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Monday, March 27, 2023

Anonymous Hackers Vow to Accelerate Cyber War, ‘Paralyze’ Putin Regime ‘by Any Means Necessary’

Using one Anonymous tool, 20,000,000 text messages, emails, and WhatsApp messages have been sent to Russians by concerned people around the globe.

Hackers who have collectively hit Russian cyber targets and created tools for non-hackers to battle disinformation en masse announced in a joint statement today that they were determined to now “hit them with everything we got.”

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, we declared cyberwar against Government of Russia and to man himself, Vladimir Putin. It has indeed had some effect on them, but now we’ll have to prepare for the last push,” said an #OpRussia open letter attributed to Anonymous, GhostSec, SHDWSec and Squad303 posted online. “He isn’t giving up on taking over Ukraine. We must hit them so hard, that it’ll paralyze their whole system.”

“Putin cannot end the war in Ukraine until he has annexed it, or he is forced to. And NATO and EU won’t be the ones stopping it. We have seen that already. So now, we must act. We must stop this war by any means necessary.”

Noting how TIME magazine designated Anonymous one of the most 100 influential people in the world back in 2012, the statement stressed that “we are bigger and stronger than ever before.”

“We must show our true power to Russian government and their president Vladimir Putin. We must unite or else there might be a day that it’s too late to do it. Putin must be stopped, or else we’ll suffer the consequences,” the groups continued. “Anons all over the world, hackers, activists – journalists, all over the world must unite. All of you, everyday people must also unite.”

That spirit has been displayed in the information warfare shepherded by the collective and propelled by scores of digital warriors, with results that keep adding up.

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. A week after its launch, that volume had climbed to 7 million.

The team quickly worked on adding the ability to send emails to random Russian accounts and to Russian users via WhatsApp. Squad303 announced today that 20,000,000 text messages, emails, and WhatsApp messages have been sent to Russians by concerned people around the globe using their tool, with “120,000,000 to go…” The group also hinted on Sunday about a forthcoming tool that would allow people to call Russians.

Squad303 reported last week intense efforts to hack their servers originating from Russia, China, and Indonesia. Today, the group tweeted that they have “direct evidence that YOU’re doing great job!”

“The Kremlin is afraid of YOU! The Russian gov has just implemented full-text censorship of pre-defined messages that you sent from 1920.in,” Squad303 said. “But no worries! We have uploaded new ones! Don’t stop!”

Users of the text message tool reported on Twitter various responses to their outreach ranging from profanity-laced retorts to fruitful conversations with Russians, and even questions from Russians about how they can access real news with the Putin regime’s censorship and blocks in place. Those sending messages also have been sharing feedback among each other on social media about issues such as which types of wording might have a better impact in conveying the truth about Putin’s invasion and how to respond to Russians’ concerns.

That effort has been force-multiplied by another tool launched to send mass emails to Russians, mail2ru.org, which sends personal emails from volunteers across the globe to up to 150 recipients at a time. “Start an e-mail conversation about Ukraine with Russians potentially subject to a news blockade,” noted one prominent Anonymous Twitter account. “Perhaps make a new friend.” In just a few days, more than 22 million emails were sent to Russians this way.

Today, Russian government sites were still under cyber attack from the hacking collective, with the FSB, the Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation among the sites that came down at one point and were claimed as Anonymous targets.

Anonymous claimed the hacking of government-controlled Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer. Anonymous Germany announced Friday on the AnonLeaks site that it had plunged “very deeply” into Rosneft Deutschland’s systems — “so deep, in fact, that they easily found backups of employees’ and executives’ laptops” — and swiped nearly 20 terabytes of data. “Included are complete hard disk images of employee laptops and computers, hard disk images of a mail server (34GB), many archive files (ZIP, TAR.GZ and 7Z), CSV, XLSX, DOC and of course software packages, manuals, license keys for software, and – because everything is Microsoft Windows – thousands of DLLs,” Anonymous said.

The hackers “didn’t want to mess around directly with the Russian energy companies” because some states involved in sanctions against Russia have energy supply linked to Russia and “you don’t want to smash any plates or turn any pipelines on and off or anything like that” even by accident, but Rosneft Deutschland was seen as a fair target because the company “is mainly in distribution, buying and selling, delivering to refineries” so “no critical infrastructure to accidentally break.”

Anonymous hacktivists also continued to target Russian military communications, including jamming radio frequencies belonging to the country’s armed forces and intercepting calls.

Last week, one 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.” Hackers now have claimed access to more than 1,400 cameras in Russia and Belarus, and posted network addresses online.

The hacking collective Anonymous launched the #OpRussia cyber offensive two and a half 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.

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.

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. The antiwar hackers have also gone after pro-Russian hackers, swiping and leaking thousands of internal chats from the Conti ransomware group.

“Remember, the further you’ll travel down the rabbit hole – the harder it’ll be to get out from it,” said an #OpRussia open letter attributed to Anonymous, GhostSec, SHDWSec and Squad303 posted online today alongside the groups’ press release. “Government of Russia, take your responsibility. Overthrow the old man, release your country from the burden. Your beloved Mother Russia deserves her glory.”

“We see through the propaganda that you circulate through the Russian media and lobby through the political establishment. We will NOT allow you to maintain these attacks on a sovereign country based upon a campaign of lies. Your games of deception will now be met by the wrath of elite cyber squadrons from around the world.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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