Hackers Breach Ukrainian Radio Network to Spread Fake News About Zelenskiy
On Thursday, Ukrainian media group TAVR Media confirmed that it was hacked to spread fake news about President Zelenskiy being in critical condition and under intensive care.
According to the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSCIP), the network operates nine major Ukrainian radio stations, including Hit FM, Radio ROKS, KISS FM, Radio RELAX, Melody FM, Nashe Radio, Radio JAZZ, Classic Radio, and Radio Bayraktar.
“Today, a cyber attack was carried out on the servers and networks of TAVR Media radio stations,” the company said in an official statement.
“We emphasize that no information about the health problems of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi is true.”
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SSSCIP added that the attackers breached TAVR Media’s servers and broadcasting systems to spread fake news suggesting that the Ukrainian President is allegedly under intensive care, in critical condition, with Parliament Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk acting in his stead.
Zelenskyi also refuted the reports in a video shared on his official Instagram account, saying they were fake news spread by Russian-linked threat actors.
“Today, Russia launched more fake news that the (Ukrainian) state is not controlled by President Zelenskiy as he is in hospital, or rather, in intensive care because of a ‘serious health condition’,” he said, according to a translated transcript from Reuters.
“So, here I am in my office, and I have never felt as good as now. And the bad news for those behind such fakes is that I am not alone. There are 40 million of us (Ukrainians). And with all due respect to old age, 44 is not (almost) 70.”
Deepfakes also used to push fake news
After Russia invaded Ukraine, Facebook also removed a poorly made and unconvincing deepfake video of Zelenskyy asking Ukrainian troops lay down their arms and surrender.
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The altered video was first shared on the compromised website of Ukraine 24 after a Wednesday breach, and it spread to other compromised Ukrainian news sites.
Zelenskyy also reacted to the deepfake making rounds online with his own video to stop it from further influencing Facebook users’ opinions about the actual situation in Ukraine, asking Russian troops to surrender instead and go home.
“If I can offer someone to lay down their arms, it’s the Russian military,” Zelenskyy said. “Go home. Because we’re home. We are defending our land, our children, and our families.”
The Ukrainian Stratcom Centre, the country’s Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security, also warned in early March that Russia could use deepfake videos that “are almost impossible to distinguish from the real ones,” generated using machine learning algorithms.
One month before, Facebook also took down accounts used by the Ghostwriter Belarusian-linked hacking group to target Ukrainian officials and military personnel and for spreading videos portraying Ukrainian soldiers surrendering to the Russian army.