back to article What could be more embarrassing for a Russian spy: Their info splashed online – or that they drive a Lada?

It has been a busy week for Russian military intelligence – and it's about to get busier. A database search of car registrations appears to have outed more than 300 GRU agents. Following Thursday's report from Dutch and British authorities of a thwarted hacking attack involving four Russian nationals alleged to be officers in …

  1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    But isn't outing a spy illegal under the GDPR ?

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. el kabong

    If the spy is living in the EU...

    then yes, it is illegal under the GDPR.

    Unless the spy has given you explicit permission to out him.

  4. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: If the spy is living in the EU...

    I thought there were the usual national security exemptions in GDPR?

  5. el kabong

    Security exemptions

    Those are special cases and special cases fall under special laws. The GDPR is a general law, a special law can never go against a general law. I'm pretty confident the GDPR legislators left ample room for adequate special laws.

  6. Sabot

    Only if the spy is a citizen of the EU.

  7. Joe W

    The EU is not the USA. Here, privacy laws are applicable if you are in the EU, not only for citizens. In fact, this applies for all and any law, which makes sense. The laws of the country you are in apply...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >But isn't outing a spy illegal under the GDPR ?

    Only Stasi members of the former GDDR

  9. Danny 14 Silver badge

    bellingcat are journalists i presume so exempt from disclosing data with journalistic merit.

    newspapers wouldnt be able to print, well, news otherwise.

  10. veti Silver badge

    In most countries, journalists don't have any special privileges. If they can do it, so can you.

    US law, for instance, allows "journalists" to claim limited immunity for not giving up the name of a source. But the kicker is, there is no real definitive description of "journalist". If you, as a private individual, want to claim that you were acting "as a journalist" when you made that blog post, you can.

    (This is a necessary consequence of the First Amendment, which makes it illegal for the government to pass a law saying "these are the criteria for being a journalist".)

    In Russia... I don't know, but I imagine people who pull this kind of stunt when the Kremliin doesn't want them to, are running considerable risks that have nothing to do with the courts.

  11. Stuart Castle

    Re: Security exemptions

    IIRC, the original Data Protection Act (1984) specifically did not apply to situations where National Security may be involved. I'd be surprised if GDPR didn't have the same exemptions.

  12. Adam 1 Silver badge

    > I imagine people who pull this kind of stunt when the Kremliin doesn't want them to, are running considerable risks that have nothing to do with the courts.

    Quite. Especially when the folks that you've outed have just been caught attempting to kill a former spy with a chemical weapon visiting cathedrals with historically interesting spires.

  13. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Re: Security exemptions

    GDPR does have exemptions, you cannot ask for your criminal record to be deleted for example.

  14. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Russia isn't part of the EU, despite what Jeremy Hunt might have you think.

  15. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: If the spy is living in the EU...

    you're right, best wait until April 2019 when the UK becomes a 3rd country and can't take advantage of those exemptions

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not unless Russia is part of the EU.

    Which I'm sure they'll claim if it fits their story.

  17. el kabong

    No need for Russia to be a part of the EU

    The spy only needs to live legally in the EU in order to get full protection under the GDPR.

  18. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Nope - you are mistaken - in principle, a citizen of Russia (or any other non-EU citizen) is covered by GDPR as long as they're residing in an EU member state.

  19. sprograms

    Yes, but residing in the EU under a false name?

  20. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    "Not unless Russia is part of the EU." - they missed their chance with BREXIT .... heads will roll.

  21. JohnG Silver badge

    Re: No need for Russia to be a part of the EU

    "The spy only needs to live legally in the EU in order to get full protection under the GDPR."

    Yes - but according to their car registration data, these alleged spies all claim to live at GRU premises in Moscow, which is key to the gist of this story.

  22. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Not unless Russia is part of the EU

    According to the analysis of our hugely experienced and big-brained foreign secretary, Mr Cunt, they're both part of the EUSSR and are out to get us anyway.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Komsomolsky 20 is listed as the location of the College of Bandmasters of the MoD University and a bunch of other academic divisions of said University (including prep classes), Hmmmm.... Is that where all those names in the indictments come from?

  24. sprograms

    Komsomolsky 20 is also, apparently, the HQ of the "I wish I had an Aston Martin Society."

  25. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So the Bandmasters did it?

  26. John Deeb

    Yes, Bellingcat is in the business of imaginary hype news nowadays and the Register gladly echoes it without any trace of reservation or cynicism. Come one, "university based car registrations"! More likely some administrative thing for sharing cars among campus (it's in the end a former communist state, with a stronger communal administrative mindset than we are familiar with in the West).

    And it's not really a spy school either, these are fairly large universities involving more general studies. What relevance does it even have to the case? The logic is missing.

