NTC Vulkan a company in Russia looks on the surface like a cyber consulting firm. However, a leak of secret files from the company revealed its work boosting Vladimir Putin's cyberwarfare capabilities.
Thousands of pages of secret documents reveal how Vulkan engineers worked for Russian military and intelligence agencies to support hacking operations, train agents ahead of attacks on national infrastructure, spread disinformation and control parts of the Internet.
The company's work is linked to the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia's spy agency, the armed forces' operational and intelligence departments, known as the GOU and GRU, and the SVR, Russia's intelligence organization.
A document links a Vulkan cyberattack tool to the notorious Sandworm hacking group, which the US government said twice caused blackouts in Ukraine, disrupted the Olympics in South Korea and released the NotPetya, some of the most destructive malware in history. Codenamed Scan-V, it searches the web for vulnerabilities, which are then stored for use in future cyber attacks.
Another system, known as Amezit, is a plan to monitor and control the Internet in Russian-controlled areas and also allows disinformation through fake social media profiles.
A third system built by Vulkan – Crystal-2V – is a training program for cyber-entrepreneurs in the methods needed to bring down rail, air and sea infrastructure. A file explaining the software states:
“The privacy level of information processed and stored in the product is “Top Secret”.
The files from Vulkan, which date from 2016 to 2021, were leaked by an anonymous whistleblower who was angered by Russia's war in Ukraine. Such leaks from Moscow are extremely rare. Days after the hack in February last year, the source approached German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and said the GRU and FSB were "hiding behind Vulkan".
"People need to know the risks," the whistleblower said. “Due to the events in Ukraine, I have decided to make this information public. The company is doing bad things and the Russian government is cowardly and wrong. I am angry about the invasion of Ukraine and the terrible things that are happening there. I hope you can use this information to show what goes on behind closed doors."