Putin speech

Ukrainian hackers claim disruption of Russian TV websites during Putin speech

At least two Russian media websites went down during a live broadcast of President Vladimir Putin's address to Russia's elite on Tuesday.

The website of the Russian state-owned broadcaster VGTRK said it was down due to “technical works,” and the website of the live-streaming platform Smotrim was not loading at all. 

In a nearly two-hour speech delivered to the Russian parliament, state officials, military commanders and soldiers, Putin vowed to continue Russia’s yearlong war in Ukraine and accused the West of launching an economic war against Russia.

The Ukrainian hacktivist group IT Army claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s incident. “We launched a DDoS attack on channels broadcasting Putin's address,” the group wrote on Telegram. The group also listed the Russian state-controlled television channel 1TV as one of its victims.

The IT Army is a crowdsourced group of Ukrainian tech specialists founded in the early days of the war to conduct distributed denial-of-service attacks on Russian websites. DDoS incidents tend to disrupt websites but generally do not cause lasting damage.

Over the past year, Ukrainian hacktivists have attacked more than 15,000 Russian websites, including government services, banks and private companies. Anyone can join the group — the IT Army has even compiled detailed instructions on how to launch DDoS attacks on Russia.

TV targets

It is not known how long the IT Army’s recent attack on Russian media lasted, but it did not go unnoticed. Russia’s major state news agency TASS wrote about the outage but did not mention the alleged involvement of the Ukrainian hacker group.

This is not the first time Russian state television has become a target of pro-Ukrainian hackers.

Earlier in September, members of a pro-Ukrainian hacktivist group called “hdr0” breached Russian TV channels, including Channel One Russia, Russia-24, and Russia-1, replacing their original content with anti-war messages comparing Russia’s attack on Ukraine to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

In May, hackers replaced broadcasts of Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day parade in Moscow — commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II — with an antiwar message that read: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands.”

Pro-Kremlin hackers are also following a similar playbook. In July, two radio stations owned by one of Ukraine’s largest broadcasters were hacked to spread fake messages that President Volodymyr Zelensky was hospitalized and in critical condition.

In June, hackers attacked the Ukrainian streaming service Oll.tv and replaced the broadcast of a football match between Ukraine and Wales with Russian propaganda.

Television companies in the West have faced cyberattacks recently, too, including Ireland’s Virgin Media Television on Monday.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.