian military
operations. Its weapons are more advanced than those of Peter the Great’s era:
not pikes and halberds, but hacking and disinformation tools.
The software engineers behind these systems are employees of NTC Vulkan. On the
surface, it looks like a run-of-the-mill cybersecurity consultancy. However, a
leak of secret files from the company has exposed its work bolstering Vladimir
Putin’s cyberwarfare capabilities.
Thousands of pages of secret documents reveal how Vulkan’s engineers have
worked for Russian military and intelligence agencies to support hacking
operations, train operatives before attacks on national infrastructure, spread
disinformation and control sections of the internet.
The company’s work is linked to the federal security service or FSB, the
domestic spy agency; the operational and intelligence divisions of the armed
forces, known as the GOU and GRU; and the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence
One document links a Vulkan cyber-attack tool with the notorious hacking group
Sandworm, which the US government said twice caused blackouts in Ukraine,
disrupted the Olympics in South Korea and launched NotPetya, the most
economically destructive malware in history. Codenamed Scan-V, it scours the
internet for vulnerabilities, which are then stored for use in future
Another system, known as Amezit, amounts to a blueprint for surveilling and
controlling the internet in regions under Russia’s command, and also enables
disinformation via fake social media profiles. A third Vulkan-built system –
Crystal-2V – is a training program for cyber-operatives in the methods required
to bring down rail, air and sea infrastructure. A file explaining the software
states: “The level of secrecy of processed and stored information in the
product is ‘Top Secret’.”
The Vulkan files, which date from 2016 to 2021, were leaked by an anonymous
whistleblower angered by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Such leaks from Moscow are
extremely rare. Days after the invasion in February last year, the source
approached the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung
and said the GRU and FSB
“hide behind” Vulkan."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics