A Polish programmers collective reportedly linked to the notorious Anonymous hackers group has helped Americans and others around the world send millions of anti-war texts about the Ukraine invasion directly to the Russian people.
Anonymous, meanwhile, is claiming responsibility for hacking into Russian CCTV surveillance cameras and superimposing messages like “Putin is killing children” on the camera scenes, Vice reported Thursday. Camera feeds were being live-streamed Thursday on the website Behind Enemy Lines.
Both efforts represent groundbreaking wartime cyber assaults against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s censorship and manipulation of the truth.
In the text onslaught, messages are sent to random Russians through a website set up by programmers who obtained 20 million cell phone numbers and close to 140 email addresses, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. The site was launched March 6.
Users are then given a random Whatsapp number and a variety of Russian-language texts that they can send. Messages often include pleasant greetings followed by facts about the invasion, accurate media reports or footage of the war.
“Let them know the truth. Let them know the power of the free world!” the website 1920.in stated.
1920.in was developed by programmers who call themselves Squad303, named after a British Air Force unit of Polish pilots renowned for their heroic fight against Nazi Germany. The 1920 refers to a historic battle that year when Polish fighters stopped an invasion by a far greater force of Russian invaders.
“We started as a group of friends and cyber security and communication experts from Poland,” a spokesperson for the group of nearly 100 members told Business Insider. “When the war broke out it was obvious that we would support the Ukrainians.”
Squad303 claimed on Twitter Wednesday that 30 million messages had been sent to Russians, though that could not be confirmed:
“Our aim was to break through Putin’s digital wall of censorship and make sure that Russian people are not totally cut off from the world and the reality of what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” a spokesman for Squad303 told The Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper reached out to several contacts listed on the site and spoke to a user named Titan Crawford, of Portland, Oregon, who said some 2,000 numbers he texted with messages had led to conversations with 15 people. In one case, he exchanged vacation photos with his new Russian acquaintance.
“The whole idea is to educate Russian people about what’s going on so they can rise up and stop their government from invading countries,” Crawford said.