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Ukraine dismantled million-strong disinformation bot farm


Russian special services partly used the bot farm to destabilize the social and political situation, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) claims.

Authorities in Ukraine dismantled a massive bot farm that was used to discredit the country’s leadership and create a social rift in the country. SSU claims that operators used 1 million bots and numerous social networks with an audience of almost 400,000 users.

“The propaganda ‘potential’ of this bot farm was also used by russian [sic] special services. In particular, through bots, they spread fake news about the situation on the front and carried out information subversive operations,” the SSU said in a statement.

One of the recent campaigns bot farm operators carried out focused on spreading falsehoods about an alleged conflict between Ukraine’s President’s Office and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Authorities claim that the perpetrators also tried to discredit the first lady Olena Zelenska.

Ukraine dismantled huge disinformation bot farm
Equipment seized by the Ukrainian authorities. Image by the SSU.

Investigators say the bot farm operators developed software that allowed them to automate the management of an unlimited number of anonymous accounts on popular social networks. According to the SSU, the bot farm was curated by a Russian citizen in Kyiv posing as a ‘political expert.’

During the operation in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Vinnytsia, Ukrainian authorities seized hardware and software operators used to manage the bot farm, 5,000 SIM cards used to create and maintain technical accounts, and 200 proxy servers for spoofing IP addresses.

Russian invasion

On the night of February 24, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The Kremlin dubbed the aggression a ‘special operation,’ and calling the attack a ‘war’ can lead to a 15-year sentence.

According to the SSU, since Moscow launched the full invasion of the country, Ukrainian authorities neutralized over 1,200 cyber attacks on government and critical infrastructure objects.

The hacker community started rallying to help Ukrainians in light of the attack. With Anonymous being the most prominent one, numerous hacker groups and researchers partake in various campaigns to help Ukraine.

Ukraine dismantled huge disinformation bot farm
SIM cards seized by the Ukrainian authorities. Image by the SSU.

The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Western governments to sanction Russia. As a result, numerous IT-related services got blocked or left the Russian market after the invasion began.

According to the United Nations, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created the ‘fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.’ Over 12 million people were displaced due to the conflict in a nation with 44 million residents.

Witness testimonies from Ukrainian towns Russian forces have occupied for close to a month point to severe human rights violations and targeted lethal attacks against civilians. Reports of ‘gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights got Russia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council.

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