CIA offers Russians safe way to share secrets through Dark Web

The CIA took to social media to post instructions in Russian on how Russians could use VPNs to contact it. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is making a push for Russians with information to share to reach out to the spy agency on the dark Web.

The CIA took to YouTube and various social media platforms Monday (May 2) to post instructions on how Russians could use secure virtual private networks, or VPNs, to download a secure browser to contact the agency via the anonymity of the dark Web.

The instructions, written in Russian, are meant to be relatively simple to follow.

Russians are told to use a VPN to contact the CIA. They can also download the Tor browser, which allows users to access the dark Web and submit information anonymously, without either the agency knowing where it came from or Russian security services knowing someone was contacting the Americans.

"We are providing Russian-language instructions on how to safely contact CIA - via our dark Web site or a reputable VPN - for those who feel compelled to reach us because of the Russian government's unjust war," said Ms Susan Miller, a CIA spokesman.

While Russia is blocking Western social media, YouTube remains accessible. The agency is also using other undisclosed means to push out its instructions.

The CIA first created a way to anonymously contact the agency via the dark Web in 2019, when it posted a version of its website accessible with a Tor browser.

But the messages posted Monday were the first time the agency has posted the instructions in Russian.

Using a Tor browser protects users' anonymity by encrypting the traffic and bouncing it through so many way points it becomes extremely hard to trace.

An agency official said the CIA wanted to provide Russians concerned about the war in Ukraine with a way to contact the agency without Moscow's security services being able to intercept.

In the past, the agency has struggled with covert communications, with both the Iranians and Chinese penetrating one secret system set up by the agency.

While it is theoretically possible for an intelligence service to track someone on the dark Web, it would be immensely resource-intensive.

The CIA asked Russians contacting it on the dark Web to provide their name, position, the information access they have - as well as a way to follow up securely.

While any Russian is welcome to contact the agency, US intelligence officers are likely mostly interested in Russian government officials with access to secret information.

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