A digital army from around the globe laboring to counter Russia’s disinformation ops has sent more than 5 million text messages to Russian cell phone numbers relaying information about what’s really happening in Ukraine.
“We have a message for the citizens of the free world: the legion is calling you. Ukraine needs you. You are the largest army in the history of the world,” Squad303, which created the tool enabling digital warriors to reach past the Russian regime’s information wall, said in a video today. “You don’t need any weapons or ammunition. Your weapons are smartphone and your ammo is messages sent to Russian citizens.”
The hacking collective Anonymous launched the #OpRussia cyber offensive nearly two weeks ago in response to the Ukraine invasion, resulting in hacks and takedowns of Russian government websites along with leaks of seized data. Hackers have used their access to broadcast the truth about Putin’s war to the citizenry and call on Russians to oppose the attack on their neighbor.
Anonymous programmers Squad303 created a tool that allows non-hackers to make a positive contribution to “the largest and most successful cyber operation in the history of the world.” Within 48 hours of releasing the 1920.in tool, the group reported on Twitter that “the people of the free world sent the Russians 2 million text messages” warning that the people of Russia would suffer as a result of nations’ response to Vladimir Putin’s aggression and that they need to know the truth about his unprovoked war. By Tuesday, that volume had hit 5 million and still climbing.
The group also posted on its Telegram channel a list of Russian Duma members’ mobile phone numbers, encouraging the digital army to “have a nice chat” with the lawmakers.
Another Anonymous group said it seized control of more than 400 Russian camera feeds including government facilities, offices, schools and businesses, and posted some on a website with a message overlaying the feeds that includes the latest civilian death toll in Ukraine and begins with, “Putin is killing children.”
“This is anti-propaganda to open the eyes of Russian civilians,” the Anon account tweeted Monday. “We have already been working on our next camera dump which will contain cameras from Belarus and Ukraine, mostly combat zones which will be more useful for recon than these. This is strictly anti-propaganda for the Russian people.”
In a mission statement on their behindenemylines.live camera dump site, the Anonymous hackers noted, “If you are Russian, we just want you to know that you are being brainwashed by state propaganda, and the Kremlin and Putin are lying to you. Ukraine is not controlled by Nazis, they do not need you to ‘free’ them. You need to fight back and free yourself from your Dictator. We realize this is scary, and easier said than done, but you will have the entire world behind you, supporting you and watching you.”
A table tweeted by one Anonymous account estimated that as of March 3 about a third of prominent hacker groups were involved in “the largest cyber war ever right now,” with just 12 of the 49 groups siding with Russia, three whose support was unknown, and the rest supporting Ukraine.
NB65, a hacking group affiliated with Anonymous that earlier said it breached the control center of Roscosmos and cut off the agency’s control over its spy satellites as part of the ongoing cyber-offensive, promised Tuesday that a Kaspersky source code leak is forthcoming. “I’m sure you’ll find interesting relationships in this code,” the group tweeted. “Glory to Ukraine.”
In a message posted Sunday, NB65 declared that “we really enjoyed Kaspersky’s endpoint security, it’s a great foothold!”
More than 2,500 websites linked to the Russian and Belarusian governments along with state-run media, banks, hospitals, airports, and companies were hacked in the first week after the Anonymous collective declared that they launched cyber operations, a prominent Anonymous account reported last week. The antiwar hackers have also gone after pro-Russian hackers, swiping and leaking thousands of internal chats from the Conti ransomware group, as well as military communications and more.
Hackers announced Sunday that they had breached Russian streaming services Wink and Ivi and live broadcasts on TV stations Russia 24, Channel One, and Moscow 24 to broadcast war footage from Ukraine.
The hack included a text message on the screen calling on Russians to stand up against Putin’s war: “We are ordinary citizens of Russia. We oppose the war on the territory of Ukraine. Russia and the Russians against the war! This war was waged by Putin’s criminal, authoritarian regime on behalf of ordinary Russian citizens. Russians, oppose the genocide in Ukraine.”
On Friday, state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it blocked Facebook and Twitter as the Putin regime has tried to stifle the free flow of information on social media. Putin also signed a bill that was jammed through by pro-Kremlin lawmakers to penalize with up to 15 years in prison those disseminating information about the war that doesn’t fit the Kremlin’s disinformation narrative. Russia is also requiring all servers and domains to be transferred to a Russian intranet by March 11.
On Tuesday, Twitter launched a Tor onion service domain to let users access the site through the dark web and get around the Russian government block.
Cybersecurity expert Alec Muffett, who assisted Twitter with the project, announced the launch on Twitter, noting the move will be “providing greater privacy, integrity, trust, & ‘unblockability’ for people all around the world.”
“So why am I first(-ish?) to tweet about it?” Muffett added. “From past experience with the Facebook and BBC Onion sites, any sufficiently large announcement leads to a load-spike, and given that @TwitterSafety has 3.6 million followers it would not be wise in a time of global crisis.”