RIGA, Latvia — Russians using smart TVs have reported seeing something atypical: a message popped up instead of the usual channel list. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands,” read the message that took over their screens. “Television and the authorities lie. No to war.
Russian TVs and search engines hacked on VE Day with anti-war message
The apparent hack, targeting ordinary Russians sitting in front of their TVs or watching things on their search engines, pierced pro-Moscow messaging on Monday as Russia marked Victory Day, a commemoration of the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
As Russia intensified its attacks in southern and eastern Ukraine, thousands of Russian troops gathered in Moscow’s Red Square for a military parade. Addressing them, President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech redoubling his invasion of Ukraine and accusing NATO and Western countries, without evidence, of provoking Russia.
On Victory Day, Putin defends the war against Ukraine as a fight against the “Nazis”
The anti-war message that appeared on the screens of Russian smart TVs also appeared on the platforms of Yandex, the Russian IT giant. Like Google, it combines many products under one roof, including a search engine and a service that provides TV listings. On this page, the daily programs of the public channels Channel One and Russia-1 were also erased early on Monday.
YouTube’s Russian equivalent, called Rutube, was also affected, it said in a statement.
“Following the sites of various Russian ministries, which have been constantly subjected to cyberattacks over the past two months, hackers have reached RUTUBE,” Rutube said on its official Telegram channel. “Our video hosting suffered a powerful cyberattack. At the moment it is not possible to access the platform.
The streaming platform later said it had “located the incident” and was working to restore normal service, and that the apparent hackers were unable to access its content library.
“Specialists have located the incident and work is currently underway to ensure safety,” Rutube said. “We will announce when the video service will be restored in the near future.”
“RUTUBE confirms that third parties were unable to access the video archive,” he said. “The entire library, including user content, is always stored on the service.”
Russian government websites and state-run media have faced what the government has called an “unprecedented” wave of hacking attacks since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. . In mid-March, Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development and Communications said the attacks were at least twice as powerful as previous ones, prompting the agency to adopt unspecified measures to protect services.
Russian government websites face ‘unprecedented’ wave of hacking attacks, ministry says
Some Russians in the media also seem to be taking digital action to protest the war, even in their own country.
Articles with headlines condemning the invasion appeared on the front page of Russian news site Lenta.ru early Monday.
Each article published by Lenta carried the disclaimer that the material had “not been agreed with the editorial management” and that “the Presidential Administration will punish the publication for publishing this”.
“In other words,” he said, “take a screenshot of this now, before it gets deleted.”
The stories – with hard-hitting titles such as “Vladimir Putin has become a pitiful and paranoid dictator” and “Russia abandons the corpses of its soldiers in Ukraine” – were quickly deleted.
Such statements are most likely banned in Russia under a law passed this year that prohibits any attempt to discredit Russian forces and their actions in Ukraine. Free speech advocates say the law is a way for the Kremlin to control the narrative around the war. For example, it prohibits anyone from using the word “invasion” to describe events in Ukraine – which Putin calls a “special military operation” to “denazify” the country.
In Putin’s Russia, ‘fake news’ now means real news
Yegor Polyakov, editor of Lenta, claimed joint responsibility for the anti-war material and said he and his colleague Alexandra Miroshnikova had made a “conscious decision” to oppose the war.
“It’s not about ‘hacking by hackers’ at all; it was our conscious decision, which was taken relatively long ago, but it was not possible to implement it quickly (I will not say for what reasons yet), ”he said in a statement provided to the Russian media Mediazona.
Polyakov said there was almost no independent media left in Russia, and he called out “potential critics. . . not to forget humanism” and said that they should “not put labels on everyone at once”.
He said that he and Miroshnikova “no longer work in Lenta”.