Belarusian Cyber Partisans
The Belarusian Cyber Partisans is a highly organized hacktivist collective that is fighting for the liberation of Belarus from dictatorial rule, the establishment of democratic rights, and the rule of law in the country. The group is known for its various cyberattacks against the Belarusian regime, Russian regime, and Russian military forces on the territory of Belarus.
The Cyber Partisans emerged in the wake of the 2020 protests in Belarus against the dictator Lukashenko, who had illegally seized power in the country. There are no professional hackers among us. Most of the participants are regular IT specialists who do not agree with the lawless regime and decided to use their technical expertise to confront the dictatorship within the confines of their abilities.
All members of the group remain anonymous since otherwise they and their families will be subject to persecution by Lukashenko’s regime. The only non-anonymous participant and official representative of the group is Yuliana Shemetovets.
Yuliana graduated from the Belarusian State University in 2016 with a degree in World Economics from the Faculty of International Relations. She also holds a Master's degree in Political Science from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a Data Analytics from the University of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. Yuliana joined the Cyber Partisan group in August 2021 after a successful attack on the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus.
The Cyber Partisans collaborate with many human rights organizations and independent journalists, such as Helsinki Committee, Bellingcat, OCCRP, Belarusian Investigative Center, and Belsat.
The Cyber Partisans also provide technical support to dozens of opposition groups and create safe means of communication, such as Partisan Telegram and Partisan SMS. Our representative was invited to the panel discussions hosted by Bloomberg, European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative, BBC, Harward, Yale, NYU, Michigan universities, and many more.
Since December 2022, the Cyber Partisans have joined forces with the Kastus Kalinouski Regiment, which is fighting in Ukraine as one of the units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. We engage in cyber offensives targeting adversary infrastructure, performing reconnaissance, and ensuring cybersecurity.
What is hacktivism?
Hacktivism is a combination of hacking and activism. It means misusing a computer or the internet, primarily by way of hacking into unauthorized networks, to expose a believed injustice.
It’s important to note that protests and activism are a protected activity, while hacking is illegal.
People who carried out hacktivism attacks are hacktivists. They generally claim to operate with altruistic intentions, meaning not to cause malicious harm but rather to draw attention to a cause that’s important to the hacktivist group.
Hacktivism is much like activism in our physical world, whereby people cause disruption to bring about change. One difference is that the disruption is entirely online and conducted anonymously.
We conduct our cyber operations with the minimum possible damage to citizens. The safety of ordinary citizens is our priority. Our attacks solely target entities aligned with the dictatorship regime in Belarus and Russia.
We do not fulfill commercial orders. Our group works to overthrow the dictatorship in Belarus, and not for personal enrichment.
We do not use the data and information received for personal use and selfish purposes. Only for solving crimes and countering dictatorial regimes in Belarus and Russia.
We take care of the personal data of Belarusian citizens, and we make every effort to protect their personal data. We only reveal information that is related to the regime and people who committed crimes against Belarusian citizens.
Hundreds of Belarusians were arrested and persecuted because of their anti-dictatorship Internet activity. Free media are completely banned in Belarus. A simple "Like" reaction may lead to years of imprisonment, regular political chatting in a messenger ends with state-sanctioned torture.
In the face of dictatorship people of Belarus demand secure ways to communicate with each other and to access freedom media. Bypassing the state's surveillance is crucial. We constantly develop and update our applications to help avoid the political persecution.
Partisan Telegram (PTG from here on) is a modification (‘fork’) of the well-known messenger Telegram adapted for the purpose of data protection of politically engaged users living under repressive regimes. The adaptation introduces a number of data protection features under various scenarios, including the automatic locking of sensitive data away from being accessed by authorities when a user is being detained. It also features some additional improvements in confidentiality and security for Telegram users.
To have the ability to communicate in case of Internet blackouts, we developed P-SMS application. Our application encrypts regular SMS messages with a secret key and no one but the sender and recipient is able to read it.
In 2020 during the protests against the dictatorship authorities regularly restricted Internet access for Belarusians. The lack of secure communication was the real problem and we solved that problem for now.
Activists' stories about
A year ago, during interrogation, they tried to get into my Telegram [on the phone]. I ‘helped’ them by entering with the fake passcode and showed them through ([during which] dialogues, channels, etc. were all removed [automatically by PTG behind the scenes]). I guess they did not understand or did not show that they noticed that this was a PTG. They simply tried to get through the two-factor authentication.