In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.

Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.

But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.

“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.

In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.

“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.

Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.

One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.

“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.

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How Some States Are Combating Election Misinformation Ahead of Midterms

Ahead of the 2020 elections, Connecticut confronted a bevy of falsehoods about voting that swirled around online. One, widely viewed on Facebook, wrongly said absentee ballots had been sent to dead people. On Twitter, users spread a false post that a tractor-trailer carrying ballots had crashed on Interstate 95, sending thousands of voter slips into the air and across the highway.

Concerned about a similar deluge of unfounded rumors and lies around this year’s midterm elections, the state plans to spend nearly $2 million on marketing to share factual information about voting, and to create its first-ever position for an expert in combating misinformation. With a salary of $150,000, the person is expected to comb fringe sites like 4chan, far-right social networks like Gettr and Rumble, and mainstream social media sites to root out early misinformation narratives about voting before they go viral, and then urge the companies to remove or flag the posts that contain false information.

“We have to have situational awareness by looking into all the incoming threats to the integrity of elections,” said Scott Bates, Connecticut’s deputy secretary of the state. “Misinformation can erode people’s confidence in elections, and we view that as a critical threat to the democratic process.”

Connecticut joins a handful of states preparing to fight an onslaught of rumors and lies about this year’s elections.

ABC/Ipsos poll from January, only 20 percent of respondents said they were “very confident” in the integrity of the election system and 39 percent said they felt “somewhat confident.” Numerous Republican candidates have embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election, campaigning — often successfully — on the untrue claim that it was stolen from him.

Some conservatives and civil rights groups are almost certain to complain that the efforts to limit misinformation could restrict free speech. Florida, led by Republicans, has enacted legislation limiting the kind of social media moderation that sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can do, with supporters saying the sites constrict conservative voices. (A U.S. appeals court recently blocked most aspects of the law.) On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security recently paused the work of an advisory board on disinformation after a barrage of criticism from conservative lawmakers and free speech advocates that the group could suppress speech.

“State and local governments are well situated to reduce harms from dis- and misinformation by providing timely, accurate and trustworthy information,” said Rachel Goodman, a lawyer at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan advocacy group. “But in order to maintain that trust, they must make clear that they are not engaging in any kind of censorship or surveillance that would raise constitutional concerns.”

Connecticut and Colorado officials said that the problem of misinformation had only worsened since 2020 and that without a more concerted push to counteract it, even more voters could lose faith in the integrity of elections. They also said they feared for the safety of some election workers.

“We are seeing a threat atmosphere unlike anything this country has seen before,” said Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado. Ms. Griswold, a Democrat who is up for re-election this fall, has received threats for upholding 2020 election results and refuting Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraudulent voting in the state.

Other secretaries of state, who head the office typically charged with overseeing elections, have received similar pushback. In Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who certified President Biden’s win in the state, has faced fierce criticism laced with false claims about the 2020 election.

In his primary race this year, Mr. Raffensperger batted down misinformation that there were 66,000 underage voters, 2,400 unregistered voters and more than 10,350 dead people who cast ballots in the presidential election. None of the claims are true. He won his primary last week.

Colorado is redeploying a misinformation team that the state created for the 2020 election. The team is composed of three election security experts who monitor the internet for misinformation and then report it to federal law enforcement.

Ms. Griswold will oversee the team, called the Rapid Response Election Security Cyber Unit. It looks only for election-related misinformation on issues like absentee voting, polling locations and eligibility, she said.

“Facts still exist, and lies are being used to chip away at our fundamental freedoms,” Ms. Griswold said.

Connecticut officials said the state’s goal was to patrol the internet for election falsehoods. On May 7, the Connecticut Legislature approved $2 million for internet, TV, mail and radio education campaigns on the election process, and to hire an election information security officer.

Officials said they would prefer candidates fluent in both English and Spanish, to address the spread of misinformation in both languages. The officer would track down viral misinformation posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and look for emerging narratives and memes, especially on fringe social media platforms and the dark web.

“We know we can’t boil the ocean, but we have to figure out where the threat is coming from, and before it metastasizes,” Mr. Bates said.

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.

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Israeli private detective used Indian hackers in job for Russian oligarchs -court filing

The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), which is operated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, is pictured in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) – An Israeli private investigator currently in U.S. custody used Indian hackers to conduct surveillance operations for ultra-wealthy Russians, a reporter said in a court filing late Wednesday.

Independent journalist Scott Stedman told a court in New York that jailed private detective Aviram Azari worked “on surveillance and cyber-intelligence operations at the behest of Russian oligarchs,” citing a mix of public reporting and confidential sources.

Stedman said in a declaration that one of the Russian oligarchs concerned was aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, whom he said indirectly employed Azari in connection with a business dispute in Austria.

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Deripaska’s spokeswoman said in an email that the allegations were “blatantly untrue.” A lawyer for Azari, who last month pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hacking and aggravated identity theft in a separate case, did not return messages.

Stedman made his declaration in support of his request to subpoena Azari for evidence to fight a U.K. libel suit filed against him by British-Israeli security consultant Walter Soriano in 2020.

In a series of articles for his publication, Forensic News, Stedman claimed, among other things, that Soriano was a middleman between wealthy Russians and surveillance firms.

