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In context: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted several companies to stop doing business with Russia. Western nations have also hit the superpower with crippling sanctions. Even hackers have jumped into the fray with DDoS attacks on government websites.
A hacktivist group calling itself Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade has created a bot that sets up a conference call between multiple government entities, causing each to think the other one made the call. The stated purpose is to waste the government's time and tie up the phone lines. The automated spam calls go on non-stop during Russian operating hours.
On Wednesday, the hacking group set up a website where anybody can initiate and listen in on one of these calls. The website is called Waste Russian Time Today. Users visiting the site can scroll down to the telephone icon, start a call between random Russian agencies, and listen to the chaos as they try to figure out who is calling who and why.
Obviously, knowing Russian might help understand what is said. Still, participants likely get heated as the officials have probably been fielding nonsense calls all day — anger and frustration sound the same in any language. Regardless of whether anybody uses the site, the bot still places calls without human intervention to ensure it wastes as much of the agencies' time as possible.
"If youʼre on the phone, you canʼt drop bombs or coordinate soldiers," the group said. "[Don't speak Russian?] Block the lines! You can always guess something from the voices. And the more Duma employees are irritated, the better."
So far, 5,186 calls have been placed from the website since going live today.
Currently, the group operates off the phone numbers of thousands of government employees, including Putin's press corps, Duma employees, Military Poice, and the FSB (Russian Secret Service). The numbers range from mid-level administrators to high-ranking politicians. But the group wants more.
Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade is looking for ways to add to its database. The hackers will accept emails from anybody who might have more phone numbers. They also encourage those who would like to be more involved to do independent research to build a more extensive collection.
Users initiating a call from the website are entirely anonymous, and their voices cannot be heard. Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade told Wired that muting the third-party user ensures that they cannot give up any identifying information to the others on the line.
Whether this effort is effective in slowing down the war machine is debatable. It's also unclear what Russia can do about the distraction. Spam calls are virtually impossible to stop under normal circumstances. The fact that the nuisance calls come from trusted official sources makes it even more complicated to weed them out. It should be interesting to see how Russia deals with this new problem now that the cat is out of the bag.
Image credit: Phonlamai Photo