  27. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    "Komsomolsky 20 is also, apparently, the HQ of the "I wish I had an Aston Martin Society."

    Surely after years of Socialism and Ladas they would be wanting reliable cars?

  28. K Silver badge

    Must admit I'm not that familiar with Bellingcat - But I call BS on your theory, what they ousted about the 2 "possible" GRU agents that went to Salisbury, even the BBC has gotten involved and found associated evidence: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45694123

    I understand there is a movement in the UK and abroad that doesn't believe the mainstream story surrounding this. Ironically my next door neighbor is one of them, in his word "Do you really think the russians would come here to do that? when they could have just assassinated him when he was in russia, or made it look like an accident with a hit and run".

    Usually, I'm the first person to call BS on politicians, but in all honesty, I believe this. The Russians have had a lot of success, where the West turned a blind eye, because it was too focused on "terrorism" and distracted by the US's new Boogeyman (China) - So I can easily see the GRU has started to see it self as untouchable - By going public with type of information, it removes the GRU's anonymity and their ability to operate (eventually, then'll run out of agents!)

  29. Dave Bell

    The Spy Game is changing

    Some of this may be things that used to work, which fail badly with new methods being applied since the Cold War. Consider things such as biometric data on modern passports, which is hard to fake. And we have fingerprint sensors on some of our phones. Some Russian Spies, in the old days, managed to use more than one identity, and not every one can have been identified. We're reaching a point where the document isn't use-once, it's the human.

    One thing we know is that here in the UK, we were very good at catching enemy agents and persuading them to work for us. And that depended on being very careful about revealing what we knew. It's possibly why some things were not reported to the politicians. So, through a lot of hard work, we identified two Russian agents. We stood a good chance of being able to spot them crossing a border, whatever documents they used, and that could have given away something else.

    What is going on?

  30. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    "Komsomolsky 20 is also, apparently, the HQ of the "I wish I had an Aston Martin Society."

    85 Albert Embankment is the HQ of the "I have an Aston Martin Society". It is a well known fact the world over that the venue is frequented by a bloke driving an Aston Martin with a Union Flag painted on the roof. He has also been "spotted" in various drinking establishments in and around Chancery Lane, wearing his trademark DJ with a drink of Vodka Martini in hand.

    https://regmedia.co.uk/2013/06/28/bonds.jpg

  31. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Well, 2 pissibilities here

    -GRU registered a car for one of its agents using a spoofed innocuous adress

    -GRU set up a fake huge uni campus complete with fake students and fake profs and fake janitors etc to centrally register all its vehiclesn using it's agents real names.

    I know which would make the best Bond movie !

  32. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    6 downvotes and counting

    Aston Martin reliability

    I wonder how many of those downvotes came from actual A-M owners?

    AFAIK the aspirational cars for non-oligarch Russians are Toyotas, because of reliability. Aston Martin really don't make daily drivers for Russian winter conditions.

  33. Tom Chiverton 1

    Re: The Spy Game is changing

    You don't need to fake the passport biometric. Just the identity it's linked to. Hand matches passport, all is good.

  34. jmch Silver badge

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    Re Aston Martin reliability - from the site you linked to :"The UK Reliability index takes into account all factors of a repair, the *cost of the parts* and the frequency of failures"

    Including repair cost as a factor is probably why Aston Martin are in the worst 3 together with Bentley and maserati, with generally more expensive cars showing as least reliable, with Daihatsu and Suzuki the most. But that's not what reliability means. The real measure should be number of breakdowns per distance driven or garage days per distance driven.

    Note I'm not claiming Astons are reliable or otherwise, just that the measure on the site you linked to is flawed.

  35. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    Reminds me of an old joke. You know why rich people drive Jags, but REALLY rich people drive Bentleys ? Well, everyone can own ONE expensive car, but maintaining a rolling fleet of three and having a mechanic on the payroll is what real money is for...

  36. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting -@jmch

    The site lists the commonest problems with A-Ms.

    I know this goes back a long way, but when I was growing up a neighbour bought one of the first ones with fuel injection. He complained it went out of tune so quickly it really needed weekly adjustment, and eventually turned it in for the previous model.

    The problem with finding actual reliability data is that there are not enough of them to give meaningful statistics for people like J D Power.

  37. fajensen Silver badge
    Holmes

    Re: The Spy Game is changing

    One thing we know is that here in the UK, we were very good at catching enemy agents and persuading them to work for us.

    What is going on is that the UK and allies realised that the current crop of potential double-agents, just so neatly being served up just for the taking, are generally a bunch of bums that will only drain ressources and cannot be relived upon anything except to create vast troubles for The West, like, f.ex. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi (codeword "Curveball"), Ahmed Chalabi and probably numerous others that we have not heard about yet.