Soriano denied the allegations and sued over the articles, accusing Stedman of mounting a campaign of defamation, invasion of privacy, and harassment.

Stedman’s lawyer told the New York court that “multiple confidential sources” told the reporter that Azari “worked closely with Soriano for years” and thus the jailed private eye’s testimony and documents could “corroborate the truth of Forensic News’ reporting.”

In an email to Reuters, Soriano’s lawyer Shlomo Rechtschaffen said that Stedman’s claims were “false and unfounded” and that the reporter “has no evidence” that his client and Azari worked together as alleged.

In a statement to Reuters, Stedman said he had “very strong reason to believe that Mr. Azari worked with Mr. Soriano on cyber-related projects for multiple Russian oligarchs and other billionaires” and that he was subpoenaing Azari as part of an effort “to defend my journalism and my business.”

Azari is currently being held in federal prison in Brooklyn awaiting sentencing in relation to a hacking campaign tied to the defunct German financial technology company Wirecard AG , his lawyer said last month. read more

Reuters reported last year that Azari was accused of hiring the Indian hacking firm BellTroX on behalf of powerful clients. BellTroX, which has also been accused of hacking by cybersecurity researchers at Facebook and elsewhere, could not be reached for comment. read more

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Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Live Updates: Biden Seeks $33 Billion More in Aid for Ukraine

WASHINGTON — President Biden signaled a vast increase in America’s commitment to defeating Russia in Ukraine on Thursday as he asked Congress to authorize $33 billion for more artillery, antitank weapons and other hardware as well as economic and humanitarian aid.

The request represented an extraordinary escalation in American investment in the war, more than tripling the total emergency expenditures and putting the United States on track to spend as much this year helping the Ukrainians as it did on average each year fighting its own war in Afghanistan, or more.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen. We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”

Mr. Biden also sent Congress a plan to increase the government’s power to seize luxury yachts, aircraft, bank accounts and other assets of Russian oligarchs tied to President Vladimir V. Putin and use the proceeds to help the Ukrainians. Just hours later, Congress passed legislation allowing Mr. Biden to use a World War II-era law to supply weapons to Ukraine on loan quickly.

The latest American pledge came as Moscow raised the prospect of a widening conflict with the West. Russian officials accused the United States and Poland of working together on a covert plan to establish control over western Ukraine and asserted that the West was encouraging Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russia, where gas depots and a missile factory have burned or been attacked in recent days.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

A Russian missile strike setting off a fiery explosion in central Kyiv shattered weeks of calm in the capital and served as a vivid reminder that the violence in Ukraine has not shifted exclusively to the eastern and southern portions of the country, where Russia is now focusing its efforts to seize and control territory. Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” progress in that part of Ukraine but are struggling to overcome the same supply line problems that hampered their initial offensive, the Pentagon said.

The strike came on the same day that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was meeting with António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, just a few miles away in Kyiv, a visit that was no secret in Moscow. Mr. Guterres arrived in Ukraine, after sitting down with Mr. Putin in Moscow, in hopes of securing evacuation routes for besieged Ukrainian civilians and support for the prosecution of war crimes.

In the hours before the latest strike, Mr. Guterres toured the stunning wreckage in Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin, three suburbs of Kyiv that have borne the heavy cost of the fighting. Standing in front of a row of scorched buildings where dozens of people were killed, he called Russia’s invasion “an absurdity” and said, “There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”

In his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky condemned the strike, saying it revealed Russia’s “true attitude to global institutions” and was an effort to “humiliate the U.N.” He vowed a “strong response” to that and other Russian attacks. “We still have to drive the occupiers out,” he said.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Just as the United States was ramping up its flow of arms to the battlefield, the German Parliament voted overwhelmingly to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, a largely symbolic move to show unity after the government announced the plan earlier this week.

A day after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said his country must be prepared for the possibility that Germany could be next. “We have to be ready for it,” Mr. Scholz told reporters in Tokyo, where he paid Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan a visit to shore up ties between the two countries.

Russian strikes and Ukrainian counterattacks continued to batter eastern and southern battlegrounds in Ukraine, but Russian troops are advancing cautiously in this latest phase, able to sustain only several kilometers of progress each day, according to a Pentagon official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details.

Despite having much shorter supply lines now than they did during the war’s first several weeks in Ukraine’s north, the Russians have not overcome their logistics problem, the Pentagon official said, citing slow shipments of food, fuel, weapons and ammunition.

Moscow now has 92 battalion groups fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine — up from 85 a week ago, but still well below the 125 it had in the first phase of the war, the official said. Each battalion group has about 700 to 1,000 troops.

Russia has amassed artillery to support its troops near the city of Izium, according to the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a research group. Russian forces have used the city as a strategic staging point for their assault in the east and probably seek to outflank Ukrainian defensive positions, the analysts said.

Since Wednesday, Russian troops have captured several villages west of the city, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, with the likely aim of bypassing Ukrainian forces on two parallel roads running south, toward the cities of Barvinkove and Sloviansk.

A senior American diplomat accused Russia of engaging in systematic campaigns to topple local governments in occupied Ukraine and to detain and torture local officials, journalists and activists in so-called “filtration camps,” where some of them have reportedly disappeared.

