Hungary has no secrets from Russia? The strange story of the Yandex capture code

On April 8, 444.hu’s curious and internet savvy journalists, while looking at the government’s website where citizens can fill out the infamous “Stop Brussels” questionnaire, discovered that “personally identifiable information” (PII) is being passed on to Yandex’s Russian servers.

First, a few words about Yandex, a Russian multinational company specializing in internet-related services. It is the largest search engine company in Russia. It also performs services similar to those of Google Analytics, but it can perform certain additional tasks that Google doesn’t (and won’t): with a special setting it can collect “personally identifiable information,” a feature that is described by experts as marking the difference between capture and spying.

Citizens who choose to answer the Orbán government’s moronic questions online must give their full names, e-mail addresses, and age. Although the website assures respondents that their personal information is safe, that it is not given out to a third party, it is clear from the source code that this is not the case. Thus, what Antal Rogán’s propaganda ministry, which runs the website, did was against the law. But that’s only one of the many problems connected to using Yandex.

It is well known in internet technology circles that Yandex passed information to Russia’s state security service, FSB, back in 2011. Yandex also has a service similar to PayPal, which the Russian blogger Alexey Navalny used for donations he collected for an anti-corruption website. Yandex passed the names of the donors on to the FSB. It is also well established that in Russia there is no such thing as data protection. Any information Yandex and other Russian internet service providers collect is readily accessible by the security services. Therefore, Yandex is almost never used in western democratic countries. That the Hungarian government opted for Yandex lends additional credence to the hypothesis that Viktor Orbán, for one reason or another, is beholden to Vladimir Putin. He never misses an opportunity to give preferential treatment to Russian companies.

It didn’t take long after 444.hu made its finding public for the capture code to disappear from the site’s page source code. The discovery of the Yandex connection had to be embarrassing to the Hungarian government. Moreover, the removal of the capture code signaled that this was not just an innocent mistake or an oversight. It took the government a whole day to try to explain away Yandex’s capture code. They didn’t succeed. The statement concentrated on questions that had nothing to do with the problem at hand. For example, it claimed that “personal data and the opinions expressed are stored in a closed and unconnected manner.” In taking the capture code down, the government only wanted to avoid “malicious misinterpretations” in the future.

Source: Index.hu

The conservative mandiner.hu rushed straight to Yandex. Its president, Victor Tarnavski, argued that Yandex is really not a Russian company, a dubious claim considering that the company’s headquarters are in Moscow. He said that the data most likely ended up in Yandex’s data center in Finland. He added that it is “the duty of our clients to check the mode of capture.” The special function that allows the capture of personal data must be set by the user of the code–in this case, the Hungarian government.

Not surprisingly, the opposition parties were up in arms and demanded to know more. Zsolt Molnár (MSZP), chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, indicated on Sunday, April 9 that he would ask questions about the case from the military and national security experts present at the regular Monday meeting the following day. Bernadett Szél (LMP), a member of the committee, asked the head of the Military National Security Service about the Russian code. He informed her that this is a domestic matter and he has nothing to do with it. Then Szél turned to the head of the Office for the Defense of the Constitution. Before he could answer, the deputy chairman of the committee, Szilárd Németh, abruptly got up and left the room, to be followed by all the Fidesz members of the committee. Thus, the committee no longer had a quorum, and the questioning had to be stopped. Szél was especially outraged. She said “apparently the prime minister of this country is no longer called Viktor, but Vladimir.”

In the wake of the scandal over the Russian code and the subsequent fiasco in the committee, leading Fidesz politicians treated the public to a series of ridiculous pseudo-explanations. Lajos Kósa said that “we don’t want to make a secret of how many people responded. This is not a secret even if Vladimir Putin himself counts them in the loneliness of the Kremlin.” He also expressed his surprise at the outrage of the opposition members of the parliamentary committee, saying that “when we say that the meeting ends we leave, but otherwise the opposition can shoot the breeze as much as they wish.”

As far as the government and Fidesz are concerned, we’ve reached the end of the story. However, Attila Péterfalvi, head of the Authority of National Data Protection and Information, is investigating the case.

