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A bombshell investigation from The New York Times last September “accidentally” exposed the phone numbers of Russian soldiers opposed to the war in Ukraine, leaving the information wide open and available for months, according to a report from Vice News.
Some of the soldiers expressed blunt criticisms of their superiors, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. The exposure leaves these individuals, and the family members they were speaking to, vulnerable to potential reprisal from their government or other third parties, Vice reported.
The revelation highlights both the risk that cell phones pose during wartime, and the security hazards posed by journalists handling leaked information, Vice reported.
The metadata of the Times investigation was scrubbed prior to publication, but some identifying information escaped the outlet’s notice, the newspaper said in a statement.
“Before publication, we worked to remove identifying information from the story. We later learned that some buried metadata was live on the site for a few hours, and took prompt steps to remove it,” a Times spokesperson told the outlet.
But Vice found more data — including “multiple” phone numbers, belonging not only to soldiers, but the relatives they were communicating with —embedded in the article’s source code, which remained live until Wednesday afternoon — several months after the investigation’s initial publication. After Vice reached out to the Times again, the code was changed to read “null.”
Earlier this month, the Times published an article about how Ukrainian artillery targets Russian soldiers based on cell phone data. “For Russian troops, cellphone use is a persistent, lethal danger,” the Times wrote.
“The use of personal cellphones has plagued both Ukraine and especially Russia throughout the war, leaving troops vulnerable to a piece of technology that, however mundane and ubiquitous in daily life, can pose an existential threat in modern war.”
Source: Vice News