The diplomat, Michael R. Carpenter, the American ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the United States has information that Russia is dissolving democratically elected local governments and has forced large numbers of civilians in occupied areas into camps for questioning.

The Ukrainian military said it was moving more troops to the border with Transnistria, a small breakaway region in Moldova, on Ukraine’s southwest flank, hundreds of miles from the fighting on the eastern front.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ukraine ordered the reinforcements after it accused Russia this week of orchestrating a series of explosions in Transnistria, potentially as a pretext to attack Ukraine from the south and move on Odesa, Ukraine’s major Black Sea port. Russia has thousands of troops in Transnistria, which is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.

Russia sought to turn the tables by accusing Ukraine and its allies of being the ones to widen the war, citing the supposed secret Polish-American plan to control western Ukraine and the recent attacks on targets inside Russia. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, urged Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously Russia’s statements “that further calls on Ukraine to strike Russian facilities would definitely lead to a tough response from Russia.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said Ukraine had a right to strike Russian military facilities and “will defend itself in any way.” Britain’s defense minister, Ben Wallace, also said Ukraine would be justified in using Western arms to attack military targets inside Russia, as he warned that the war could turn into a “slow-moving, frozen occupation, like a sort of cancerous growth in Ukraine.”

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden rejected Russian suggestions that the United States was waging a proxy war against Moscow. “It shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance,” Mr. Biden said.

He likewise condemned Russian officials’ raising the specter of nuclear war. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility that they could use that,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s irresponsible.”

The massive aid package Mr. Biden unveiled on Thursday would eclipse all the spending by the United States so far on the war. There is widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for more aid, but it remained uncertain whether the issue could get tied up in negotiations over ancillary issues like pandemic relief or immigration.

The request, more than twice the size of the $13.6 billion package lawmakers approved and Mr. Biden signed last month, was intended to last through the end of September, underscoring the expectations of a prolonged conflict.

It includes more than $20 billion for security and military assistance, including $11.4 billion to fund equipment and replenish stocks already provided to Ukraine, $2.6 billion to support the deployment of American troops and equipment to the region to safeguard NATO allies and $1.9 billion for cybersecurity and intelligence support.

The request also includes $8.5 billion in economic assistance for the government in Kyiv to provide basic economic support, including food and health care services, as the Ukrainian economy reels from the toll of the war. An additional $3 billion would be provided for humanitarian assistance and food security funding, including medical supplies and support for Ukrainian refugees and to help stem the impact of the disrupted food supply chain.

When combined with the previous emergency measure, the United States would be authorizing $46.6 billion for the Ukraine war, which represents more than two-thirds of Russia’s entire annual defense budget of $65.9 billion. Mr. Biden said he expected European allies to contribute more as well.

By comparison, the Pentagon last year estimated that the total war-fighting costs in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 at $816 billion, or about $40.8 billion a year. (That did not count non-Defense Department expenditures, and private studies have put the total cost higher.)

Without waiting for the latest aid plan, Congress moved on Thursday to make it easier for Mr. Biden to funnel more arms to Ukraine right away. The House voted 417 to 10 to invoke the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 to authorize Mr. Biden to speed military supplies to Ukraine. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously earlier this month, meaning it now moves to Mr. Biden’s desk for his signature.

The original act, proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, authorized the president to lease or lend military equipment to any foreign government “whose defense the president deems vital to the defense of the United States” and was used originally to aid Britain and later the Soviet Union in their battle against Nazi Germany.

“Passage of that act enabled Great Britain and Winston Churchill to keep fighting and to survive the fascist Nazi bombardment until the United States could enter the war,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “President Zelensky has said that Ukraine needs weapons to sustain themselves, and President Biden has answered that call.”

The legislation targeting oligarchs would streamline ongoing efforts to find and confiscate bank accounts, property and other assets from the Russian moguls.

Among other things, it would create a new criminal offense for possessing proceeds from corrupt dealings with the Russian government. It would also add the crime of evading sanctions to the definition of “racketeering activity” in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland; Jeffrey Gettleman and Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Ukraine; Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson, Eric Schmitt and Michael D. Shear from Washington; Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia; Shashank Bengali and Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London; and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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Didi sets shareholder meeting on May 23 to vote on U.S. delisting plans, article with image

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A screen displays trading information for ride-hailing giant Didi Global on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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April 16 (Reuters) – Didi Global Inc (DIDI.N) will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on May 23 to vote on its delisting plans in the United States, the Chinese ride-hailing giant said in a statement on Saturday.

The company also said it will not apply to list its shares on any other stock exchange before the delisting of its American Depositary Shares from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was complete.

It added that it will continue to explore appropriate measures that include exploring a potential listing on another internationally recognized exchange, it said.

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Didi announced in December that it would delist from the NYSE and pursue a listing in Hong Kong after it ran foul of Chinese regulators by pushing ahead with its $4.4 billion U.S. IPO last year.

Chinese regulators had urged the firm to put its listing on hold while a cybersecurity review of its data practices was conducted, sources have told Reuters.

Days after it went ahead, the country’s powerful cyberspace watchdog ordered app stores to remove 25 mobile apps operated by Didi and told the company to stop registering new users, citing national security and the public interest.

