The National Police of Ukraine yesterday announced they had confiscated 13 GSM gateways and 3,300 SIM cards from three residents of Vinnytsia, a city in the West of the country. The SIM farm (pictured above) was used to register approximately 500 bogus online accounts per day, across a range of social media platforms, messaging platforms, and online markets. Messaging bots were used to spread propaganda that supported Russia’s invasion and criticized Ukraine’s military. Meanwhile, the online trading accounts were used for fraud.
The simbox farm generated illegal revenues exceeding UAH500,000 (USD13,500) per month. This was collected in Russian rubles then converted to cryptocurrency. Per the police description, it sounds like the owners of the simbox farm rented it out to various ‘clients’ who paid them to enable crime. The three owners have each been charged with unauthorized interference with electronic communications networks, for which the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.
This is not the first time Ukraine’s police have closed down farms of machines used for illegal comms activity. At the end of 2022 they conducted 24 searches leading to the discovery of 13 separate bot farms that collectively disseminated pro-Putin agitprop from 1.5 million fake online accounts. 3,800 PS4 video game consoles were seized in a single raid during 2021; the consoles were used to robotically generate the in-game currency of the FIFA football game.
More police photographs of the Vinnytsia equipment are reproduced below.