Hackers’ fake claims are not fooling Ukraine’s recognition of anyone. So what is their purpose?

WASHINGTON – Andrei Taryanov, a board member at Ukrainian public broadcasting company Suspilne, was in his office last month when he saw a strange message going on beneath the television screen. It is said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, had announced a surrender.

Mr Taranov was surprised, as there was no talk of repatriation among journalists coverageing Russia’s attack on the country. “There is no such thing in any journalistic circle,” he thought. “It looks very contradictory.”

The message was fake, he quickly realized. It was hacked by hackers on the media group Ukraine Live Broadcast Chiron.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, hackers have repeatedly broken social media accounts and trusted information source broadcasting systems in Ukraine, such as government officials and prominent media outlets. They used their access to spread the false message that Ukraine was surrendering, sometimes using fake videos to bolster their claims.

And while there is no evidence that misinformation campaigns have any clear impact on the conflict, experts say the hackers’ intentions may not actually be to trick anyone. Instead, hackers are often trying to break trust in Ukrainian entities and show that the government and the news media cannot be trusted for information or to keep hackers out of their systems. The strategies reflect those that have been used in other Russian misinformation campaigns, with a focus on fostering divisiveness and cultural conflict.

“You can create uncertainty, confusion and distrust,” said Ben Reid, director of cyber security firm Mandate. “It does not need to be closely read to exert some influence on the population; It eliminates trust in all messages.

Facebook detected a hacking campaign, targeting military personnel, to state-sponsored hackers in Belarus. Other cyber attacks, including those against media outlets and telecommunications networks, have not yet been attributed to specific state actors.

But Ukrainian officials suspect that Russia is behind the hacking and misinformation.

“Of course they are behind the attacks,” said Viktor Zora, deputy head of the Ukrainian Cyber ​​Security Agency, the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection.

“This is the first time in history that we have faced traditional warfare and cyber warfare at the same time,” Mr Zora said. “It completely changes the landscape of what is happening around Ukraine.”

An attempt to spread false information about Ukraine’s surrender began just days after the Russian invasion began. The hackers entered the Facebook accounts of Ukrainian top military leaders and politicians, then used their access to post false messages, announcing the surrender. They posted a white flag along with some videos of the soldiers’ videos, claiming that the footage showed Ukrainian soldiers.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it quickly detected the attack and in some cases was able to prevent hackers from posting fake messages from compromised accounts. The hackers belonged to a group called security researchers called Ghostwriter, Meta, which is linked to Belarus.

Ghostwriters often target public figures in Europe, security researchers said, often using compromised social media and email accounts to suppress messages intended to sneak in to support NATO. Ever since the war in Ukraine has started, the groups have concentrated their efforts there, according to researchers.

“They are linked to Russian goals,” Mr Reid told The Ghost Writer.

In mid-March, Ukrainian officials identified another hacking campaign that tried to spread false information about the confession. According to the Ukrainian security service, the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agency, a hacker set up a rally system to support the Russian military. The system was also used to send text messages to Ukrainian security forces and civil servants, urging them to surrender and support Russia, the law enforcement agency said.

The Ukrainian security service says it has arrested the person responsible for the messages, which it says makes thousands of calls daily from the Russian military.

Another, more visible attempt was soon to spread false information about surrendering a weapon. On March 16, a “deep-faked” video of Mr Zielinski told Ukrainians to keep their weapons and surrender to Russia.

The hackers targeted television stations and news outlets in Ukraine as they spread the digitally generated video, broadcast it on Ukraine 24, a television channel operated by the media group Ukraine, and posted it on the outlet’s YouTube channel. Did.

The media group Ukraine said it believed the Russian hackers were responsible. “Our systems are under constant attack for more than two weeks before being hacked,” said company spokeswoman Olaha Novak. “We have strengthened security and applied the necessary technical resources to prevent such incidents from occurring again.”

Deep fixes like Mr. Zulinsky use artificial intelligence to create real footage for people to say and do what they didn’t actually say or do. Researchers warn that the technology can be used during elections and other high-profile political moments to spread the lies about famous politicians.

Oleksiy Makukhin, an expert who has worked to combat misinformation in Ukraine, said that he was first circulating on Mr Zilensky’s digitally-generated video messaging app Telegram. But many of the messages about the video highlight the fact that it was a fake and made fun of because of its poor composition, said Mr McQueen.

“I can hardly think of anyone in Ukraine who believed in him,” he said. “People in Ukraine are already educated about the illiteracy that Russia is sharing all the time.”

Still, Mr Zielinski took to his official channel on Telegram to refute the video’s claim. “We are defending our planet, our children and our families,” he said. “So we have no intention of keeping any weapons until our victory.”

On Friday, the Ukrainian security service said it had discovered another text message campaign, which had cracked 5,000 messages about surrendering using a boot form linked to Russia. “Event Outcomes Already Scheduled!” The text messages said, according to the agency. Be careful and refuse to support the nationalists and country leaders who have defamed themselves and are already out of the capital !!!

Mr McConkhan said he believed the misinformation was an attempt to intimidate citizens, rather than shooting the neighbor.

“I think the only reason for this is to try to terrorize the population, put pressure on them and finally with the pressure that our government recognizes,” he said. “There is still a general consensus in society that we cannot surrender. Otherwise all this pain and death were causeless.

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