China’s securities regulator, in a statement noting Didi’s Saturday announcement, said the decision was one that the company had made independently and had nothing to do with other U.S.-listed Chinese stocks or ongoing efforts between Chinese regulators and their U.S. counterparts to resolve an audit dispute affecting U.S.-listed Chinese firms. read more

Didi’s total revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2021 fell to 40.8 billion yuan ($6.40 billion) from 46.7 billion yuan a year earlier, the company said in a separate statement also issued on Saturday.

($1 = 6.3705 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Evans

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Live Updates: Biden Says He Stands by His Putin Comments

Nokia said this month that it would stop its sales in Russia and denounced the invasion of Ukraine. But the Finnish company didn’t mention what it was leaving behind: equipment and software connecting the government’s most powerful tool for digital surveillance to the nation’s largest telecommunications network.

The tool was used to track supporters of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny. Investigators said it had intercepted the phone calls of a Kremlin foe who was later assassinated. Called the System for Operative Investigative Activities, or SORM, it is also most likely being employed at this moment as President Vladimir V. Putin culls and silences antiwar voices inside Russia.

For more than five years, Nokia provided equipment and services to link SORM to Russia’s largest telecom service provider, MTS, according to company documents obtained by The New York Times. While Nokia does not make the tech that intercepts communications, the documents lay out how it worked with state-linked Russian companies to plan, streamline and troubleshoot the SORM system’s connection to the MTS network. Russia’s main intelligence service, the F.S.B., uses SORM to listen in on phone conversations, intercept emails and text messages, and track other internet communications.

Credit…The New York Times

The documents, spanning 2008 to 2017, show in previously unreported detail that Nokia knew it was enabling a Russian surveillance system. The work was essential for Nokia to do business in Russia, where it had become a top supplier of equipment and services to various telecommunications customers to help their networks function. The business yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, even as Mr. Putin became more belligerent abroad and more controlling at home.

For years, multinational companies capitalized on surging Russian demand for new technologies. Now global outrage over the largest war on European soil since World War II is forcing them to re-examine their roles.

The conflict in Ukraine has upended the idea that products and services are agnostic. In the past, tech companies argued it was better to remain in authoritarian markets, even if that meant complying with laws written by autocrats. Facebook, Google and Twitter have struggled to find a balance when pressured to censor, be it in Vietnam or in Russia, while Apple works with a state-owned partner to store customer data in China that the authorities can access. Intel and Nvidia sell chips through resellers in China, allowing the authorities to buy them for computers powering surveillance.

The lessons that companies draw from what’s happening in Russia could have consequences in other authoritarian countries where advanced technologies are sold. A rule giving the U.S. Commerce Department the power to block companies, including telecom equipment suppliers, from selling technology in such places was part of a bill, called the America Competes Act, passed by the House of Representatives in February.

“We should treat sophisticated surveillance technology in the same way we treat sophisticated missile or drone technology,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat who was an assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Obama administration. “We need appropriate controls on the proliferation of this stuff just as we do on other sensitive national security items.”

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russian intelligence and digital surveillance who reviewed some of the Nokia documents at the request of The Times, said that without the company’s involvement in SORM, “it would have been impossible to make such a system.”

“They had to have known how their devices would be used,” said Mr. Soldatov, who is now a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Credit…The New York Times

Nokia, which did not dispute the authenticity of the documents, said that under Russian law, it was required to make products that would allow a Russian telecom operator to connect to the SORM system. Other countries make similar demands, the company said, and it must decide between helping make the internet work or leaving altogether. Nokia also said that it did not manufacture, install or service SORM equipment.

The company said it follows international standards, used by many suppliers of core network equipment, that cover government surveillance. It called on governments to set clearer export rules about where technology could be sold and said it “unequivocally condemns” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Nokia does not have an ability to control, access or interfere with any lawful intercept capability in the networks which our customers own and operate,” it said in a statement.

MTS did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents that The Times reviewed were part of almost two terabytes of internal Nokia emails, network schematics, contracts, license agreements and photos. The cybersecurity firm UpGuard and TechCrunch, a news website, previously reported on some of the documents linking Nokia to the state surveillance system. Following those reports, Nokia played down the extent of its involvement.

But The Times obtained a larger cache showing Nokia’s depth of knowledge about the program. The documents include correspondence on Nokia’s sending engineers to examine SORM, details of the company’s work at more than a dozen Russian sites, photos of the MTS network linked to SORM, floor plans of network centers and installation instructions from a Russian firm that made the surveillance equipment.

After 2017, which is when the documents end, Nokia continued to work with MTS and other Russian telecoms, according to public announcements.

SORM, which dates to at least the 1990s, is akin to the systems used by law enforcement around the world to wiretap and surveil criminal targets. Telecom equipment makers like Nokia are often required to ensure that such systems, known as lawful intercept, function smoothly within communications networks.

In democracies, the police are generally required to obtain a court order before seeking data from telecom service providers. In Russia, the SORM system sidesteps that process, working like a surveillance black box that can take whatever data the F.S.B. wants without any oversight.

In 2018, Russia strengthened a law to require internet and telecom companies to disclose communications data to the authorities even without a court order. The authorities also mandated that companies store phone conversations, text messages and electronic correspondence for up to six months, and internet traffic history for 30 days. SORM works in parallel with a separate censorship system that Russia has developed to block access to websites.

