The United States intelligence service took to Instagram on Monday to detail in a post that featured eight pictures how Russians can get in contact. The caption of the post written in Cyrillic read: “Below are the instructions for safely establishing virtual contact with the US Central Intelligence Agency.
“We urge you to take all necessary measures to protect yourself.”
It added: “Your safety is most important.”
Details were then added about websites linking to “Project TOR” which directs citizens to download a Tor browser which anonymizes and protects against tracking and surveillance of a user’s online activity.
The caption continued: “CIA is providing Russian-language instructions on how those who feel compelled by the Russian government’s unfair war can safely contact us.”
The post concluded: “Our global mission demands that individuals be able to reach CIA safely from anywhere.”
CIA officials told The Washington Post: “Concerned Russians are trying to engage CIA, and we wanted to provide a way to safely contact us.”
The officials added that the aim of the dedicated service is to gain further intelligence and access to Russian information and secrets from Russians.
A CIA spokesperson added: “Our global mission demands that individuals can contact us securely from anywhere.”
The agency further advised those with apprehensions to ensure they do not download the browser on their personal devices which could be linked to their identity.
For those unable to use such a device or cannot download the browser securely, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) must be enabled before contact with the CIA is attempted.
The CIA’s advice stated: “Do not use a VPN whose provider is based in Russia, China or any other countries that are considered unfriendly to the United States.”
A VPN conceals a user’s identity and encodes their internet traffic and retired intelligence officer Dan Hoffman who worked in Moscow told The Washington post: “You want to be really careful with Russians who are seeking to provide information.
“The FSB [successor of the KGB] in particular will be watching for people.”
Business Insider reported that since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, VPN downloads in Russia has increased.
Top10 VPN stated this increase was a result of the Kremlin focusing on online dissent and the banning of over 1,000 websites.
Though much of the information given may not be of much use to the agency, its focused and easy reporting service and interest in listening to disaffected civilians will motivate those to report what they know.
Former CIA officer John Sipher told The Washington Post that the new service created by the CIA “is a signal that they are being overwhelmed by people trying to contact U.S. intelligence in ways that are less than secure”.
He added: “It is appropriate to offer means for initial contact that are safer than walking into an embassy or approaching an American on the street.”