VIDEO: Ukraine Busts Alleged Russian Bot Farm Using Thousands of SIM Cards

Photo and videos reveal machines running 18,000 fake social media accounts.
Image: Ukraine Security Services photo.
Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 3
Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

Ukraine’s Security Service said it has shut down a troll farm in the city of Lviv.

“The SSU cyber specialists uncovered and dismantled two bot farms in Lviv with a total capacity of 18,000 fake accounts,” an SSU press release said. “According to preliminary information, organizers from Russia supervised the administrators of the bot farms.”


Image: Ukraine Security Services photo.

According to the press release, three people in two different residences were involved. Two gave over their apartments to the operation while a third took care of maintaining the accounts and equipment. “The bot farms worked mostly in social networks: distributed fakes to spread panic,” the press release said. “The bots also published false information about bomb threats at various facilities.”


The SSU said it seized two sets of GSM gateways, 3,000 SIM cards, laptops, and accounting records. GSM gateways are equipment that allows people to use SIM cards to connect to networks outside the default network they’re meant to be connected to. They’re popular tools for hackers and other cyber criminals, who can use them to manage several phone numbers, and to connect to Voice Over IP, or VoIP networks. The photos of the bust show dozens of GSM gateways stuffed with blurred SIM cards.


Image: Ukraine Security Services photo.

Ukraine and other countries along Russia’s border have long dealt with cyber crime and attacks that originate from the neighboring country. In January, unidentified hackers disabled several Ukrainian government websites. Kiev blamed the Kremlin, and the Kremlin denied its involvement.


Image: Ukraine Security Services photo.

The shut down of the alleged Russian troll farm comes as tensions between Ukraine and Russia are on the rise. Russian troops, weapons, and supplies are gathering along the border of Ukraine in Russia and neighboring countries like Belarus. For the past eight years, Russia has backed an insurgency in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.