Josh Lefkowitz
Chief Executive Officer
Josh Lefkowitz executes the company’s strategic vision to empower organizations with the fastest, most comprehensive coverage of threatening activity on the internet. He has worked extensively with authorities to track and analyze terrorist groups. Mr. Lefkowitz also served as a consultant to the FBI’s senior management team and worked for a top tier, global investment bank. Mr. Lefkowitz holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BA from Williams College.
Evan Kohlmann
Chief Innovation Officer
Evan Kohlmann focuses on product innovation at Flashpoint where he leverages fifteen years’ experience tracking Al-Qaida, ISIS, and other terrorist groups. He has consulted for the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Justice, the Australian Federal Police, and Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, among others. Mr. Kohlmann holds a JD from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School and a BSFS in International Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univ.
Josh Devon
Chief Operating Officer / Chief Product Officer
Josh Devon focuses on product vision and strategy at Flashpoint while ensuring the company’s departments function synergistically during its rapid growth. He also works to ensure that customers receive best in class products, services, and support. Previously, Mr. Devon co-founded the SITE Intelligence Group where he served as Assistant Director. He holds an MA from SAIS at Johns Hopkins Univ. At the Univ. of Pennsylvania, he received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and a BA in English from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Chris Camacho
Chief Revenue Officer
As Chief Revenue Officer, Chris Camacho leads the company’s global sales team, which includes solution architecture, business development, strategic integrations, partnerships, and revenue operations; he is also the architect of Flashpoint’s FPCollab sharing community. With over 15 years of cybersecurity leadership experience, he has spearheaded initiatives across Operational Strategy, Incident Response, Threat Management, and Security Operations to ensure cyber risk postures align with business goals. Most recently as a Senior Vice President of Information Security at Bank of America, Mr. Camacho was responsible for overseeing the Threat Management Program. An entrepreneur, Mr. Camacho also serves as CEO for NinjaJobs: a career-matching community for elite cybersecurity talent. He has a BS in Decision Sciences & Management of Information Systems from George Mason University.
Lisa Iadanza
Chief People Officer
Lisa M. Iadanza leads all functional areas of People Operations at Flashpoint, including human resources, talent acquisition & management, employee engagement, and developing high performance teams. In addition to collaborating with the executive team to drive strategic growth, she plays an integral role in fostering Flashpoint’s culture and mission. Driven by her passions for mentorship, employee advocacy, and talent development, Ms. Iadanza has more than twenty years of experience in building, scaling, and leading human resources functions. Prior to Flashpoint, she held leadership roles at Conde Nast, Terra Technology, and FreeWheel. She is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and holds a bachelor’s degree in management with concentrations in human resources and marketing from State University of New York at Binghamton.
Donald Saelinger
Donald Saelinger is responsible for driving strategic and operational initiatives to accelerate Flashpoint’s growth and scale. In this role, Donald leads a broad portfolio including Marketing, Customer Success, Revenue Operations, Legal and related functions, and is focused on helping the company execute on a go-to-market approach that maximizes value to our customers. Prior to Flashpoint, Donald served as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Endgame, Inc., an endpoint detection and response company acquired by Elastic N.V. in 2019, and where he led a range of teams focused on growth, scale, and legal and compliance matters. Donald also previously served as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Opower, Inc. (NYSE: OPWR), a global provider of SaaS solutions to electric and gas utilities that was acquired by Oracle, Inc. in 2016. Donald graduated from Columbia University in 2000 and received his JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2006.
Rob Reznick
SVP Finance and Corporate Development
Rob Reznick leads the finance, accounting, and corporate development teams at Flashpoint. Rob previously served as Director of Finance & Accounting for 1010data (acquired by Advance/Newhouse), and Director of Finance for Financial Guard (acquired by Legg Mason) after prior work in forensic accounting and dispute consulting. Mr. Reznick is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA and MAcc from the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, and a BBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Tom Hofmann
SVP Intelligence
Tom Hofmann leads the intelligence directorate that is responsible for the collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of Deep and Dark Web data. He works closely with clients to prioritize their intelligence requirements and ensures internal Flashpoint operations are aligned to those needs. Mr. Hofmann has been at the forefront of cyber intelligence operations in the commercial, government, and military sectors, and is renowned for his ability to drive effective intelligence operations to support offensive and defensive network operations.
Jake Wells
SVP Solutions Architecture
Jake Wells leads strategic integrations and information sharing as part of the client engagement & development team, which serves as an internal advocate for our government and commercial clients to ensure Flashpoint’s intelligence solutions meet their evolving needs. He leverages a decade of experience running cyber and counterterrorism investigations, most recently with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, to maximize the value customers generate from our products and services. Mr. Wells holds an MA from Columbia University and a BA from Emory University.
Brian Brown
SVP Strategy and Business Development
Brian Brown is responsible for the overall direction of strategic sales and development supporting Flashpoint’s largest clients. In his role, Mr. Brown focuses on designing and executing growth-oriented sales penetration strategies across multiple vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial, supporting Flashpoint’s Sales and Business Development Teams. An experienced entrepreneur, Mr. Brown also serves as CSO for NinjaJobs, a private community created to match elite cybersecurity talent with top tier global jobs and also advise growth-stage cybersecurity companies.
Justin Rogers
VP Revenue Operations
Justin Rogers leads the Revenue Operations team at Flashpoint, aligning sales, marketing, partnerships, customer success, and finance across vision, planning, process, and goals. He leverages over 15 years of experience in security, strategy, product design, and implementation to drive growth, provide an end-to-end view of the customer journey, and a seamless customer experience. Recently, Justin led Marketing for Centripetal, bringing the first Threat Intelligence Gateway to market. Previously, he managed operations of a Counter IED lab electronics forensics division while forward deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Justin holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire.
