According to the Ukrainian government, more than 100,000 fake social media accounts intended to spread misinformation have been shut down since the start of the Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s Security Service (SSU) announced on Monday, according to a translated press release, that a network of five Russian robot farms had been shut down. This network – operating from the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Ternopil and Zakarpattia – operated with the aim of spreading panic over the invasion and discouraging citizens.
The fake accounts achieved their goal by presenting misinformation about the success of the Russian military and the failures of the Ukrainian resistance. They operated in key regions that Russian forces hoped to destabilize, according to the SSU.
“It was established that the attackers were spreading misinformation about the large-scale Russian invasion of our state and spreading distorted information from the front,” the SSU explained.
The physical locations hosting the robot farms in Ukraine have recently been raided by law enforcement, leading to the seizure of many of the equipment used to run the operations. According to the SSU, these seizures included the following items: approximately 100 GMS gateways, 10,000 mobile phone SIM cards used to conceal robot farm activities, and unspecified quantities of computers and laptops.
The SSU claimed that the operations were carried out at the request of Russian special services.
“At the request of the Russian special services, Internet agents carried out large-scale information sabotage to shake up the internal situation in Ukraine and help the racist invaders,” reads the official message of the service. “Social networks, including those banned in Ukraine, have been used for subversive work.”
No arrests specifically related to these robot farm operations have been confirmed at this time. Several members of the Russian special services are, however, “already the subject of criminal proceedings under Article 110 (undermining the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine)”.
While Russia conducts its own cyber operations in Ukraine, it has also been targeted by the international hacking group known as Anonymous. The loosely affiliated group has declared a cyberwar against the Russian government in response to the country’s aggression in Ukraine, and has already leaked numerous sensitive documents and crashed the Kremlin’s official website on several occasions.
On March 21, it was reported that a cult of Anonymous had begun targeting poorly secured printers across Russia, using them to send “anti-propaganda” messages directly to the Russian people.
“Citizens of Russia, act now to stop the terrorists[s]. Putin killing thousands in Ukraine,” reads the PDF file they sent when read by translation software. “Russian people should find Putin’s actions horrified.”