The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—the principal foreign intelligence and counterintelligence agency of the US government—is reportedly using social media to reach out to Russians who might act as informants amid President Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday 3 May 2022, the agency’s official Instagram account shared a post written in Russian which, according to Business Insider, translated to a set of instructions on how to make “secure virtual contact” with the CIA. The post said it was targeting “those who feel compelled by the Russian Government’s unjust war.”
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By accessing the online browser Tor—an open-source privacy network that enables anonymous web browsing—Russian citizens who wish to speak with the counterintelligence agency are assured they will be able to do so in a safe and secure manner.
The CIA’s post also said that, to get Tor, potential informants shouldn’t use their personal or work computer and should instead prefer an internet connection or computer not associated with their identity. The post further noted that they should make sure their browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari are updated and in ‘private browsing’ mode (also known as ‘Incognito Mode’).
Alternatively, the agency wrote it was “imperative” that Russian individuals use a virtual private network (VPN) before reaching out with any intel. “Do not use a VPN whose provider is based in Russia, China, or any other countries that are considered unfriendly to the United States,” it additionally warned.
Unsurprisingly, since the beginning of the country’s latest invasion of Ukraine, Russian demand for VPNs has skyrocketed—more specifically since the Kremlin started blocking its citizens’ access to social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well as countless news websites. According to the analysis site AppFigures, it is estimated that daily downloads for the ten most popular VPN apps on Google Play and App Store increased by at least 4,275 per cent during the first week of the invasion.
Last but not least, the CIA’s post also provided users with a link to a dedicated channel set up by the agency asking informants to send their full name, job description and the kind of information in their possession. “We urge you to take all the proper precautions to keep yourself safe,” the post read. “Your safety is of first priority,” it concluded.