Civil society groups, lawyers and activists have criticized the Russian government for using SORM to spy on Mr. Putin’s rivals and critics. The system, they said, is almost certainly being used now to crack down on dissent against the war. This month, Mr. Putin vowed to remove pro-Western Russians, whom he called “scum and traitors,” from society, and his government has cut off foreign internet services like Facebook and Instagram.

Credit…Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Nokia is best known as a pioneer of mobile phones, a business it sold in 2013 after Apple and Samsung began dominating the market. It now makes the bulk of its $24 billion in annual sales providing telecom equipment and services so phone networks can function. Roughly $480 million of Nokia’s annual sales come from Russia and Ukraine, or less than 2 percent of its overall revenue, according to the market research firm Dell’Oro.

Last decade, the Kremlin had grown serious about cyberspying, and telecom equipment providers were legally required to provide a gateway for spying. If Nokia did not comply, competitors such as the Chinese telecom giant Huawei were assumed to be willing to do so.

By 2012, Nokia was providing hardware and services to the MTS network, according to the documents. Project documentation signed by Nokia personnel included a schematic of the network that depicted how data and phone traffic should flow to SORM. Annotated photos showed a cable labeled SORM plugging into networking equipment, apparently documenting work by Nokia engineers.

Credit…The New York Times

Flow charts showed how data would be transmitted to Moscow and F.S.B. field offices across Russia, where agents could use a computer system to search people’s communications without their knowledge.

Specifics of how the program is used have largely been kept secret. “You will never know that surveillance was carried out at all,” said Sarkis Darbinyan, a Russian lawyer who co-founded Roskomsvoboda, a digital rights group.

But some information about SORM has leaked out from court cases, civil society groups and journalists.

In 2011, embarrassing phone calls made by the Russian opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov were leaked to the media. Mr. Soldatov, who covered the incident as an investigative reporter, said the phone recordings had come from SORM surveillance. Mr. Nemtsov was murdered near the Kremlin in 2015.

In 2013, a court case involving Mr. Navalny included details about his communications that were believed to have been intercepted by SORM. In 2018, some communications by Mr. Navalny’s supporters were tracked by SORM, said Damir Gainutdinov, a Russian lawyer who represented the activists. He said phone numbers, email addresses and internet protocol addresses had been merged with information that the authorities collected from VK, Russia’s largest social network, which is also required to provide access to user data through SORM.

Credit…The New York Times

“These tools are used not just to prosecute somebody but to fill out a dossier and collect data about somebody’s activities, about their friends, partners and so on,” said Mr. Gainutdinov, who now lives in Bulgaria. “Officers of the federal security service, due to the design of this system, have unlimited access to all communication.”

By 2015, SORM was attracting international attention. That year, the European Court of Human Rights called the program a “system of secret surveillance” that was deployed arbitrarily without sufficient protection against abuse. The court ultimately ruled, in a case brought by a Russian journalist, that the tools violated European human rights laws.

In 2016, MTS tapped Nokia to help upgrade its network across large swaths of Russia. MTS set out an ambitious plan to install new hardware and software between June 2016 and March 2017, according to one document.

Nokia performed SORM-related work at facilities in at least 12 cities in Russia, according to the documents, which show how the network linked the surveillance system. In February 2017, a Nokia employee was sent to three cities south of Moscow to examine SORM, according to letters from a Nokia executive informing MTS employees of the trip.

Nokia worked with Malvin, a Russian firm that manufactured the SORM hardware the F.S.B. used. One Malvin document instructed Malvin’s partners to ensure that they had entered the correct parameters for operating SORM on switching hardware. It also reminded them to notify Malvin technicians of passwords, user names and IP addresses.

Malvin is one of several Russian companies that won lucrative contracts to make equipment to analyze and sort through telecommunications data. Some of those companies, including Malvin, were owned by a Russian holding company, Citadel, which was controlled by Alisher Usmanov. Mr. Usmanov, an oligarch with ties to Mr. Putin, is now the subject of sanctions in the United States, the European Union, Britain and Switzerland.

Malvin and Citadel did not respond to requests for comment.

Other Nokia documents specified which cables, routers and ports to use to connect to the surveillance system. Network maps showed how gear from other companies, including Cisco, plugged into the SORM boxes. Cisco declined to comment.

For Nokia engineers in Russia, the work related to SORM was often mundane. In 2017, a Nokia technician received an assignment to Orel, a city about 225 miles south of Moscow.

“Carry out work on the examination of SORM,” he was told.

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

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Independence Realty Trust Announces First Quarter 2022 Dividend

PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Independence Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: IRT) (“IRT”) announced that today IRT’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.12 per share of IRT common stock, payable on April 22, 2022 to stockholders of record at the close of business on April 1, 2022.

Upon the completion of our merger with STAR, we are in a unique position of strength,” said Scott Schaeffer, Chairman and CEO of IRT. “We plan to invest our excess cash flow into several investment opportunities that will deliver strong returns, namely our value add renovations and development projects. The Board will continue to evaluate IRT’s capital allocation strategy to ensure it is maximizing value for our shareholders.”

About Independence Realty Trust, Inc.

