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February 23, 2023

Russian radio stations hacked with bogus missile warning from hacktivists

Several radio stations throughout Russia were hacked into urging citizens to go to shelters to avoid non-existent incoming missiles.

By Claudia Glover

A fake missile attack alarm was sounded on numerous Russian radio stations yesterday, with officials in Moscow pinning the blame on Ukrainian hacktivists. Listeners also received a text message ordering them to go to a shelter to avoid the missiles.

Russia hit with bogus missile warning. (Photo by Anelo/Shutterstock)

A statement from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said, “listeners on the air of radio stations could hear an alarm signal and a text message asking them to go to a shelter.”

Russian radio stations hacked with bogus missile warning – hacktivist groups to blame?

The attacked radio stations belonged to Russia’s largest media company Gazprom-Media, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company Gazprom. It said that an “attack on the infrastructure of a satellite operator” was at the root of the attack, according to RIA Novosti news agency. 

The Ministry of Emergency Situations explained that “an unauthorised tie-in going on air” was to blame, stressing that the alarm signals “do not correspond to reality”.

Russians tuned into the radio stations on Wednesday morning heard the message, “Everyone go to the shelters immediately. Attention! Attention! The threat of a missile strike.”

The stations that broadcast the erroneous message include Energy FM, Relax FM, Business FM, Humour FM and Autoradio, throughout the cities Belgorod, Stray Oskol, Ufa, Kazan, Novousuralsk, Novosibirsk, Pyatigorsk, Tyumen, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Magnitogorsk, as well as a number of districts of Moscow.

The regional government in Belogrod, which borders Ukraine, said: “The information about a missile strike and an air alert on one of the radio frequencies in Belogrod is fake.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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Russia-Ukraine attacks go back and forth

Global cybersecurity adviser at ESET Jake Moore has highlighted Russia’s ongoing actions in cyberspace against Ukraine: “Multiple Russian cyberattacks on Ukrainian government agencies and private organisations have occurred over the last year, but we have also experienced a number of attempts targeted at Russian agencies,” he says

Russia is unlikely to take this kind of action lying down, Moore adds. “Instead of soothing animosity it can, unfortunately, increase tension and see a rise in counterattacks,” he says. “It is unknown whether this was conducted by Ukraine or via a group sympathetic with the country, but this will not go unnoticed and is likely to anger those who believed they were untouchable.”

Hacktivism has been used throughout the Russia/Ukraine war by opportunistic hacking gangs and state-sponsored criminal groups, alike. Just this week Russia-aligned hacktivism gang Killnet announced attacks against numerous Nato websites.

Earlier this week two Russian state-owned television services were interrupted throughout President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation speech, deemed at the time to be the result of a targeted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Both of these acts of cyber dissidence occurred days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: Data from two spyware companies leaked by hacktivists

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