Magyar Idők must have thought they were very clever when they ran a short article with the title “444 is spying.” They discovered that 444.hu, the internet news site, uses Google Analytics (just as Hungarian Spectrum does). The government mouthpiece wanted to know why 444.hu can follow its readers with “an American spy program.” This description of Google Analytics came from a right-wing blogger who claimed that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, “and practically all American internet providers report to the CIA, the NSA, etc.” So, what’s the problem?

I have no idea, of course, whether any personal information reached a data collection center in Russia. If it did, what could the Russian government do with such information? One thing that comes to mind is that they could construct a database (or add to a database they already have) that would allow the Russian propaganda machine to target Orbán voters, who are most likely susceptible to pro-Russian disinformation and propaganda. Given Russia’s passion for cyber warfare, disinformation, and propaganda, this hypothesis is within the realm of possibility.

April 14, 2017
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Guest

“I have no idea, of course, whether any personal information reached a data collection center in Russia.”

I am confident that it did.

“If it did, what could the Russian government do with such information?”

Very little, but the Russian secret services could do a lot. They don’t collect information for specific purposes. They just want to know it all. Any little bit of information may come in handy.

vomart huli
Guest

We all know history.

Bastiat2
Guest

I am surprised that people at risk in Putin’ Russia have not heard of Bitcoin (for collecting funds) nor of the dark web through Tor browsers for anonymous conversations.

Guest

This blog is about Putin’s Hungary.

Bastiat2
Guest

I was referring to the paragraph concerning Alexei Navalny (see above)

Istvan
Guest

I am unclear about the comment of Russian dissidents using bitcoins as a secure fund raising mechanism. Putin’s government seems to have anticipated this and created laws and ISP surveillance for bitcoin purchases. At the end of September 2015, the Russian Ministry of Finance decided to renew their old bill to provide punishment “for production, sale, and unauthorized acquisition of cryptocurrencies.” The first version demanded that potential criminals pay 500,000 rubles, and perform 480 hours of compulsory community service — or 2 years of correctional tasks.

The big oligarchs and Putin authorized Mafia has approval to launder vast amounts of money. See in particular this article https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/british-banks-handled-vast-sums-of-laundered-russian-money The Russian mob of course is interested in making money off of bitcoin pyramid schemes by extorting money from the scammers in Russia. But as we know the Russian Mafia have long been tied to Putin’s historic KGB colleagues and Putin gets his cut one way or another of the money they make.

Guest

Thanks for that info, Istvan!

Of course a mafia/dictatorship doesn’t want any money/resources not under their control.
Though I’ve never used bitcoin myself I know that it’s even used to buy relatively innocent things like servers not under government control or “blue pills” for men …

Member

“Citizens who choose to answer the Orbán government’s moronic questions online must give their full names, e-mail addresses, and age”

As it is only pro-regime zombies who are likely to answer this load of nonsense, I guess the fact is that the Russians/Fidesz are not going to learn a great deal what they didnt already know (ie the typical Fidesz voter is seriously thick and will do anything The Dear Leader requests of them).

But that is not really the point I suppose. However, once again not only the regimes criminality but also their perpetual incompetence surprises me. They didn`t think anyone would suss out the Russian involvement? They then make it worse by refusing to talk about it and removing it from the questionnaire? Not only their voters but this government is seriously moronic.

Member

Slavery of the Press. Hungary, 2017-04-15.

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Member

In his Easter interview, which every regional paper was obliged to publish verbatim, Orban attacked, who else?, Mr Soros.

He claims that only 10% of the student body of CEU are Hungarians (in fact, it is more like 25%). Soros is “an all-powerful billionaire, who is determined to carry out “everything” “. “We have to defend Hungary”

Orban’s language is straight from the Stalin era (which lasted only 5 years in Hungary – from 1948 to 1953 – less time than Orban’s absolute power since 2010).

http://magyaridok.hu/belfold/magyarorszagon-kampany-foprobaja-zajlik-1584190/

Member

Orban boasts of the “lower” state debt.

Official data.

(AKK, gross debt of the central government – this number excludes lots of items, e.g. the nationalized and fully spent private retirement accounts):

2010-05-31: 19.93338
2017-02-28: 25.82346 trillion HUF, a 29.55% increase

(MNB, gross debt of the central government):

2010-06-30: 22.3912
2016-12-31: 34.4153, a 53.70% increase, or
2016-12-31: 31.5799, a 41.04% increase without the spent private retirement accounts

Member

Net debt of the total government (central+local+social security):

2010-06-30: 16.0665
2016-12-31: 22.9397, a 42.78% increase.

