BYPOL also has access to cyberpartisan hardware to help them conduct surveys in the scheme, which are then posted on BYPOL’s own Telegram channel. These surveys were popular and successful, and one of their documentaries was quoted during a US Congressional hearing on Belarus that took place shortly before the United States imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies.
Hackers claim their latest round of attacks gave them access to drone footage during the crackdown on protests, the Interior Ministry’s cellphone monitoring database, and databases for passports, motor vehicles, etc. They also say they have accessed audio recordings from emergency services and video feeds from speed and surveillance cameras, as well as solitary confinement cells where detainees are held.
Supporters say their intention is to undermine the regime at all levels. “We have a strategic plan which includes cyber attacks to paralyze the regime’s security forces as much as possible, to sabotage the regime’s weak points in infrastructure and to protect protesters,” the spokesperson said.
“Hacking is important because it shows that the regime is not as unstoppable and unbeatable as it projects it,” said Artyom Shraibman, political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “It shows the weakness of their system. He emboldened the protesters. Many people in the protest encountered these leaks with joy and a sense of victory. “
“We don’t have professional hackers”
Cyber Partisans say they are not hackers but tech workers who can no longer sit idle. The group spokesperson says four people are carrying out “real ethical hacking” while the rest are providing support, analysis and data processing.
“We don’t have professional hackers,” they told MIT Technology Review. “We are all IT and cybersecurity specialists who have learned on the job. “
Pavel Slunkin, who was a Belarusian diplomat until last year and now works with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said supporters reflect the importance of the tech industry to the country.
“Belarusians who work in tech don’t just want an economic impact, but they want to turn it into political influence,” he says. “These kinds of people have houses and cars and everything, except they can’t choose their own future. But now they have decided that they can participate in political life. They played a very important role, if not the most important, in what happened in Belarus in 2020. “
As last year’s election campaign approaches, opposition candidate Sergei Tikhanovsky has recruited a number of tech experts. He was arrested two days after publicly announcing his candidacy, and his wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, took his place as Lukashenko’s main opponent.
“When Tikhanovsky was put in jail, the protest movement felt destroyed,” Slunkin says. “It was the starting point for people trying to oppose the regime, not in the streets, but rather where they feel stronger and safer than the government.”
“A hack as complete as one can imagine”
Lukashenko’s iron grip on media and information in Belarus has forced political opponents to turn to apps like Telegram, which are more difficult to block or regulate. The pirate Telegram channel has more than 77,000 subscribers.
Their most recent posts include a recording of a conversation between two senior Belarusian police officials on August 8, 2020, the day before the presidential election. In the recording, Minsk’s deputy police chief and his subordinate discuss the “preventive” arrests of protesters and major political opponents. Their targets include staff working for Tsikhanouskaya.