IStories: Moscow IT company creates software to isolate Internet, spyware, and ‘troll fabric’ programmes as ordered by law enforcement

Vulkan, a small Moscow IT company, commissioned by the Russian Defence Ministry, FSB, and the Foreign Intelligence Department to create software to spy on Internet users, for Russian Russian cyber attacks, control a “troll factory” and isolate the Internet, according to an investigation by IStories and Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as The Guardian, Washington Post, Paper Trail Media and other outlets.

The journalists analysed an archive of spyware documents that an anonymous source sent them.

As specified in the investigation, the office of Vulkan, the founders of which are listed as Anton Markov and Alexander Irzhavsky, is located in the north-east of Moscow, the company employs just over 130 people. The firm’s revenue in 2021 was more than a billion rubles (€11.9 million).

Some of Vulkan’s major clients, in particular, were military unit 33949 (a Foreign Intelligence Department subsidiary) and military unit 64829 (Information Security Center of the FSB), the journalists point out.

According to the investigators, the company was developing software nicknamed Amezit for the Defence Ministry. According to the documentation, it was supposed to

monitor all Internet users in a given territory, block “undesirable” sites, and instead impose propaganda articles promoted by bots,

the investigation said.

Experts with whom IStories spoke suggest that this system was created for use abroad, including in Ukraine.

This software has a subsystem that essentially represents a control point for a huge troll factory, the journalists noted.

As the investigation suggests, these trolls may have been involved in the 2017 Twitter campaign, when bots spread a false letter from the US Agency for International Development about US government interference in voting during the Armenian parliamentary elections on the social network. Vulcan trolls were also involved in the campaign against Hillary Clinton before the 2016 US presidential election, investigators say.

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