Facebook fights against Russian cybercampaigns targeting Ukraine
Facebook’s parent company Meta said on Thursday that Russian state actors and others were relentlessly trying to use the social network against Ukraine with coordinated campaigns of deception, hacking and intimidation.
Social media networks have become one of the fronts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, harboring sometimes misleading information but also real-time monitoring of one of the biggest geopolitical crises in decades.
“Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our teams have been on high alert to detect and disrupt threats and platform abuse, including take-back attempts by networks we previously took down” , Meta said in its latest threat report.
A spike in activity targeting Ukraine shortly before its invasion by Russia in February became an entrenched battle, according to Ben Nimmo, head of the Meta influence operations threat intelligence team.
Tactics have included using fake accounts to spread fake stories such as the surrender of Ukrainian troops or calling for a street protest in Warsaw against the Polish government.
Meta said he disrupted a network of about 200 Facebook accounts in Russia that worked together to falsely accuse people of violating the social network’s policies to get posts about Ukraine removed.
Those involved attempted to disguise their collaboration as a cooking-themed group, according to the social network.
“The majority of these fictional reports focused on people in Ukraine and Russia,” Meta said in the report.
“The people behind this activity relied on fake, genuine and duplicate accounts to submit hundreds – in some cases thousands – of complaints against their targets.”
These coordinated intimidation campaigns are called “mobbing”.
Meanwhile, “actors” linked to the government of Russia and its Belarusian ally engaged in cyber espionage and covert online influence, according to Meta.
This malicious activity targeted Ukraine’s telecommunications and defense sectors as well as technology platforms, journalists and activists, the report said.
Meta executives said they have seen a “new spike” in attacks by a Russian-linked hacker group known as Ghostwriter.
Ghostwriter’s typical tactic is to target victims with “phishing” emails that trick them into clicking on deceptive links in an attempt to steal login credentials.
The goal seemed to be to spread links to disinformation.
“Since our last public update, this group has attempted 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 for the military to surrender as if those messages were from the rightful owners of the account.”
Meta has blocked the sharing of these videos, according to security policy officer Nathaniel Gleicher.
“These threat actors are not going to give up,” Gleicher said during a phone briefing. “They are mixing their techniques more and more.”
Facebook has restricted Russian state media’s ability to make money on the social media platform and refused to stop using fact-checkers and content warning labels on media posts of state.
“We are actively considering what additional steps we should take, particularly in the context of misinformation from government pages,” Gleicher said.
Meta, whose family of apps includes Instagram, has blocked Russian state media accounts RT and Sputnik in the European Union.
Moscow responded by blocking Facebook and Instagram.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)