Facebook parent company Meta said Thursday that Russian state actors and others are relentlessly trying to use the social network against Ukraine with campaigns of deception, hacking and coordinated harassment.
Social networks have become one of the fronts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, home to sometimes misleading information but also real-time monitoring of one of the biggest geopolitical crises in decades.
“Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our teams have been on high alert to detect and disrupt threats and platform abuse, including attempted comebacks from networks we took down earlier,” Meta said in its latest report. of threats.
A spike in activity targeting Ukraine shortly before it was invaded by Russia in February has turned into an entrenched battle, according to Meta influence operations threat intelligence team leader Ben Nimmo.
[ Read: Threat of Local Cyber Operations Escalating Into Global Cyberwar ]
Tactics have included the use of fake accounts to spread false stories, such as the surrender of Ukrainian troops or the calling of a street protest in Warsaw against the Polish government.
Meta said it disrupted a network of some 200 Facebook accounts in Russia that were working together to falsely accuse people of violating the social network’s policies to remove posts about Ukraine.
Those involved tried to disguise their collaboration as a cooking-themed group, according to the social network.
“Most of these fictitious reports focused on people from Ukraine and Russia,” Meta said in the report.
“The people behind this activity relied on fake, authentic and duplicate accounts to file hundreds, in some cases thousands, of complaints against their targets.”
These coordinated campaigns of intimidation are called “mobbing.”
– Ghost writer –
Meanwhile, “actors” linked to the government of Russia and its ally Belarus have engaged in cyber espionage and covert online influence operations, according to Meta.
That malicious activity targeted Ukraine’s telecom and defense sectors along with technology platforms, journalists and activists, the report said.
Meta executives said they have seen a “further increase” in attacks from a Russia-linked hacker group known as Ghostwriter.
Ghostwriter’s typical tactic is to target victims with “phishing” emails that trick them into clicking deceptive links in an effort to steal login credentials.
The goal seemed to be to spread links to misinformation.
“Since our last public update, this group has tried to hack into the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian servicemen,” Meta said in the report.
“In a handful of cases, they posted videos calling on the Army to surrender as if these posts came from the rightful owners of the accounts.”
Meta blocked those videos from being shared, according to chief security policy officer Nathaniel Gleicher.
– New measures? –
“These threat actors are not going to give up,” Gleicher said in a telephone briefing.
“They are mixing their techniques more and more.”
Facebook has restricted the ability of Russian state media to make money on the social media platform and has refused to stop using fact checkers and content warning labels on state media posts.
“We are actively reviewing further actions we need to take, particularly in the context of misinformation on government pages,” Gleicher said.
Meta, whose family of apps includes Instagram, has blocked the accounts of Russian state media RT and Sputnik in the European Union.
Moscow responded by blocking Facebook and Instagram.
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