Russia’s increasingly belligerent actions are universally condemned, both at home and abroad. Its people suffer and starve while Putin and his elite cadre of oligarchs inflate their bank accounts. Turns out that’s not all they have been inflating.
A group of state backed cybercriminals has been infecting victims with viruses and using them to inflate views on pro-Russian videos in an attempt to make them go viral, according to new research by security firm Trustwave.
The videos found by the researchers are all pro-Russian, such as a one from the Iranian English-language broadcaster PressTV that quotes a Russian Parliament member justifying the invasion of Ukraine.
The goal of the operation, according to Trustwave researchers Rami Kogan and Arseny Levin, is to artificially increase the popularity of a video and make it more visible to users of the site Dailymotion.
Victims got infected by visiting a hacked website that silently installed on their computers a trojan virus, according to the researchers.
The virus then loaded some videos in a hidden desktop, so that victims weren’t even aware they were viewing the propaganda clips.
It’s unclear who’s behind this particular operation, Sigler said, but it’s possible that the criminals who spread the exploit kit and the malware only had the goal of making money, while someone else paid them to inflate views on the propaganda videos.
Russia is known to permit credit card fraudsters, pedophiles and hackers to operate with implicit and explicit state backing. The latest report seems to imply the communist country using hackers for hire to accomplish their propaganda.
Russia, through slick news sites like RT, has been ramping up its propaganda in the wake of its invasion of the Ukraine. Defense Department officials are closely monitoring the increase and have started to fight back in the battle for popular opinion.
The increase in propaganda suggests a lack of internal support for dictator Putin and his band of cronies. The country is in dire economic shape, cause by heavy international sanctions, a failing currency and lack of food.