Peter Partyka
VP Engineering
Peter Partyka leads Flashpoint’s engineering teams. Peter previously worked in the quantitative hedge fund space in New York City, implementing security and administrative solutions around proprietary trading platforms, high-availability cloud deployments, and hardening of applications and infrastructure. Peter leverages more than 16 years of experience in technology specializing in application security, red-teaming, penetration testing, exploit development, as well as blue-teaming. Peter has a long track record of managing tech teams and implementing engineering security best practices. Recently Peter led Flashpoint toward GDPR and CCPA compliance and has been a key architect of Flashpoint’s robust compliance programs. Peter has taught advanced cybersecurity courses at New York University and consulted at various tech startups during his career.
Paul Farley
Paul Farley is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region of Flashpoint's international business, including Australia, Japan, and Singapore. In his role at Flashpoint, Paul is executing growth-oriented sales strategies across multiple countries and vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial. Paul has extensive experience leading regional sales for both pre-IPO growth businesses and large organizations such as RSA, EMC and DELL.
Steven Cooperman
VP Public Sector Sales
Steven Cooperman is responsible for Flashpoint’s strategy and sales growth of its public sector business. He also supports the development of a robust partner ecosystem for public sector business to deliver value added offerings and innovation focused to the mission of government. Steven has an established and diverse career in the Public Sector, holding leadership positions at a number of successful enterprise software companies and Federal System Integrators, including ServiceNow, HP, Oracle and Northrop Grumman. He holds an MA in Analytic Geography from the State University of New York - Binghamton, and received his BS in Geology from the State University - Oneonta.
Matthew Howell
VP Product
Matthew Howell leads the Product Management and Product Marketing teams for Flashpoint. He is responsible for developing a strong team that drives product adoption and user engagement through outcome based prioritization, continuous process improvement, and metrics driven development. Matthew brings a passion for diverse ideas, experience launching B2B SaaS products, building integration ecosystems, supporting five 9s SLAs, and leading distributed teams. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Virginia
Glenn Lemons
Executive Director Strategic Accounts Engagement
Glenn Lemons is Executive Director, Strategic Accounts Engagement at Flashpoint. He previously served as the acting Director of Citigroup's Cyber Intelligence Center where he was responsible for analyzing and reacting to intelligence from a variety of threats. These threats ranged from fraudulent activity and attempting to defraud Citi's clients to supporting security operations for the firm's worldwide network presence. He has extensive experience working with multiple clients across the financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, and public sectors. Glenn also has more than 26 years of intelligence experience within the operational and support communities in the U.S. military and federal civilian service; seven of which focused on both defensive and offensive cyber operations. While working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he testified numerous times before U.S. Congressional committees and member requested open and closed sessions.
Steve Leightell
Steve started his career in Internet sales in the early 1990s and was always a top sales rep before transitioning to business development. By the early 2000s, he was the Director of Business Development at DWL, where he managed a team that built partnerships with Accenture, Oracle, Tata Consulting, Wipro, Cognizant and IBM. Steve designed the channel and strategy that ultimately culminated in the acquisition of DWL by IBM in 2005. He went on to lead a global team within IBM that was responsible for major system integrator partnerships. In 2008, he left IBM to found a niche consulting firm focused on business development for SaaS organizations. Steve holds a BA in anthropology and sociology from Carleton University in Ottawa.
Ellie Wheeler
Ellie Wheeler is a Partner at Greycroft and is based in the firm’s New York office. Prior to joining Greycroft, Ellie worked in a similar role evaluating investment opportunities at Lowercase Capital. Ellie also worked at Cisco in Corporate Development doing acquisitions, investments, and strategy within the unified communications, enterprise software, mobile, and video sectors. While at Cisco, she was involved in multiple acquisitions and investments, including PostPath, Jabber, Xobni, and Tandberg. She began her career in growth capital private equity at Summit Partners in Boston. Ellie graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a BA in Psychology and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Glenn McGonnigle
Glenn McGonnigle is a General Partner at TechOperators. Prior to launching TechOperators in 2008, Glenn was CEO of VistaScape Security Systems, a venture-backed provider of enterprise intelligent video surveillance software. He lead the company through its successful sale to Siemens Building Technologies. Previously, Glenn was a co-founder and senior executive of Atlanta-based Internet Security Systems (ISS) where he helped raise initial venture capital and launch the business. For 7 years, he led the business development team in developing sales channels and entering the managed security services market. During his tenure, the company grew from startup to revenues of over $225 million and was later acquired by IBM for $1.3 billion.
Brendan Hannigan
Brendan joined Polaris Partners in 2016 as an entrepreneur partner. In this role, he focuses on funding and founding companies in the technology sector with a concentration in cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity. Brendan is a co-founder of Sonrai Security and chairman of Twistlock, both Polaris investments. He also currently serves on the board of Bitsight Technologies and Flashpoint. A 25 year technology industry veteran, Brendan was most recently the general manager of IBM Security. Under Brendan’s leadership, IBM Security grew significantly faster than the overall security market to become the number one enterprise security provider in the world with almost $2B of annual revenue.
Matt Devost
Currently, Devost serves as CEO & Co-Founder of OODA LLC as well as a review board member for Black Hat. In 2010, he co-founded the cybersecurity consultancy FusionX LLC which was acquired by Accenture in August 2015, where he went on to lead Accenture's Global Cyber Defense practice. Devost also founded the Terrorism Research Center in 1996 where he served as President and CEO until November 2008 and held founding or leadership roles at iDefense, iSIGHT Partners, Total Intel, SDI, Tulco Holdings, and Technical Defense.
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Understanding Russia’s “Sovereign Internet”: What Happens If Russia Isolates Itself from the Global Internet?

