Ukraine-Russia War News: Live Updates

April 7, 2022 at 8:00 am ET

Hackers linked to the governments of Russia and Belarus have turned their attention to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February, trying to use Facebook for cyberespionage and disinformation campaigns, the social network’s parent company Meta said on Thursday.

Some of the hackers, who had been focusing on disinformation campaigns in Poland and the West, suddenly turned their attention to Ukraine, where they began spreading fake news about a Ukrainian military surrender, Meta executives said. Others blamed NATO for Russia’s invasion and accused Ukrainian forces of killing civilians, while amateur hackers and social media users tried to spread disinformation, take down Facebook accounts that criticized the invasion, and fraudulently profit from the crisis .

“Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have greatly intensified attacks on internet freedom and access to information,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs. The company has struggled in recent weeks to moderate conversations about the conflict on its platform while fending off hackers. Some of the disinformation campaigns also used Twitter, YouTube and Russian social media sites to spread their messages, Meta said.

Ghostwriters, a Belarus-linked hacking group, has continued efforts to break into dozens of Ukrainian military officials’ Facebook accounts and post fake news about a surrender, Meta said in a broader quarterly report on cyberattacks and disinformation on its platform. The company, which published a similar ghostwriter effort last month, prevented the group from releasing videos purporting to show surrendering soldiers, said Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead for influence operations.

Another group linked to the Belarusian KGB, which had been focused on spreading disinformation in Poland, shifted its focus to Ukraine when the conflict began and also attempted to spread false surrender messages, Meta said in his report.

The Russian Internet Research Agency, known for creating deceptive social media profiles and using them to spread disinformation, set up a website last year to spread news about police brutality in the West and attempted to set up Facebook accounts in January and February promote content from the site, Meta executives said. Meta blocked the profiles, but noted that after the invasion, the group suddenly began writing articles blaming NATO for the war in Ukraine and accusing the Ukrainian military of targeting civilians.

Civilians also jumped into the online conflict, Meta said. In the Luhansk region of Ukraine, websites and social media accounts that promoted pro-Russian comments were taken over by hackers who directed their audience to Telegram channels showing images of Russian victims. And in Russia, users set up a Facebook group that was ostensibly for sharing cooking tips, but was then used to mass report profiles criticizing the invasion to get Facebook to remove them.

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