10752642088?profile=RESIZE_400xEven in the middle of a war, Ukrainian law enforcers claim to have dismantled a large bot farm used by Russian special services to spread disinformation and propaganda in the country.  The Secret Service of Ukraine (SSU) said the million-strong bot farm was used to “spin destabilizing content” on the country’s military and political leadership to an audience of over 400,000.

This included fake news on the situation at the front, an alleged conflict between the President’s Office and the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, and a campaign to discredit the first lady.  A Russian citizen and ‘political expert’ based in Kyiv was unmasked as the leader of the operation. With his help, the group automated the management of a large number of bot accounts on social media, using equipment based in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Vinnytsia, the SSU spokesman said.  This operation included 5000 SIM cards used to register new accounts, and 200 proxy servers designed to spoof IP addresses and circumvent Internet blocks.[1]

“Today, the information front is no less important than military operations.  And Russia understands this very well and that’s why they throw such massive resources to divide Ukrainian society.  Bot farms, pseudo-experts, information and psychological operations, enforcing pro-Russian messages all this is in the enemy’s arsenal,” argued acting SSU Chief.  “The adversary tries to use any opportunity to fuel internal strife or manipulate public opinion. Unfortunately, consciously or unconsciously, some Ukrainian political forces play along with the enemy and put their own ambitions above state interests. However, we are countering these destructive activities.”

Ukraine claims to have “neutralized” 1200 cyber-incidents and cyber-attacks on government and strategic critical infrastructure since the start of the war.  Russian propaganda efforts continue, not just inside Ukraine but also in a bid to sway public opinion among its allies.

During July 2022, Recorded Future claimed that Moscow is running multiple info ops campaigns designed to sow division in the West.  In March of this year, authorities exposed a bot farm in Odesa used to create fake accounts spreading online propaganda and hate speech about Ukraine.  A month earlier, Ukraine’s law enforcement uncovered a bot farm in Lviv that spread “destructive content” about Ukraine.  The farm was operated by Russian intelligence.[2]

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[1] https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/ukraine-shutters-major-russian-bot/

[2] https://www.kyivpost.com/technology/security-service-busts-russia-backed-bot-farm-attacking-crimea-platform.html

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