March 11, 2022

Click here for Flashpoint’s coverage of the role of intelligence in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Russia moves to control the information narrative

The Russian government ordered state-owned portals to connect to its state-controlled domain name system servers by March 11—and, to switch to Russian hosting providers and localize elements that may not in the future run on the websites. In reaction to sanctions against Russian banks by the US, the EU, and the UK—as well as (as of this publishing, unheeded) calls to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to disconnect Russian top-level domains—authorities also instructed Russian financial institutions and other companies to replace security certificates that have been or will be withdrawn from them, with Russian certificates. 

This is the latest in a series of intentional steps to establish firmer control over the Russian internet, following its invasion of Ukraine. It also includes the blocking of access to several social media platforms and independent news sites in order to censor information about the war from reaching Russian citizens. 

Russia’s strategic motivation: Protection from cyber attackers

According to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernenko these steps have been taken to protect Russia from cyber attacks. This is a plausible explanation given the fact that a vast majority of threat groups have sided with Ukraine during this war. Well known groups, such as Anonymous and AgainstTheWest, have been actively attacking and breaching Russian networks for weeks.

However, the steps prompted observers and Russian-speaking threat actors alike to speculate that Russia’s “disconnection” from the global internet was imminent. This would happen under a 2019 Law on Sovereign Internet. However, there have been questions about the feasibility and the usefulness of this move. According to Russia’s legislation, disconnecting Russian internet infrastructure from the global internet would be a defensive move, although this leaves a wide room for interpretation. In addition, it is presently unclear whether Russia meets the technical conditions for an effective disconnection. 

Below, we examine what this disconnection would mean in practice and what precautions Russian-speaking threat actors—specifically those based out of Russia—have been considering and taking, according to our collections.

