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16.01.2014

Personal data of critics illegally gathered to discredit them

   

This text was prepared just before the events in November 2013 which led to EuroMaidan.  Oksana Romanyuk, Director of the Institute for Mass Information had lodged a formal complaint with the police over the hacking and publication on the Internet of personal correspondence and other material from her computer (see Hacking the Messenger).  Over recent months other journalists and civic activists had been targeted.  In the light of the IMI report for 2013, and mention of an unprecedented rise in cybercrimes and DDos attacks, it unfortunately remains topical.

Romanyuk talked about the smear campaign in an interview to Radio Svoboda.  She said that it had began at the beginning of September and seemed aimed at discrediting independent journalists and civic activists criticizing the regime and uncovering corruption. She sees the hacking of journalists’ emails as part of this campaign and points out that this is in stark contrast to Kyiv’s declared movement to Europe.

“A key factor is interpretation of the personal data.  In itself it doesn’t contain anything that could discredit those people, however its interpreted in such a way as to make them seem like bribe-givers or those working for America. And the purpose of the smear is obviously to frighten independent journalists, civic activists. The second aim is however they can to turn people within that milieu against each other.  And a third aim, that is to discredit independent information as far as the public is concerned”

Radio Svoboda turned to the police who refused to comment on suggestions that the law enforcement agencies could be involved in hacking personal correspondence, and said that they investigate any such attacks which are reported to them.

Oleksandr Danylyuk from the movement Spilna Sprava [Common Cause] says that his information suggests a scale of wiretapping that cannot possibly be carried out legally, as in according to court orders. He believes that either court orders are being forged, or mobile operators are allowing the security service to intercept information without the relevant documentation.   He says that whether the cases where activists of his movement had their phones tapped in 2004 could at least be counted, and were publicized, now there is just total surveillance and wiretapping.   He asserts that there are attempts to hack his emails at least once a week. 

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