Kremlin-Linked #Hackers #Expose a #Network of #Fake #Tech-News #Sites

LeakData.us looks like any other bargain-bin tech-news site, with a smattering of stories on hacking, cybersecurity, and privacy, as well as plenty of stereotypical stock photos. But probing closer, apparently the only original content on this site is a series of articles praising hackers previously linked to a Russian military intelligence agency.

Instead of an ordinary blog, LeakData.us is a website intimately connected to an ongoing disinformation campaign against Bellingcat, a group of fact-checkers and citizen journalists that, through its investigations, has repeatedly irked the Kremlin.

As The Daily Beast reported this month, a dubious hacker group calling itself Anonymous Poland put online an alleged cache of personal data belonging to Ukrainian veterans. Anonymous Poland, which cybersecurity researchershave previously linked to the Russian hacking group APT28 (the outfit that infamously breached the Democratic National Committee), claimed in a series of tweets that the data came from Bellingcat, the online collective that has repeatedly exposed Russian government lies. A swarm of apparently related accounts also impersonated Bellingcat contributors, continued to spread the data, and even tweeted the cache at journalists, presumably in an attempt to garner media attention and smear the group’s image.

Since then, Anonymous Poland has ramped up its campaign against Bellingcat and released more data—but it also exposed the connected LeakData.us website in the process.

Last week, one Twitter account unconvincingly pretending to be Bellingcat co-founder Eliot Higgins tweeted a LeakData.us article entitled “Lithuanian Banks Black Friday.” Anonymous Poland had published a list of alleged credit-card details from a Lithuanian bank, and again credited Bellingcat for the hack. LeakData’s poorly sourced but flattering article about the hackers said the banks had “suffered huge losses during a well-planned and highly effective hacking attack.”

A follow-up LeakData.us article published Tuesday repeated much of the news, including that Anonymous Poland had also recorded a video announcing it had made bomb threats against the banks.

These stories were not accurate, however, said Ieva Kulvinskaitė, head of communications at SEB, one of the Lithuanian banks.