An IT specialist from Russia, who’s also a US asylum seeker, claims that the Russian Security Service asked him to hack into the system that processes visas for Russians who want to travel to the UK.
He revealed this info to the Bellingcat investigative website. Bellingcat, therefore, investigated the matter before making a report on it.
The BBC too has also had a direct talk with the guy making the claims. He pleaded anonymity for security reasons.
Although there is no way to confirm some of the details he gave, experts handling the matter affirmed that his story tallies with activities of Russia’s security service.
Recall that in March this year, some Russian intelligence personnel traveled to Salisbury when Sergei Skripal was poisoned, but it has not been confirmed if there is any link between Skripal’s case and this Russian attempted hacking allegation.
How it all started
The IT professional who goes by the fake name, “Vadim,” once worked for TLScontact, an IT firm which offers IT services to embassies, in handling visa applications. The British consulate in Russia, therefore, receives visa applications, processes, and then sends them to London where final decisions are made on them.
Vadim got married when he was working for TLScontact in China. But then he was transferred to Moscow in 2015 ending and then faced challenges in getting his family to move with him to his new post.
Vadim went further to reveal that someone approached him in April 2016 offering to make his problems disappear. He was given documents to sign and seal his agreement to co-operate with Russia’s security service, the FSB. The representative told him they needed him to provide the IT network, including the operations of TLScontact and a network map.
Vadim cooperated and did as he was told, but then, he got even more requests and had more meetings with them. He then made many unsuccessful attempts at leaving Russia as he was always discovered and warned.
He was told to monitor and report on the visa applications and activities of some select people. Finally, he was asked to hack into the visa network center of the British embassy. With this type of access, Russia could intercept visa information being transferred from Russia to the UK.
According to Vadim, he refused to do it and finally moved his family out of the country. He fled Moscow to the US where he sought asylum. This was in September 2016.
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