Ukraine Police Raid Simbox Farms Spreading Russian Propaganda via 1.5 Million Fake Internet Accounts

The National Police of Ukraine have publicized the result of a series of raids that seized equipment used to disseminate pro-Putin agitprop via social media, email and instant messaging services. 24 searches led to the discovery of 13 illegal bot farms managed by 31 people around the country. The police confiscated:

  • over 100,000 SIM cards from both Ukrainian and Russian mobile networks;
  • about 300 GSM gateways;
  • over 150 mobile phones; and
  • over 100 separate pieces of computer equipment.

In addition, the authorities blocked 28 websites that were used by the bot farmers to register mobile numbers. Some of the SIMs associated with Russian mobile networks were linked to online accounts for Russian banks that had received transfers of money, though the police made no mention of the amounts involved.

Propaganda disseminated by the bot farms included justifications for the occupation of Ukrainian territory and attempts to smear members of the Ukrainian military and authorities. The police also said they obtained evidence of malware being used to infect Ukrainian phones so they would respond to SMS registration messages for online services without the phone user’s knowledge.

You can see a video showing the seized equipment below. The full text of the police announcement (in Ukrainian) can be found here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.