A state agency in Kyrgyzstan says it plans to sue a news website that shed light on how the campaign of a presidential candidate backed by the ruling party gained direct access to government computer servers, potentially harvesting citizens’ private data in the process.
An in-depth investigation by Kloop.kg had revealed that a voter data management system run on a website called Samara.kg and operated by the campaign team of Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who was this week definitively confirmed winner of the October 15 election, was for several weeks hosted on a government server. The same server is used to run Kyrgyzstan’s e-government network and contains detailed and private information on around two million people. The system is, among other things, used to store the biometric data incorporated in passports.
The State Registration Service, which manages the server in question, has denied the findings of Kloop.kg’s investigation, which were corroborated by Qurium, a Swedish nonprofit specializing in IT security.
“Kloop.kg’s guesswork on digital data and about how some site called Samara.kg was stored on a server are illusions,” the service said in a statement on October 30.
Qurium says that its research revealed that Samara.kg was registered on a government server from September 13 to October 13 — at the height of the election campaign. IT experts say that this could only have happened in one of two ways — a State Registration Service employee gave the administrators of the Samara.kg website access to their servers, or the server was hacked.
The State Registration Service insists that none of its systems were hacked over the past month.
Kloop.kg chief editor Eldiyar Arykbayev said that his outlet is prepared to defend all its assertions in court.
“We deem the [State Registration Service] statement an attempt to put pressure on independent media in an attempt to distract from a crime that was committed by either officials within the service or by people with access to the server. We hope that the the disgraceful behavior of the State Registration Service does not undermine the status of Kyrgyz passports all over the world,” Arykbayev said.