• Thu. May 19th, 2022

Is Russia using Premise mobile app to compile human intelligence in Ukraine?

The Russian military is reportedly using Premise, a micro-tasking mobile app platform to direct and calibrate fire during its invasion of Ukraine.

The mobile app is there on Android and iOS and offers a task market that allows you to earn money for basic tasks such as taking surveys, exploring your city to earn the best rewards, and sharing local information like l location of construction zones or the price of milk at a local store.

The app’s tasks include local questions as well as surveys related to the city of residence of its users.
The main activities to earn money using the application are:

  • Share ideas that reflect their reality, their thoughts, about the community.
  • Capture what’s happening in the community
  • Share information about your city, for example, local events, traffic jams or supermarket sales, etc.

App users earn money by sharing photos which they click on to complete tasks listed in the app. Users are paid between $0.25 and $3.25 (Rs 18-Rs 243) for one task.

Read also : Internet interrupted in Ukraine as Russian troops advance

Meanwhile, it has now emerged that Russian military forces may have used the Premise app to gain intelligence on possible targets across Ukraine.

Exemplary tasks include laying out bridges, ports, medical facilities and other key facilities. The issue was brought to the attention of social users by a Twitter account by the name of @alexrewrew.

What does the Ukrainian security establishment say?

Confirming the same, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement: “The Ukrainian Security Service conducted counterintelligence measures throughout Ukraine, detected thieves, Russian intelligence agents and enemy allies. The security service also carries out activities to protect the cyber and information space, to refute fake news.”

“Today in Kyiv, the forces detained a citizen who introduced himself as a foreign journalist. At the same time, he could not provide any confirmation about this, and when searching his phone, photos of the location of the positions of the Ukrainian troops were In the Kharkiv region, the General Staff of the security forces arrested four people in correctional custody with the Russian army,” the statement added.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces statement further said that Russia has been found to use a mobile application called “Premise” on smartphones to allow the country to detect vital information.

“Such incidents have been confirmed in Stryi and other cities. Therefore, in the case of anyone in public using such apps, please check their cell phone and report it to law enforcement,” the official said. communicated.

This not only raised the issue of ethics amid the Kremlin’s excesses invading Ukraine, but also heightened fire alarms among Ukrainian citizens, and made them suspicious of data privacy as well. than security leaks in other applications.

Read also : Russo-Ukrainian War: Did Western Nations Misjudge Vladimir Putin?

The premise refutes the claims

Responding to allegations of influence in Ukraine, Maury Blackman, CEO of Premise, said: “Earlier today, Premise was identified in social media posts as a tool used by Russian forces to locate targets. Ukrainians. It is unequivocally false. work for or support the Russian military or government.”

“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of the Ukrainian people. Premise strongly supports Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in standing up against this illegal and outrageous invasion of their sovereignty by the Russian government and Mr. Putin,” he added.

Blackman further said that Premise has suspended all operations in Ukraine and is closely monitoring the situation. “Our company and our team around the world strongly support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in defending themselves against this unlawful act of aggression by Russia,” he said.

Refuting allegations of targeted tagging of Ukrainian buildings or infrastructure, Blackman said: “We have also been accused on social media of asking contributors to choose whether to use phosphorus or any other method to target buildings or infrastructure. Ukrainian infrastructure. This allegation is totally false.

Shortly after Blackman’s statement, Premise suspended all operations in Ukraine. The Kyiv city administration has also issued warnings in this regard to its citizens regarding the markings painted on the roofs of buildings.

The administration has asked citizens to check and conceal any signs on the roofs of their buildings. It is believed that some markings were painted to guide Russian bombers.

Read also : Here’s where Ukraine stands against Russia in terms of military power

The Past Doesn’t Support Premise’s Claims That He’s “Innocent”

A Wall Street Journal had also accused the app of using unknowing users to gather intelligence for the US military in the past. The source for this is a 2019 proposal from Premise to U.S. Forces Afghanistan that talks about proxy activities carried out by the app to compile intelligence.

The company said it can assess the effectiveness of US information operations, scan and describe major social structures such as banks, mosques and internet cafes, and covertly monitor Wi-Fi signals and cell towers. cell phone in an area of ​​100 square kilometres.

The proposal stated that the company could design tasks to “safeguard the true intent”, concealing the intelligence-gathering nature of the operations from contributors.

Another Premise document explains that “proxy activities” such as power lines, bus stops or ATMs could be used to trick contributors into moving around while the app compiles background data about networks. cordless or other mobile phones.

Another proposal submitted by premise to the UK government in 2020 said the app could capture more than 100 types of metadata from users’ mobile phones, including location, battery level and other installed apps. Also at the time, Premise refuted those accusations with a full statement.

“The implication that Premise is a surveillance tool is completely inaccurate and unfounded. Premise contributors do not enter private spaces and never collect information about an individual, or violate an individual’s privacy. individual or business. Premise is used to collect publicly available information and is never used to monitor any person or location,” the company said in its statement.

(With contributions by Saikiran Kannan.)