Independence Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: IRT) is a real estate investment trust that owns and operates multifamily apartment properties in 119 communities, across non-gateway U.S. markets including Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN, Oklahoma City, OK, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Houston, TX, Nashville, TN, and Memphis, TN. IRT’s investment strategy is focused on gaining scale within key amenity rich submarkets that offer good school districts, high-quality retail and major employment centers. IRT aims to provide stockholders attractive risk-adjusted returns through diligent portfolio management, strong operational performance, and a consistent return on capital through distributions and capital appreciation. More information may be found on the Company’s website www.irtliving.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Such forward-looking statements can generally be identified by our use of forward-looking terminology such as “will,” “strategy,” “expects,” “seeks,” “believes,” “potential,” or other similar words. These forward-looking statements include, without limitation, our expectations as to the timing and amount of future dividends and anticipated benefits of our merger transaction with STAR. Such forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties, estimates and assumptions and our actual results may differ materially from the expectations, intentions, beliefs, plans or predictions of the future expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of our management and are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are difficult to predict and not within our control. In addition, these forward-looking statements are subject to assumptions with respect to future business strategies and decisions that are subject to change. Risks and uncertainties that might cause our future actual results and/or future dividends to differ materially from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: risks related to the impact of COVID-19 and other potential future outbreaks of infectious diseases on our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and performance and those of our residents as well as on the economy and real estate and financial markets; changes in market demand for rental apartment homes and pricing pressures, including from competitors, that could limit our ability to lease units or increase rents or that could lead to declines in occupancy and rent levels; uncertainty and volatility in capital and credit markets, including changes that reduce availability, and increase costs, of capital; inability of tenants to meet their rent and other lease obligations and charge-offs in excess of our allowance for bad debt; legislative restrictions that may delay or limit collections of past due rents; risks endemic to real estate and the real estate industry generally; impairment charges; the effects of natural and other disasters; delays in completing, and cost overruns incurred in connection with, our value add initiatives and failure to achieve projected rent increases and occupancy levels on account of the initiatives; the structure, timing and completion of our merger transaction with STAR and any effects of the announcement, completion of the merger, including failure to realize the cost savings, synergies and other benefits expected to result from the merger; the ability to successfully integrate the IRT and STAR businesses; the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstances that could give rise to the termination of the merger agreement, including failure to receive required stockholder approvals; the risk that the parties may not be able to satisfy the conditions to the merger in a timely manner or at all; risks related to disruption of management time from ongoing business operations due to the announced merger transaction; the risk that the merger and its announcement could have an adverse effect on our ability to retain and hire key personnel and maintain relationships with our customers and suppliers, and on our operating results and businesses generally; unexpected costs of REIT qualification compliance; unexpected changes in our intention or ability to repay certain debt prior to maturity; inability to sell certain assets within the time frames or at the pricing levels expected; costs and disruptions as the result of a cybersecurity incident or other technology disruption; and share price fluctuations. Please refer to the documents filed by us with the SEC, including specifically the “Risk Factors” sections of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 and our other filings with the SEC, which identify additional factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in forward-looking statements. We undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events, except as may be required by law. In addition, the declaration of dividends on our common stock is subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors and depends upon a broad range of factors, including our results of operations, financial condition, capital requirements, the annual distribution requirements under the REIT provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, applicable legal requirements and such other factors as our Board of Directors may from time to time deem relevant. For these reasons, as well as others, there can be no assurance that dividends in the future will be equal or similar to the amount of the dividend described in this press release.

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Volunteer Hackers Converge on Ukraine Conflict With No One in Charge

Ukraine has been more deliberate about recruiting a volunteer hacking force. In Telegram channels, participants cheer their collaboration with the government in going after targets such as Sberbank, the Russian state-owned bank. From Russia, where links between the government and hacking groups have long raised alarms among Western officials, there has not been the same kind of overt calls to action.

“We are creating an I.T. army,” Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted on Saturday, directing cybersecurity enthusiasts to a Telegram channel that contained instructions for knocking Russian websites offline. “There will be tasks for everyone.” By Friday, the Telegram channel had more than 285,000 subscribers.

Inside the main English-language Telegram page for the I.T. Army of Ukraine is a 14-page introductory document providing details about how people can participate, including what software to download to mask their whereabouts and identity. Everyday, new targets are listed, including websites, telecommunications firms, banks and A.T.M. processors.

Yegor Aushev, the co-founder of the Ukrainian cybersecurity company Cyber Unit Technologies, said he was flooded with notes after posting on social media a call for programmers to get involved. His company offered a $100,000 reward for those who identify flaws in the code of Russian cyber targets.

Mr. Aushev said there were more than 1,000 people involved in his effort, working in close collaboration with the government. People were only allowed to join if somebody vouched for them. Organized into small groups, they were aiming to hit high-impact targets like infrastructure and logistics systems important to the Russian military.

“It’s become an independent machine, a distributed international digital army,” Mr. Aushev said. “The biggest hacks against Russia will be soon,” he added, without elaborating.

A government spokesman confirmed the work with Mr. Aushev.

Figuring out who is behind a cyberattack is always difficult. Groups falsely take credit or boast of a bigger impact than actually occurred. But this week there was a string of attacks against Russian targets. The country’s largest stock exchange, a state-controlled bank and the Russian Foreign Ministry were taken offline for a time after being targeted by Ukraine’s volunteer hackers.

