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In brief: The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has announced that since Russia invaded the country, it has identified and shut down five bot farms operating 100,000 social media accounts spreading fake news related to the invasion.
The SBU wrote in a release that the farms, located in regions that included Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Ternopil, and Zakarpattia, were used for "large-scale information sabotage," spreading distorted news and propaganda about a full-scale Russian invasion. The ultimate goal was to destabilize the socio-political situation in different areas while instilling panic among Ukraine's population.
Among the equipment seized at the different bot farms were over 100 GSM gateway devices, almost 10,000 SIM cards, laptops, and other computer equipment containing evidence of illegal actions. Some of the SBU's photos show they also collected phones, USB drives, weapons, and ammunition.
The SBU writes that agents operating the farms were doing so on the instruction of Russian special services. The agency said it had initiated criminal proceedings under article 110 (encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Despite comprehensive measures being underway to bring those involved to justice, there is no mention in the statement of any arrests being made.
Russia has long been the source of online threats and misinformation campaigns, which have skyrocketed since it invaded its neighbor. Amid the numerous phishing incidents and cyberattacks being carried out, Kaspersky, long thought to have ties to the Russian government, was placed on the US national security blacklist. We've also seen President Biden warn American companies to bolster their online defenses, the Cyclops Blink botnet, and a Russian court find Facebook and Instagram guilty of extremist activity.