The legal basis for the Russian “sovereign internet” was adopted in April 2019 and went into effect in November 2019. The law tasked Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications authority, to create a national domain name system (DNS). An organization was created to own the databases of the  “national domain zone”—the domains .ru, .su and .рф—in the international organizations that distribute network addresses and domain names, such as ICANN and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The law obliged Russian service providers to connect to the national DNS from January 1, 2021 on, or risk being disconnected by Russia’s external traffic exchange points. 

In case of a serious disruption, the law allows Roskomnadzor to force ISPs to route their traffic via special override systems that providers are by law required to install. The systems rely on deep packet inspection (DPI) technology, which allows the authorities to filter and reroute traffic without the active participation of ISPs. 

Following the adoption of the law, Russia also started banning VPN providers. The government first required VPN providers to connect to the Federal State Information System (FSIS), which contains a list of blocked websites. VPN providers that refused to do so were banned in the country. As of late 2021, Russia banned 15 VPN providers. In December 2021 Russia successfully blocked access to the Tor browser.

Notably, some major international payment service providers are not allowing Russians to purchase goods and services from companies based outside of Russia. This is making the purchasing of VPN software tougher.

Examining the consequences of a decoupling

Isolating Russia from global internet infrastructure is possible either by deactivating cross-border internet exchange points or by interfering with the transmission of data packets. Russia’s legislation proposes to do both. 

The existing capability, DPI, has been proven in several countries and in Russia itself. Further tightening of the blacklists that block content and senders is well within Russia’s capabilities. Blocking entire countries, particularly Western ones like the US and the Netherlands, would result in major disruptions due to their status as popular internet hosting destinations. However, this could be adjusted and the impact could be blunted if regulators are more surgical with their implementation. This approach would not accomplish a full decoupling, and may fall short of national security goals.

Recommended: How Telegram Became a Critical Source of Intelligence in the Ukraine-Russia War

The most ambitious part of the legislation is the creation of a Russian domain name system: essentially an effort to establish a Russian fork of the root DNS. This in practice would mean that the Internet’s phonebook, connecting domain names to IP addresses, would look different in Russia than elsewhere. This in turn would allow the regulator to manipulate user requests and redirect users to the wrong website or simply block their access to specific sites. Currently, over 1500 instances of the 13 root servers accomplish this in a distributed, redundant, and open fashion. The proposed Russian system would see ISPs navigate to a separate, government-controlled chokepoint, thereby risking severe disruptions to Internet communication. 

This would have several significant repercussions:

  • Websites from outside Russia will almost certainly become unreachable unless a Russian-only mirror was already available. All non-Russian traffic will suddenly cease as their connections can no longer resolve, and anything not maintained by an internal firm or branch of a foreign firm will gradually become obsolete as updates to operating systems, devices, and even programming languages and libraries halt. This includes popular sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Users inside Russia can expect service degradation, since their traffic would attempt to hit several external internet exchange (IX) points, which would be effectively severed, before finding an internal one that works. 
  • The measure would specifically hurt developers who rely on open-source code for nearly every task and any firm that relies on any data from servers hosted outside Russia, as well as users, who will suddenly lose access to all of the above. 
  • It would also, according to the plan, defeat every form of currently available evasion methods such as VPNs, Tor, or other attempts at cloaking traffic’s ultimate destinations, such as domain fronting. 

Technical issues

There are significant challenges in this undertaking due to the infrastructure of Russia’s internet. In countries like Iran or China, which have built a disconnected internet infrastructure much earlier than Russia, external IX’s are relatively limited, either by geography or by a lack of development. However, Russia has over 40 IXs. Therefore a “kill-switch” for Internet communication outside Russia can only be accomplished by pointing all of those to a centralized point. 

While the government has had nearly three years to accomplish this since the adoption of the law, the scale of the task is enormous and requires immense coordination. Russia claims to have already set up this infrastructure, administered by Roskomnadzor at the Moscow IX where Russian Top-Level Domains are hosted. It remains questionable whether the infrastructure would pass its first real-life test, especially as there are doubts about whether all internet service providers have actually connected to the Russian national domain name system.

