Belarusian dictator pwned by “cyber-partisans”

When a secretive autocrat has no more secrets.

Cory Doctorow


The Belarusian Cyber Patriots logo: cartoon drawing of a happy hooded hacker with a laptop and cup of coffee, the laptop bears a sticker with an image of the pre-Soviet Belarusian flag knight-emblem. The background is a grid of ones and zeroes.”

Belarus is “Europe’s last Soviet dictatorship,” a country ruled by Alexander Lukashenko, an absurd authoritarian caricature who once had a one-armed man arrested for clapping:

Lukashenko’s brutality is absurd, but it’s no joke. Belarus has a terrible human rights record: it’s a corrupt land of secret disappearances and torture (it’s also my heritage: my grandfather was born in Nowy Swerzne, Belarus).

Lukashenko is a clown, but he possesses the administrative competence to avail himself of high-tech surveillance — a decade ago, he was already using mobile carriers’ records to obtain lists of every person who attended anti-government demonstrations.

But as the saying goes “any weapon you don’t know how to use is your enemy’s.” Lukashenko’s regime is highly digitized — and badly secured. Earlier this year, hacktivists called the Belarusian Cyber Partisans announced that they’d obtained a huge trove of government docs.

The trove includes the identities of police informants, government officials’ personal information (including spies), recordings from the state’s widespread wiretapping program, and footage from security cameras and drones.

Now, these documents are starting to trickle out. As Ryan Gallagher reports for Bloomberg, the authorities are starting to freak. The head of the Belarusian KGB made a special TV broadcast to blame the breach on foreign spies.

The leaks expose Lukashenko officials to liability in the International Criminal Court when and if the regime finally falls. The leaks are being promoted by BYPOL, a dissident group of former Belarusian cops who resigned en masse after last year’s rigged election.

They’re especially incensed to learn that Lukashenko’s spies were wiretapping cops (including senior cops), and planning violent suppression of peaceful protesters — actions that…