Member

You’re only saying that because you love George Soros.

Member

gross and net EU contributions to Hungary, in millions of euros:

2000: 155.7- 0 = 155.7
2001: 195.2- 0 = 195.2
2002: 139.8- 0 = 139.8
2003: 189.7- 0 = 189.7,

2004: 713.4- 537.1 = 176.3,
2005: 1357.0- 833.2 = 523.8,
2006: 1842.2- 782.5 = 1059.7,
2007: 2427.6- 870.2 = 1557.4,
2008: 2002.6- 947.1 = 1055.5,

2009: 3568.6- 908.9 = 2659.7,
2010: 3650.0- 955.0 = 2695.0,
2011: 5330.9- 937.4 = 4393.5,
2012: 4177.1- 928.4 = 3248.7,
2013: 5909.8-1011.1 = 4898.7,
2014: 6620.2- 995.8 = 5624.4,
2015: 5629.1-1073.6 = 4555.5,

So the net EU contribution was 25.4158 billion euros, i.e. around 7.6 trillion forints between 2010-01-01 and 2015-12-31

wrfree
Guest

Unfortunate Mr. Orwell wasn’t around to write chapters on the Internet which is now the ‘virtual’ new all-invasive invisible telescreen. Just to give the generations on a heads up on what we were in for as to our ‘software footprints’ and to bang the drum noting that which giveth also taketh away.

Magyarorszag has to be ‘software’ and privacy lost already.
And really for the most part around the world it’s all bad at this point in the cyberworld. And a killer to watch out for: Google analytics headquartered in Irkutsk. Can you imagine?

Member

If Fidesz misappropriated only 20% of the GROSS EU contribution, we are talking between 7 and 8 billion euros that were diverted into the hands of a few dozen appointed oligarchs in the last 7 years.

They fideszized the agricultural land, the television and radio channels, the newspapers, etc. from this money to perpetuate the Orban tyranny.
The remainder rests in bank accounts in Dubai and Singapore, free from the scrutiny of a future non-Fidesz government.

So I agree with the Fidesz slogan, but with an appendix:

“Stop Brussels” …. from financing the Orban dictatorship.

Istvan
Guest

Since tappanch has somewhat veered off topic I join him by noting so far today North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has handed Trump a huge victory by parading three kinds of intercontinental ballistic missile tubes but launching none nor testing nuclear bombs. I suspect Trump’s polling numbers will continue to rise in relationship to this backdown by Kim Jong-un along with the positive press Trump received for using a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb on IS in Afghanistan.

Trump was happily playing golf this morning while all this drama was taking place. This article in Trump’s favorite large print newspaper in the USA starts the cheering for Trump today http://nypost.com/2017/04/15/it-seems-trump-got-china-to-crack-down-on-north-korea/ Orban needs to take heed on how Trump enjoys sticking it to small dictators.

Member

Yes, MOAB was impressive, it makes Jong-un Kim & Khamenei think twice. The US had only 3 A-bombs in August 1945, but it has probably more Moabs now.

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wrfree
Guest

Nice to see an ancient relic still hanging around as some (we know who they are) have a mindless predilection for destroying anything remotely relating to the past history of world civilization.

The US and China have their hands full with the ‘Fatman’. Seems to be some potential on ahead as Trump has managed to bring the Chinese around. Mr. Xi I don’t think would like to find himself and his nation swimming in their ‘big drink’ ( the South China Sea) with the ‘Fatman’ running off and in the loose.

petofi
Guest

re: Fatman

Innocence at large–the Fatman is a Chinese asset.

wrfree
Guest

petofi man I couldn’t resist. You mean maybe an ‘asset’ like ‘Ethel?’ ..at..3:26 ‘Ethel’ has had enough ..;-)…

https://youtu.be/ZaU4F-qOpwg

petofi
Guest

Trump’s ‘victories’ are engineered by Putin: the Pava dance
on a bigger stage…

Member

Dictator Kim was obviously not impressed by Moab at the end. He tried to launch a missile, but it exploded prematurely today, April 16.

Member

Isn’t it possible that Orban simply has Gülen-envy ? That would explain why he suddenly reinvented Soros as his archenemy.

