For several days, Ukrainian servicemen have been receiving spam messages from Russians via the Signal messenger with “New Year’s greetings” in which there are calls to “raise the Russian tricolor above your head” and “cleanse yourself of that evil that flooded the country.”

The relevant screenshots were provided to Kyiv Post by several Ukrainian military personnel. The text of the received messages is the same:

“Dear compatriots, on the eve of the New Year, according to the good Russian tradition, we wish you peace and goodness! Happiness and mutual understanding! May 2024 bring peace and order to the original Russian land!

“May each of you with pride and awe raise above your head the Russian tricolor symbol of statehood, freedom, and independence! Cleanse yourself from the evil that has flooded the country! And we will help you! Glory to Ukraine as part of the Russian Federation! Happy holiday, dear compatriots! Happy New Year!”

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After monitoring social media, Kyiv Post came to the conclusion that such messages were received not only by the military but also by civilian Ukrainians.

Concerns have arisen in society regarding the possibility of Russian special services hacking the Signal messenger, widely recognized as one of the most secure messaging platforms globally. The Ukrainian military relies on Signal for operational communication.

Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR), told Kyiv Post that intelligence has recently observed an outbreak of various types of hostile mailings, which attack both messengers and email addresses.

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 24 February 2023
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“It is clear that this is another attempt to put pressure on Ukrainian society. Very often these mailings are random in nature. That is, some message that was supposed to be addressed to the military can be received by civilians, and vice versa,” the HUR representative spokesman said.

He noted that the text of these messages is mostly extremely primitive and “cannot convince, encourage or scare a Ukrainian in any way.” Yusov does not rule out that the Russians can use some outdated databases, in particular, email addresses, for such spam mailings.

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“In today’s world, it is not a problem to find certain databases, including those with phone numbers. This does not mean at all that the enemy understands to whom exactly he is trying to send certain messages,” he explains.

The HUR emphasizes that there is no question of hacking the messenger in this case.

“Information reaches messengers installed on specific phone numbers. The incoming information does not necessarily indicate a hacked messenger. However, it is advisable not to open messages from unknown numbers, as they can potentially be harmful, not only through the text,” Yusov added.

Colonel Vladyslav Seleznyov, former head of the Armed Forces of Ukrainian (AFU) General Staff press service, assured Kyiv Post that there is no question of Signal being hacked.

“How does spamming work? In a designated place where appropriate equipment is installed, which locates Signal users, a mass mailing is carried out to all users of the messenger in a certain region or district,” said the colonel.

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“The Signal base is sufficiently protected. I don’t think Signal was hacked, and I don't think we all need to give up Signal here and now,” Seleznyov added.

The AFU colonel emphasized that the information component is a crucial part of Russian aggression. Russians send such spam messages to phones and emails to create an atmosphere of hopelessness and despair in Ukrainian society, he revealed.

“We see that the situation within our society is rather tense due to certain decisions of our military and political leadership, due to a certain discussion on how to continue repelling Russia’s aggression. This spam mailing is adding fuel to these infernal discussions,” Seleznyov noted.

He drew attention to the fact that the narratives promoted in the messages sent out have nothing to do with the plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his associates because “the enemy does not hide their intentions to destroy Ukraine as a state.”

“You should not believe that the information distributed in these spam messages is true. The enemy lies and tries to increase despair in Ukrainian society, to spread discord. The only way to return peace and tranquility to the territory of our country is to kill the Russian invaders who have entered our land with weapons. There is no other way out,” Seleznyov concluded.

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Signal is a cross-platform encrypted instant messaging service founded by US citizens Moxie Marlinspike and Brian Acton, and developed by Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger.

According to the Ukrainian IT portal ITC.ua, the messenger features encrypted device-to-device (E2EE) messages. All correspondence in the application, including video calls, calls, transferred files, and more, is always encrypted and hidden by this encryption.

This means that the data is not stored on the messenger’s servers but on the users’ devices. Therefore, even the developers of the application do not have access to them. The messenger does not collect user data and does not display advertisements. Funding for the development of the application comes from private donations.

Earlier, the expert team of the State Special Communications Service of Ukraine noted that the Threema messenger could be an alternative to Signal, which is often used by the Ukrainian military and can be considered conditionally safe. Threema offers more cross-checking and verification tools, but it comes at a cost to install.

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Comments ( 1)

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Shawn Foubert
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Return to Russia what they so freely give. 3 of 3, return to Russia what Russia so freely gives to Ukraine.

John
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@Shawn Foubert, I agree. Full military support to Ukraine now.

I also think Russia's decades of hybrid war cybercrimes / theft, dissent spreading fake news, political meddling, and funnelling refugee streams to destabilize democratic borders should all be categorized as acts of war. A postcard taped to the end of proportionately sized missile targeted to the russian state sponsored agencies initiating these acts of war, should alert them in a timely fashion that such acts of war could have deadly consequences.

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