    See? Putins security state really *wanted* Western Intelligence to arrest and "turn" all of these non-performing agents into "assets", thus keeping "us" busy with nothing (at best) for a decade or more, with luck getting us into another debacle in the middle east or Asia.

    Except, Our Side smelled the ruse and blew the setup onto the Internet, thus leaving the Russians stuck with their deadwood (and blocking the path for "our" representatives using one of them to get "us" into another stupid adventure).

    Maybe our intelligence services are smarter than they appear to be?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    Note I'm not claiming Astons are reliable or otherwise, just that the measure on the site you linked to is flawed.

    I'd argue the methodology is f*cking idiotic. After all, if you can afford an Aston you can afford the repairs. You don't generally by one and ask about fixed price servicing. Frequency of occurrence and severity are important. My guess would be they are proxying severity with cost.

  39. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Murder investigation

    I understand there is a movement in the UK and abroad that doesn't believe the mainstream story surrounding this.

    And.. should we? Currently the police and security services are undergoing a major investigation into the murder of one person, and the attempted murder of 4 others. Plus unauthorised appliaction of a WMD, or just chemical weapon.

    They have the apparent identity of the Salisbury tourists from their visas and passports. The media is merrily speculating on who might have done it, and potentially muddying the waters. Or just reducing the current suspect's likelihood of a fair trial.. In the unlikely event that they could be extradited to the UK to face trial. If the tourists are innocent though, I guess they've got a pretty good shot at defamation against media that's accused them.

  40. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    "Reminds me of an old joke. You know why rich people drive Jags, but REALLY rich people drive Bentleys ? Well, everyone can own ONE expensive car, but maintaining a rolling fleet of three and having a mechanic on the payroll is what real money is for..."

    A friend owns and operates an auto service company here in the States that specializes in Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Land Rovers, and Jaguars, as well as Mercedes and BMWs. He has often said "If you know 30 people who own British cars, you've got a reliable monthly income."

  41. Muppet Boss

    Re: Well, 2 pissibilities here

    >-GRU set up a fake huge uni campus complete with fake students and fake profs and fake janitors etc to centrally register all its vehiclesn using it's agents real names.

    >I know which would make the best Bond movie !

    Don't forget about paper taxi receipts in their pockets, next to the paper license to kill, to keep the GRU accounting happy!

    Many of them come from outside Moscow and they have to register their car using a Moscow address. Registering using an "important" address does help dealing with road police but for many of them renting flats there is no choice because of the way how the system works, either register using a work address or register using their "permanent" residential address outside Moscow and drive car there every year to do the MOT. Like to Siberia.

  42. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    "A friend owns and operates an auto service company here in the States that specializes in Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Land Rovers, and Jaguars, as well as Mercedes and BMWs. He has often said 'If you know 30 people who own British cars, you've got a reliable monthly income.'"

    None of the cars that you list are British. German, German, Indian, Indian, German, German. Now, if he had a Morgan franchise...

  43. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    > If you know 30 people who own British cars, you've got a reliable monthly income.

    Coming from the land of HD Motors, AKA "Our bikes need a supertanker on hold for your daily gas needs -and don't you forget your twice monthly servicing", that's a bit rich ! Even the now "resting" (in the Monthy Python's parrot way) Brit motorbike industry was never that bad !

  44. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Re: 6 downvotes and counting

    On a related note, in Canada US (GM) cars are generally rated as having a 5-years life expectancy - roughly half that of any other car...

  45. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "The (Karl) Marx Brothers"?

    Sounds like the Ruskies have been studying such great Western culture as "Spies Like Us" and "The Piglet Files" as references to how to run a secret service organisation! What a bunch of muppets!

  46. I3N
    Happy

    Re: "The (Karl) Marx Brothers"?

    :) ...

    z

  47. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Re: "The (Karl) Marx Brothers"?

    "Sounds like the Ruskies have been studying such great Western culture as "Spies Like Us" and "The Piglet Files" as references to how to run a secret service organisation! What a bunch of muppets!"

    Apparently a lot of the Russians who saw the interviews with the Salisbury tourists (which were shown in full on Russian television) were very relieved to discover that the security services are just as competent as ever.

    In considering the success of Soviet spying one has to consider that Philby was English, Sorge was German, and Karla was imaginary.

  48. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Coat

    Or

    It's a really good address to have when the ordinary Russian plod pulls you over..

    Its the one with 'nothing' in the pockets

  49. JohnG Silver badge

    Re: Or

    "It's a really good address to have when the ordinary Russian plod pulls you over.."

    It's like a "get out of jail" card when driving in Russia but could be a "get arrested and deported" card elsewhere.

  50. Mike 16 Bronze badge

    Re: Or

    --- It's like a "get out of jail" card when driving in Russia but could be a "get arrested and deported" card elsewhere. ---

    What spy, or spy-wannabe, has only one set of ID?

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