Ukrainian government shuts down bot farms responsible for misinformation

Over 100,000 fake accounts were discovered.

Photo by UP9/CC BY SA 3.0

It’s been just over a month since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is still finding new means of Russian subversion. The SBU discovered and dismantled a network of five bot farms linked to 100,000 dummy accounts used to spread misinformation on social media.

In an official release, the SBU detailed the locations of the interregional network. The SBU found farms in Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Ternopil, and Zakarpattia region, which were all “used for subversive work” on social media networks, including those banned in Ukraine. It was determined by the SBU that the farms were used at the behest of Russian special services to spread misinformation regarding the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, thus causing panic among Ukrainian citizens and attempting to destabilize certain regions of the country.

SBU investigators found over 100 GSM gateways, 10,000 SIM cards used to hide illegal activity, laptops, and other computer equipment loaded with incriminating evidence. Along with these core items used to run the operation, investigators also found cell phones, USB drives, and what appears to be a weapon.

While no arrests were revealed in the release by the SBU, it did state that “urgent comprehensive measures” are being taken to bring the guilty parties to justice. The SBU began a criminal investigation under Art. 110 (encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

The SBU’s discovery follows news that Russian-based Kaspersky Antivirus was added to a list of companies that pose a high risk to national security by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Germany also warned against the use of Kaspersky products earlier this month.