A pro-Russia propaganda campaign has been uncovered which has tricked C-level executives and high-level officials alike, experts have warned.
A report from cybersecurity researchers Proofpoint says the campaign should not be taken lightly, as the “damage such propaganda could have on the brand and public perception of those targeted” is real.
What’s more, the perpetuation of disinformation isn’t something people should turn a blind eye to.
Targeting vocal supporters of Ukraine
As per Proofpoint’s report, a known threat actor dubbed TA499 (also known as Vovan, or Lexus) is trying to get high-profile individuals on a video or audio call.
To do that, they’d send out dozens of emails, impersonating Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and his purported assistant, Ukrainian members of parliament, the Embassy of Ukraine to the US, and similar.
With these emails, they would usually target high-level individuals and public figures who have already spoken out publicly against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or have otherwise helped the cause (through, for example, donations to the Ukrainian government and military).
Some of the people the hackers are targeting are those who supported a bill to arm Ukraine against Russia, those who supported the sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline, and those who supported the bombing of Russian military assets, as well as other military actions.
Those that end up taking the bait will sit down for a chat with someone who looks very much like the person that they think initially reached out. According to Proofpoint, the fraudsters are either using excessive makeup or artificial intelligence, in order to create convincing deepfake videos. The fraudsters deny using any AI, though.
Those that still don’t realize all of it was a trap (due to their unfamiliarity with the people they think they’re speaking to), will have their call recorded. After a little back-and-forth, the conversation turns to banter in an attempt to get the guest to make embarrassing comments or acts. The recordings are then edited for emphasis and placed on YouTube and Twitter.
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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.