A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 1, 2022

How To Hotwire An Abandoned Tank: Ukraine Hacks of Russian Media Create Winning Message

Ukraine is, so far, winning the hacking, information and messaging war with Russia hands down. 

Their clever and frequently humorous hacks, TikToks or posts include how to hot-wire and drive abandoned Russian army tanks, how many Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded - info the government has not shared with the Russian media - and they disabled the electric vehicle charging stations on the main road from Moscow to St Petersburg with a message reading 'F*** Putin' - because essential parts came from Ukrainian companies. JL  

Matthew Gault and Joseph Cox report in Motherboard:

Hackers targeted the websites of major Russian media, including the state-run news agency Tass, to display a message with the number of Russian army casualties that the Russian state has not released to the public. (Also) reports are flooding social media about Russian soldiers running out of fuel or abandoning tanks and APCs in Ukraine. A video went viral describing how to pilot abandoned Russian military vehicles. (And) Electric vehicle charging stations along  the motorway which stretches from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, are not working because a Ukrainian company that provided the chargers hacked them

Hackers targeted the websites of major Russian media outlets, including the state-run news agency Tass, to display a message with the current number of Russian army casualties reported by the Ukrainian military, figures that the Russian state has not officially released to the Russian public.

The figures in the message from the hackers haven’t been independently verified by international authorities. But the move is part of a tsunami of hacktivism in opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier someone leaked internal messages from the pro-Russia ransomware group Conti.“Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death. Putin makes us lie and puts us in danger,” the message displayed on the websites read. “This message will be deleted, and some of us will be fired or even jailed. But we can't take it anymore.”


On top of an image of the Russian flag, the message added that there have been “5,300 dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine in four days,” and that this was “More than during the First Chechen War (1994-1996).”

News sites Fontanka and Kommersant were also targeted in the hack. The message included a logo for the hacking collective Anonymous.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian state media regulator, previously said that media outlets are allowed to only use information and data from official Russian sources concerning what it describes as the “special operation” in Ukraine. On Sunday, Russian army spokesperson Igor Konashenkov admitted on state television that Russian troops have been killed and injured in the invasion, but did not specify how many.

Tass’ editorial department itself reported on the hack, publishing a statement from the company’s corporate communications department.

“The TASS news agency's website has been under constant massive hacker attacks over the past few days. Today, the attackers managed to breakthrough. Work to restore the TASS website's performance is currently underway,” the statement read. Tass’ article claimed that the hackers “posted information that does not correspond to reality.”

The 5,300 figure itself comes from an update on the website of the Ukrainian military. On Monday, the website said that the total losses of the enemy from February 24 to February 28 included “Personnel approximately 5300 (to be specified).”

This is Nastya Tuman, a car mechanic and influencer in Russia. According to a profile on Yandex, she learned to drive at the age of 18 and began working on cars because she was tired of mechanics ripping her off. Now she and her husband run multiple YouTube channels and social media accounts where she fixes cars and explains the basics of maintenance.

Tuman’s video comes at a time when reports are flooding social media about Russian soldiers running out of fuel or outright abandoning tanks and APCs in Ukraine. On Feb. 28, Russia’s state telecommunications regulator demanded that TikTok take steps to censor military content on its platform. The video went viral on Twitter Monday with some describing it as footage of a Ukrainian explaining how to pilot abandoned Russian military vehicles. That’s not quite what’s going on.

The video of Tuman in an APC is actually a year old. On February 23, 2021, she posted a video on Instagram of her driving a BTR-series APC in honor of Defender of the Fatherland Day. The short video walks through the basics of starting up the APC and shows her briefly driving it.

On Feb. 27, Tuman posted a video to her TikTok account showing the same footage but with a different introduction. She’s pictured outside of the APC. “If you happen to find a free or abandoned armored personnel carrier, here’s a life-hack on how to start it,” she says in Russian. Then, like in the February 2021 video, she walks through the basics of operating the vehicle.

Tuman did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.


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