What just happened? Ukraine-based Russian bot farms spreading disinformation have become a common problem for the country's authorities. Several of these setups have been shut down since Russia's invasion last year, the latest being a massive farm with over 100 operators.
The Cyber Police Department of the National Police of Ukraine conducted 21 searches in a joint operation and seized computer equipment, mobile phones, more than 250 GSM gateways, and about 150,000 SIM cards during the investigation.
As we've seen on several previous occasions, the primary goal of the bot farm was to spread propaganda related to the war. The attackers used special equipment and software to "launch advertisements that violated the norms and legislation of Ukraine."
The operators also used the accounts for the unauthorized online distribution of personal data of Ukrainian citizens, in fraud schemes, and to threaten citizens' safety and the destruction of their property.
Law enforcement is seeking charges against those involved with the farm - residents in Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia, and Lviv – of interference with electronic communications, unauthorized sale of information stored on computers, and knowingly spreading false notifications about safety threats.
Bot farms appear to be one of Russia's favorite methods of attempting to sow extra discontent in Ukraine. The Security Service of Ukraine announced in March last year that it had identified and shut down five bot farms operating 100,000 social media accounts spreading distorted news and propaganda about a full-scale Russian invasion.
What is thought to have been one of the biggest Russian bot farms was shut down by authorities last August. Operating secretly in the capital of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Vinnytsia, it ran over one million bot accounts and several groups on social media networks with an audience of almost 400,000 people. Again, spreading disinformation was the main goal, some of which related to the activities of the country's top military and political leadership.
Online disinformation campaigns are just one of the many ways the conflict illustrates how tech has changed modern warfare. Hacking, drones, smart weapons, GPS-loaded shells, and Starlink (though sometimes against the company's wishes) are just some of the technologies used by Ukraine since Russia crossed its borders.