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Acadia Realty Trust Announces 20% Increase in Quarterly Dividend

RYE, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Acadia Realty Trust (NYSE:AKR) (“Acadia” or the “Company”) today announced that its Board of Trustees has declared a first quarter cash dividend of $0.18 per common share, representing a 20% increase from the prior quarterly dividend. The quarterly dividend is payable on April 14, 2022 to holders of record as of March 31, 2022.

About Acadia Realty Trust

Acadia Realty Trust is an equity real estate investment trust focused on delivering long-term, profitable growth via its dual – Core Portfolio and Fund – operating platforms and its disciplined, location-driven investment strategy. Acadia Realty Trust is accomplishing this goal by building a best-in-class core real estate portfolio with meaningful concentrations of assets in the nation’s most dynamic corridors; making profitable opportunistic and value-add investments through its series of discretionary, institutional funds; and maintaining a strong balance sheet. For further information, please visit www.acadiarealty.com.

The Company uses, and intends to use, the Investors page of its website, which can be found at www.acadiarealty.com, as a means of disclosing material nonpublic information and of complying with its disclosure obligations under Regulation FD, including, without limitation, through the posting of investor presentations that may include material nonpublic information. Accordingly, investors should monitor the Investors page, in addition to following the Company’s press releases, SEC filings, public conference calls, presentations and webcasts. The information contained on, or that may be accessed through, the website is not incorporated by reference into, and is not a part of, this document.

Safe Harbor Statement

Certain statements in this press release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward-looking statements, which are based on certain assumptions and describe the Company’s future plans, strategies and expectations are generally identifiable by the use of words, such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “believe,” “intend” or “project,” or the negative thereof, or other variations thereon or comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause the Company’s actual results and financial performance to be materially different from future results and financial performance expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to: (i) the economic, political and social impact of, and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic, including its impact on the Company’s tenants and their ability to make rent and other payments or honor their commitments under existing leases; (ii) macroeconomic conditions, such as a disruption of or lack of access to the capital markets; (iii) the Company’s success in implementing its business strategy and its ability to identify, underwrite, finance, consummate and integrate diversifying acquisitions and investments; (iv) changes in general economic conditions or economic conditions in the markets in which the Company may, from time to time, compete, and their effect on the Company’s revenues, earnings and funding sources; (v) increases in the Company’s borrowing costs as a result of changes in interest rates and other factors, including the discontinuation of the USD London Interbank Offered Rate, which is currently anticipated to occur in 2023; (vi) the Company’s ability to pay down, refinance, restructure or extend its indebtedness as it becomes due; (vii) the Company’s investments in joint ventures and unconsolidated entities, including its lack of sole decision-making authority and its reliance on its joint venture partners’ financial condition; (viii) the Company’s ability to obtain the financial results expected from its development and redevelopment projects; (ix) the tenants’ ability and willingness to renew their leases with the Company upon expiration, the Company’s ability to re-lease its properties on the same or better terms in the event of nonrenewal or in the event the Company exercises its right to replace an existing tenant, and obligations the Company may incur in connection with the replacement of an existing tenant; (x) the Company’s potential liability for environmental matters; (xi) damage to the Company’s properties from catastrophic weather and other natural events, and the physical effects of climate change; (xii) uninsured losses; (xiii) the Company’s ability and willingness to maintain its qualification as a REIT in light of economic, market, legal, tax and other considerations; (xiv) information technology security breaches, including increased cybersecurity risks relating to the use of remote technology during the COVID-19 Pandemic; (xv) the loss of key executives; and (xvi) the accuracy of the Company’s methodologies and estimates regarding environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) metrics, goals and targets, tenant willingness and ability to collaborate towards reporting ESG metrics and meeting ESG goals and targets, and the impact of governmental regulation on its ESG efforts.

The factors described above are not exhaustive and additional factors could adversely affect the Company’s future results and financial performance, including the risk factors discussed under the section captioned “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020 and other periodic or current reports the Company files with the SEC. Any forward-looking statements in this press release speak only as of the date hereof. The Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Company’s expectations with regard thereto or change in the events, conditions or circumstances on which such forward-looking statements are based.

The Company uses, and intends to use, the Investors page of its website, which can be found at www.acadiarealty.com, as a means of disclosing material nonpublic information and of complying with its disclosure obligations under Regulation FD, including, without limitation, through the posting of investor presentations that may include material nonpublic information. Accordingly, investors should monitor the Investors page, in addition to following the Company’s press releases, SEC filings, public conference calls, presentations and webcasts. The information contained on, or that may be accessed through, the website is not incorporated by reference into, and is not a part of, this document.

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Are Apple AirTags Being Used to Track People and Steal Cars?

On a Sunday night in September, Ashley Estrada was at a friend’s home in Los Angeles when she received a strange notification on her iPhone: “AirTag Detected Near You.”

An AirTag is a 1.26-inch disc with location-tracking capabilities that Apple started selling earlier this year as a way “to keep track of your stuff.” Ms. Estrada, 24, didn’t own one, nor did the friends she was with. The notification on her phone said the AirTag had first been spotted with her four hours earlier. A map of the AirTag’s history showed the zigzag path Ms. Estrada had driven across the city while running errands.

