Experts have warned that a pro-Russian propaganda campaign has been uncovered that misled C-level executives and senior officials.
A report by 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 the targets” is real.
Moreover, the persistence of disinformation is not something people should turn a blind eye to.
Aimed at vocal supporters of Ukraine
According to the Proofpoint report, a known threat actor named TA499 (aka Vovan or Lexus) is trying to get high-profile individuals into a video or audio call.
To do that, they sent dozens of emails, posing as Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and his alleged aide, Ukrainian MPs, the Embassy of Ukraine to the US and the like.
With these emails, they would usually target high-ranking individuals and public figures who have already spoken out publicly against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or otherwise contributed to the cause (e.g. through donations to the Ukrainian government and military) .
Some of the people targeted by the hackers are those who supported a bill to arm Ukraine against Russia, those who supported sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline, and those who supported the bombing of Russian military assets, as well as other military actions.
Those who eventually take the bait sit down for a chat with someone very similar to the person they think they initially contacted. According to Proofpoint, the fraudsters use excessive makeup or artificial intelligence to create convincing deepfake videos. However, the fraudsters deny the use of AI.
Those who still don’t realize it was all a trap (due to their unfamiliarity with the people they think they’re talking to) have their conversation recorded. After a bit of back and forth, the conversation turns to banter in an attempt to get the guest to make embarrassing comments or actions. The recordings are then edited for emphasis and posted to YouTube and Twitter.