The Secret Service of Ukraine (SSU) dismantled two bot farms in Kyiv and Odesa this September alone. It also accused an operator of a bot farm in the Carpathian region, dismantled in 2021, of coordinating his actions with Russia.
Two bot farms seized
On September 3, the SSU Cyber Department said it had dismantled two bot farms.
A 5,000-account-strong bot farm in Kyiv was created and administered by a 24-year-old native of the Zaporizhzhia region, currently living in Kyiv.
The accused registered fake accounts using Russian email services and virtual numbers of Russian and Belarusian mobile operators. He allegedly forged documents of Ukrainian citizens for verification in some cases.
The operator rented out or sold bots to the PR departments of political parties and Russian citizens.
The bot farm in Odesa was organized by four locals. They created and promoted social media accounts to “spread panic in the region.” The SSU said the group’s clients were from Russia.
During the suspects’ home searches, law enforcement seized computer equipment, four servers, over 250 USB modems, mobile phones, over 400 SIM cards, and bank cards.
Bot farm operator in Ukraine faces up to six years in prison
SSU also shared an update about a powerful bot farm in the Carpathian region dismantled in 2021. It was allegedly used for misinformation campaigns, and its operator coordinated his actions with Russia.
The man behind the farm, whose identity is not disclosed in the statement, used almost 11,000 SIM cards of one of the Ukrainian mobile operators to create fake accounts.
A sizable Russian internet platform, illegally renting out other peoples’ phone numbers, created thousands of fake social media accounts that led, according to the Ukrainian Security Service, to a “large-scale distortion of the information space.”
The bot farm was used to sway people’s opinions in favor of the Kremlin.
The operator is now facing up to six years in prison.
“It was established that the person involved proactively reached out to the Russians through a specialized Telegram channel and agreed on the terms of cooperation and payment. After that, he received detailed instructions on how to start the bot farm. Representatives of the Russian Federation gave him access to the software, and the attacker purchased the technical equipment for the operation of the bot farm himself,” SBU said.