Facebook parent company Meta on Thursday detailed an array of shady cyber tactics it says are being used by groups linked to Russia and Belarus to target Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
Tactics used by the groups include impersonating independent journalists and news outlets online to advance Russian talking points, attempting to hack into dozens of Ukrainian soldiers’ Facebook accounts, and campaigning contact details to try to get posts of critics of Russia removed from social media, according to Meta.
A hacking group known as “Ghostwriter”, which cyber experts say is linked to Belarus, attempted to hack the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian servicemen, the company said.
The hackers succeeded in “a handful of cases,” Meta said, and “they posted videos calling for the military to surrender as if these messages were from the rightful owners of the account. We have blocked these videos from being shared.” .
Meta also noted that the actions of groups linked to the Russian and Belarusian government seemed to intensify shortly before the invasion, adding that he had observed that reports linked to the Belarusian KGB “suddenly began to be published in Polish. and in English about Ukrainian troops surrendering without a fight and the nation’s leaders fleeing the country on February 24, the day Russia started the war.”
Meta also said it removed a network of around 200 accounts operated from Russia that repeatedly filed false reports about people in Ukraine and Russia in an effort to have them and their posts removed from the platform. -form. Accounts have regularly reported to Meta falsely that people in Ukraine and Russia have violated the company’s rules on hate speech as well as other policies. This tactic, known as “mass reporting”, is commonly used by people trying to get an adversary’s social media accounts shut down.
Russia’s invasion has led to a “huge increase in attacks on social media accounts via mass reporting,” said Vadym Hudyma, co-founder of Digital Security Lab Ukraine, an organization that helps secure accounts in line of journalists and activists.
Many of the targeted Twitter and Facebook accounts were unverified, making it more difficult to retrieve accounts from organizations that, for example, were raising funds and coordinating medical supplies in response to the Russian invasion, Hudyma said. at CNN. “Many social media pages were temporarily shut down. We probably got most of them back pretty quickly. But it was a mess.”
Meta also said he continues to see the use of fake profile pictures in disinformation campaigns.
In a previous announcement in February, Meta said it uncovered and shut down a covert Russian influence operation that ran accounts impersonating people in Kyiv, including editors, and targeting Ukrainians.
“They claimed to be based in kyiv and impersonated editors, a former aeronautical engineer and the author of a scientific publication on hydrography – the science of water mapping,” Meta said in a blog post.
He linked the fake accounts to people previously sanctioned by the US government. The accounts and websites run by this influence operation appear to have failed to reach large numbers of people, according to data reviewed by CNN.