As President Vladimir Putin has tried to keep Russians on a diet of force-fed state propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine, hackers have used their access to broadcast the truth about Putin’s war to the citizenry and call on Russians to “oppose the genocide.”
And many who have wanted to participate in the #OpRussia campaign but lack hacking skills have reportedly answered the call to use an Anonymous-created tool to send millions of text messages with hard facts about the Ukraine invasion to random Russians.
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.
Major news networks decided to stop broadcasting in Russia or have suspended operations there. Tik-Tok said it was suspending some of its services out of concern for its employees and users in light of the new law.
The hacking collective Anonymous launched a cyber offensive against Russia 10 days ago in response to the Ukraine invasion, and today announced that hackers 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.”
A prominent Anonymous Twitter account also reported that all Russian state TV channels had been hacked, and the Russia Today (RT) France channel “was also hacked on the Russian Express satellite,” broadcasting footage of a Russian missile strike.
Others participating in the #OpRussia campaign have been painstakingly going one small screen at a time to get the truth to Russian citizens.
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.”
“Squad303 focused on nonviolent information campaigns by enabling people from all over the world to send text messages to randomly selected Russians,” the group said in a video posted on Twitter today. “For this purpose we have created the 1920.in tool. Within 48 hours the people of the free world sent the Russians 2 million text messages on their cell phones. Thank you for that! Don’t stop! Ukrainians are fighting with real guns. We can at least with our smartphones.”
The project is named after the Battle of Warsaw, or Miracle on the Vistula, in which Poles defeated the Soviet Red Army in August 1920. “Every day the citizens of Ukraine prove that this miracle can happen again,” Squad303 added. “Let’s help them!”
Participants in the campaign urged others on social media to make the messages personable, include a flag from the sender’s country, include pictures or video, and to be respectful if the recipient of the text message engages the sender.
A UK Anonymous account later posted an update that more than 3 million text messages had been sent to Russians by global campaigners, even though 1920.in was targeted with a DDoS attack. “Mr Putin does not like us very much,” Squad303 tweeted in response to the Russian cyber assault.
On Saturday, Anonymous hackers claimed that Russian search engine Yandex was hacked, “leaking data of 150k users with mail & password, incl. verified accounts.” As with other data breaches conducted by the collective in these cyber operations, the files were posted online.
Anonymous accounts have also encouraged those without hacking skills to join Russian social media sites and spread information to counter Russia’s disinformation or lack of news about what is really happening in Ukraine. Supporters were also urged to hijack hashtags that were trending on Twitter late last week in support of Russia and President Vladimir Putin, and use them to distribute content showing the truth about Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
On Thursday, Anonymous said that more than 2,500 websites linked to the Russian and Belarusian governments along with state-run media, banks, hospitals, airports, and companies have been hacked in the week since the Anonymous collective declared that they launched cyber operations against Russia.
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. Anons also said pro-Russian elements were circulating a hit list to report their social media accounts en masse, trying to get #OpRussia hackers deplatformed.
Hackers were using #OpRussia, #OpKremlin, and similar hashtags to announce actions against Russian sites, similar to the #OpISIS campaign that targets the terror group’s deluge of online propaganda and the #OpKKK campaign that targets white supremacists.