Recommended: How Russian and Ukrainian Militias Are Using Social Media and Chat Platforms to Recruit Volunteers in the Donbas and Fund Their Causes

In specific regions, Russia has been testing the equipment allowing the decoupling from global internet infrastructure since 2019. It is unclear how successful these tests were, due to the secrecy that surrounded them, although protesters in the North Caucasus region in Ingushetia reported that in 2018 they experienced a mobile internet outage during protests. However, this does not necessarily mean full control. Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan, researchers of the Russian internet, estimated that as of late 2021 the Kremlin was able to control 100 percent of mobile communications and 73 percent of internet traffic, due to innovations in technology since the sovereign internet law was adopted.

Flashpoint analysts assess with moderate confidence that even considering the technical innovations since 2019, there are still doubts on whether or not the system will work as intended. The idea of a fragmented Russian internet that works the same as the global internet is much easier for policymakers to conceptualize than for ISPs, web services, and system administrators to implement. While DPI technology and Russia’s domestic technology firms can make some restrictions possible, claims that the Kremlin can “flip a switch” and isolate their population from the internet are mostly propaganda.

However, it is worth noting that due to the extensive sanctions regime Russian ISPs may find it difficult to pay global internet service providers, which can cause disruptions. 

Similarities to China

China’s efforts in censorship are similar, but they have stopped short of more drastic measures like DNS segmentation. China’s “Great Firewall” also currently uses DPI to crack down on objectionable content and defeat some censorship countermeasures. It also has foreign companies engage in “data onshoring”, or requiring them to keep data on their citizens on servers inside China. 

While technically different, the goal of a separate internet for Chinese users is virtually the same. What sets the two approaches apart is how China has invested in its own domestic services from firms that have various degrees of party control. 

Impact on cybercrime

Flashpoint analysts are aware of threat actors in illicit communities actively discussing potential workarounds in case the authorities actually try to disconnect Russia from the global internet. As Flashpoint reported earlier, initial reactions to the law were mocking the initiative. In general, threat actors were more concerned about the efforts of the Russian security services to deanonymize Tor users (which was revealed in leaks from Sytec, a contractor of the Russian Federal Security Service in 2019). 

In recent months, however, threat actors on illicit forums have shown more immediate concern about sanctions against Russia in general and the risk of the Russian authorities trying to disrupt connectivity, especially after reports that the authorities successfully blocked Tor nodes in December 2021. Threat actors continue to be primarily concerned about the loss of privacy and the opportunities that the “Sovereign Internet” law offers for the Russian authorities to extend surveillance over internet traffic. Those working on social media based schemes may be worried about the added difficulty of accessing these services. Flashpoint observed threat actors reporting drop or an expected disruption in automated activity from Russia-based content farms over the past weeks. 

Flashpoint analysts observed threat actors suggesting several workarounds of existing and potential future blocks on various forums:

  • A content bot on the “SliVap” forum offered a software using “anti-DPI” technology, which would allegedly allow users to bypass existing blocks by not leaving digital fingerprints typical of VPN, Tor and proxy services that DPI technology relies on to block the use of such evasion techniques.
  • “Multivpn[.]su”, a VPN service advertised on the YouHack forum claims to be able to bypass DPI technology and prevent ISPs from logging DNS queries. 
  • Users of the top-tier Exploit forum suggested using a Telegram bot that provides Tor bridges (relays that are not listed in the public Tor directory and are thus theoretically not blocked). Earlier, users suggested using a VPN-Tor-VPN combination to bypass blocks.

Flashpoint analysts assess with moderate confidence that in general, threat actors in Russian-speaking illicit communities are still unconvinced that a full disconnection of Russia’s internet infrastructure from the global network can happen in the near future. Short of a full switch-off of connectivity, this would likely not affect the activity of more sophisticated threat actors to a significant extent, but the activity of less sophisticated threat actors may drop. Threat actors are however already actively looking for solutions to bypass increasing state control over online traffic as well as financial and trade sanctions and the blocking of cryptocurrency accounts linked to illicit activities, all of which have disrupted cybercrime schemes relying on cross-border shipping and financial flows. 

One of the circumstances that suggest that a decoupling may be considered is that the Russian government has not been able to fully block the spread of reliable information about the war. It is likely that footage of Russian conscripts captured and killed in Ukraine, which has been spreading primarily on Telegram, played a part in the Russian Ministry of Defense’s admission, on March 9, that conscripts were indeed sent to Ukraine, even though President Putin personally denied this only days earlier. However, since Russian state institutions and business entities themselves rely heavily on Telegram, it is unclear whether the authorities would block the service, even if they have the technical capabilities to do so. 

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