“I felt so violated,” she said. “I just felt like, who’s tracking me? What was their intent with me? It was scary.”

posted on TikTok, Reddit and Twitter about finding AirTags on their cars and in their belongings. There is growing concern that the devices may be abetting a new form of stalking, which privacy groups predicted could happen when Apple introduced the devices in April.

warned its community of the tracking potential of the devices after an AirTag was found on a car bumper. Apple complied with a subpoena for information about the AirTag in the case, which may lead to charges, West Seneca police said.

And in Canada, a local police department said that it had investigated five incidents of thieves placing AirTags on “high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them.”

Researchers now believe AirTags, which are equipped with Bluetooth technology, could be revealing a more widespread problem of tech-enabled tracking. They emit a digital signal that can be detected by devices running Apple’s mobile operating system. Those devices then report where an AirTag has last been seen. Unlike similar tracking products from competitors such as Tile, Apple added features to prevent abuse, including notifications like the one Ms. Estrada received and automatic beeping. (Tile plans to release a feature to prevent the tracking of people next year, a spokeswoman for that company said.)

stalkerware.

“Apple automatically turned every iOS device into part of the network that AirTags use to report the location of an AirTag,” Ms. Galperin said. “The network that Apple has access to is larger and more powerful than that used by the other trackers. It’s more powerful for tracking and more dangerous for stalking.”

Apple does not disclose sales figures, but the tiny $29 AirTags have proved popular, selling out consistently since their unveiling.

An Apple spokesman, Alex Kirschner, said in a statement that the company takes customer safety “very seriously” and is “committed to AirTag’s privacy and security.” He said the small devices have features that inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them and that deter bad actors from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes.

“If users ever feel their safety is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who can work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag,” Mr. Kirschner said.

Police could ask Apple to provide information about the owner of the AirTag, potentially identifying the culprit. But some of the people who spoke with The Times were unable to find the associated AirTags they were notified of and said the police do not always take reports of the notifications on their phones seriously.

After a Friday night out with her boyfriend this month, Erika Torres, a graduate music student in New Orleans, was notified by her iPhone that an “unknown accessory” had been detected near her over a two-hour period, moving with her from a bar to her home.

other devices could set off the alert, including AirPods. When Ms. Torres posted a video about her experience to YouTube, a dozen people commented about it happening to them. “The number of reports makes me think there must be some sort of glitch that is causing all these people to experience this,” Ms. Torres said. “I hope they’re not all being stalked.”

posted a video of her ordeal on TikTok, which went viral.

“Apple probably released this product with the intent to do good, but this shows that the technology can be used for good and bad purposes,” Ms. Estrada said.

Ms. Estrada said she was told by a Los Angeles police dispatcher that her situation was a nonemergency and that if she wanted to file a report she’d have to bring the device with her to the station in the morning. She didn’t want to wait and disposed of it after taking several photos.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles police told The Times that the department had not heard of cases in which an AirTag had been used to track a person or a vehicle. But Ms. Estrada said that after she posted her TikTok video, an Apple employee, acting on their own, contacted her. The employee was able to connect the AirTag to a woman whose address was in Central Los Angeles.

Another woman was notified by her iPhone that she was being tracked by an “unknown accessory” after leaving her gym in November. When she got home, she called the police.

pushed an update to AirTags to cause them to start beeping within a day of being away from their linked devices, down from three days. Still, “they don’t beep very loudly,” Ms. Galperin said.

A person who doesn’t own an iPhone might have a harder time detecting an unwanted AirTag. AirTags aren’t compatible with Android smartphones. Earlier this month, Apple released an Android app that can scan for AirTags — but you have to be vigilant enough to download it and proactively use it.

Apple declined to say if it was working with Google on technology that would allow Android phones to automatically detect its trackers.

People who said they have been tracked have called Apple’s safeguards insufficient. Ms. Estrada said she was notified four hours after her phone first noticed the rogue gadget. Others said it took days before they were made aware of an unknown AirTag. According to Apple, the timing of the alerts can vary depending on the iPhone’s operating system and location settings.

The devices’ inconsistencies have caused confusion for people who weren’t necessarily being tracked nefariously. Mary Ford, a 17-year-old high school student from Cary, N.C., received a notification in late October that she was being tracked by an unknown AirTag after driving to an appointment. She panicked as she searched her car.

Ms. Ford only realized it wasn’t a threat when her mother revealed she had put the tracker in the vehicle about two weeks earlier to follow her daughter’s whereabouts.

“I was nervous about Mary being out and not being able to find her,” said her mother, Wendy Ford. She said she hadn’t intended to keep the knowledge of the AirTag from her daughter, “but if I knew she would have been notified, I probably would have told her.”

Jahna Maramba rented a vehicle from the car-sharing service Turo last month in Los Angeles, then received a notification about an unknown AirTag near her on a Saturday night with her girlfriends.

She took the vehicle to her friend’s parking garage where she searched the outside of the car for an hour before its owner notified her that he had placed the device inside the vehicle. Ms. Maramba had been driving the car for two days.

A spokesperson for Turo said in a statement that the company has no control over the technology car owners use on the vehicles they rent out.

“Imagine finding out via a notification that you’re being tracked,” Ms. Maramba said. “And you can’t do anything about it.”

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