By the way, Mr Orban, it is not Mr Soros [whom you blame in your interview], who sent the hundreds of thousands of migrants & refugees to Europe in 2015, but your friend and fellow dictator Erdogan !!

petofi
Guest

And, lest we forget, Orban’s boss, Putin…

Istvan
Guest
Fethullah Gulen has created an industry of back to basics charter schools in the USA which are heavily filled with low cost English speaking Turkish teachers. Unlike Soros who is a liberal and does promote intellectual inquiry in educational programs he supports, the Gulen movement is cult like. Which does not mean of course they should be crushed in Turkey by a neo-fascist government of Erdogan. Many charter schools founded or managed by members of the Gulen movement here in the USA emphasize narrow instruction in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But the FBI has investigated Concept Schools (controlled by the Gulen movement), which operate 16 Horizon Science Academies across Ohio, on the suspicion that they illegally used taxpayer money to pay immigration and legal fees for people they never even employed, an Ohio ABC affiliate discovered. The FBI’s suspicion was confirmed by state auditors. Concept Schools repaid the fees for their Cleveland and Toledo schools shortly before the ABC story broke, but it’s unclear whether they have repaid—or can repay—the fees for their other schools. In December 2013, the FBI raided another Gülen-linked charter school, Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, located in Louisiana. The investigation, initially for… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Headline on Drudge: “Turks fear rise of dictatorship”. Wow,
that’s quick. Turks as dumb as Hungarians..(blood mingling of the past.)

Guest

I think that “the smart lawyers” would find that opening a channel for the delivery of secret information about Hungarian citizens to a foreign power is well within the definition of treason if it wasn’t Orbán who committed it.

Member

Just back from Szabadsag Ter, by a long a way the most surreal demo I have been at but also by a long way the most enjoyable. At times it was closer to Balaton Sound than a political rally, not sure it alone will bring down the regime but the music was incredible 🙂 The crowd was very young and are presently “redesigning” every pro-regime poster in the area.

Marton Gulyas struck me as a bit of a self-publicist but Gergo Varga impressed me:
“This government either resigns, or the glorious Pest people drag them from parliament”

Tired of waiting for Orban`s slaves and lapdogs in the countryside….Budapest will sort it out 🙂

pappp
Guest

Great, but Gulyas isn’t getting the election system.

A proportionate system which he is now advocating would not be good for the opposition – or rather it would be good for MSZP, DK and most parties because they would have more representatives and that’s good money. So more opposition party members could earn money by doing nothing.

But via a proportionate system the democratic oppositionm won’t have the 2/3s with which to amend the constitution and make other changes necessary to govern Hungary and hold Fideszniks accountable.

This is because either Fidesz would have 1/3 of the votes (though I actually doubt that), but with Jobbik (with the more conservative elements of Jobbik) Fidesz would surely have a 1/3 blocking minority.

In fact, for the opposition the present election system is the best (though with less gerrymandered districts), provided that they could unite and other issues like media, financing are sorted out.

But it’s not the electoral maths part which is the issue for the opposition.

Member

You don`t get it Papp. Fidesz don’t get deposed through the electoral system because they control the electoral system.

Member

The streets is where the whole corrupt edifice will fall

petofi
Guest

@ D7Democrat

Much as I’d like to see it, it’s not likely. There is just so little, outright, ethical component to the Hungarian ethos. Given a chance, a Hungarico will sell out. Reminds me of Serbia in 1996 when the country was in turmoil; people marching in the streets; politicians from Europe and Senators from the US coming to help. Result? Draskovic, the leader of the opposition sold out–he was made mayor of Belgrade by Milosevic–and the rest was silence.

Sic the Hungo…

HAJRA MAGYAROK!

András B. Göllner
Guest

Thank you Éva, for bringing this important issue to the attention of English speaking audiences. If the State in America, or Canada, or any Western society would engage in the type of premeditated invasion of privacy on behalf of a political party, and under the guise of “national consultation” it would be dismissed by the courts. Fidesz has benefited for years from the “phoney” consultations, the results of which were used by its data-based campaign strategists to create targeted messages, broken down to the level of households. The Russians have a leg up on the Hungarians on big data manipulation – this is why the task was subcontracted to them. Please note: the national election campaign in Hungary is just about to get under way. The Russian secret service will play as important a role on behalf of Orbán, as it did in the case of Trump.

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