The CIA is using Instagram to teach Russians how to share state secrets with them

In this photo illustration, the Seal of United States Central Intelligence Agency seen displayed on a smartphone.
The CIA has posted instructions in Russian on how to access the Tor browser and contact the agency via its dedicated channel.Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The CIA made an Instagram post on Monday teaching Russians how to contact them with information.

  • The Russian-language posts show viewers how to obtain a Tor browser and access the CIA's channel.

  • According to an official, more Russians have tried to contact the CIA since the Ukraine war began.

The CIA is tapping on social media to recruit potential new Russian informants who disagree with President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the agency's official Instagram account posted a set of instructions in Russian on how to make "secure virtual contact" with the CIA. The post said it was targeted "those who feel compelled by the Russian Government's unjust war."

The post teaches Russians how to access the Tor browser to "guarantee the highest level of safety." Tor is an anonymous web browser that provides access to the Dark Web or websites not indexed by search engines like Google.

The CIA's post said that, to get Tor, any would-be informant should not use their personal or work computer and instead use an internet connection or computer not associated with their identity. The post added that they should also make sure their browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are updated and in private browsing mode — such as the Chrome browser's "Incognito Mode."

As an alternative to Tor, the CIA said it is "imperative" that Russians use a VPN network if they want to get in touch with the agency.

"Do not use a VPN whose provider is based in Russia, China, or any other countries that are considered unfriendly to the United States," it warned. The agency also recommended using a paid VPN over a free service.

Russian demand for VPNs has skyrocketed since the Kremlin started blocking social media networks and news sites in March after the invasion of Ukraine commenced. Analysis sites such as AppFigures have reported an up to 4,375% increase in daily downloads for the country's top 10 VPN apps in March.

The CIA's Instagram post also provided a link to a dedicated channel to the agency asking informants to send their full name, job description, and the kind of information they possess.

"We urge you to take all the proper precautions to keep yourself safe. Your safety is of first priority," the post read.

According to a CIA who spoke to The Washington Post, more Russians have tried reaching out to the agency since the war in Ukraine began.

"Concerned Russians are trying to engage CIA, and we wanted to provide a way to safely contact us," the official said, per The Post.

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