Dubious SMS-mailing from the Cyber Police
If you believe you’ve read this post previously, you’re not mistaken. Yesterday, approximately at 6 p.m., we published the text that you’ll find in this post after the asterisks below. However, shortly thereafter, we discovered suspicious elements that necessitated further verification. As a result, we removed the post. This isn’t our usual course of action, but any update or warning would have only added confusion, and the original text could have led you to harmful communities. In essence, we were in a hurry to publish it. But, the situation is now clear. To clarify, our verdict remains unchanged, and we have full confidence in it.
What precisely raised doubts?
The issue lies in the SMS mass mailing purportedly sent by the Cyber Police, which contained two links. The first link directed to the Telegram channel of the StopRussiaChannel | MRIYA project, without any shortcuts. The second link, however, was generated through Bitly, a URL shortening service, for the Viber channel. Unlike the first link, the Viber channel isn’t mentioned anywhere on the project’s website, which provides a comprehensive list of all initiatives and Telegram channels.
How we checked
We attempted to contact the administrators of the Telegram channels, but it proved to be impossible. Consequently, we left requests wherever possible. Subsequently, we discovered that we had been added to numerous suspicious channels. Additionally, we came across various media outlets discussing the project. However, these articles were authored by unidentified “experts” without any mention of their names or surnames. Even in the YouTube video presentation featuring the Cyber Police officers, they simply referred to themselves as Artem and Bohdan.
Next, we reached out to our mobile operator and learned that they had also received similar messages and harbored suspicions regarding them. They advised us against clicking on the provided links. The consultant informed us that a mailing list can adopt a name like “mriyasocial”, similar to what occurred with the Cyber Police. Therefore, the presence of such words instead of numbers does not guarantee anything.
In addition, we made attempts to contact the Cyber Police via email and repeatedly called the provided phone numbers. The number seemed inactive. It was only on the ninth attempt that we managed to get through to the Cyber Police hotline. Our question was recorded, and they undertook to investigate the matter. After thirty minutes, we received confirmation that the mailing did indeed originate from the Cyber Police. Moreover, we were informed that the project had a Viber community.
Below is the verbatim text from yesterday.
State-affiliated organizations often face challenges in communication. Many people viewed their mailing list as hostile. StopRussiaChannel | MRIYA is a collaborative project initiated by the Cyber Police and volunteers. If you receive an SMS invitation to a Telegram/Viber channel under this name, it genuinely originates from the Cyber Police. You can click on the link, but it’s essential to verify that it’s not some kind of imitation.
What’s it all about?
Many of you have received suspicious SMS messages urging concerned Ukrainians to join “the largest information army that destroys russian propaganda and teaches Ukrainians the basics of cyber hygiene”. As a result of this mass mailing, users even started receiving suggestions from their phones to mark these messages as spam.
The included phrase “a counter-offensive is coming soon, so your help is needed more than ever” further heightened skepticism. It understandably caused concern, as it’s primarily russian propagandists and their useful idiots who are currently discussing such matters. Others are maintaining silence, and rightly so, because only those in charge of relevant decision-making should be addressing such issues.
Someone even went as far as boasting that “he seemed to have passed the basic infohygiene test and blocked the number”. (UPD: And you know what? Given the available information and the level of communication within the Cyber Police, he most likely made the right decision).
In reality, these messages weren’t sent by scammers or orchestrators of another russian information and psychological operation. The senders are none other than the Cyber Police and a group of volunteers.
If you click on the link (https://mriya.social/join_channel), it will re-direct you to the official Telegram channel called “StopRussia | MRIYA”, which serves as “a community of concerned Ukrainians dedicated to verifying and blocking sources that disseminate fake news and propaganda”.
In addition to the channel itself, there’s a bot bearing the same name, which allows users to submit complaints against hostile resources. Once reviewed by community members, the identified resource will be blocked. The bot was introduced on March 23, 2023. Apart from conducting analysis, it regularly provides subscribers with online tasks to combat threats in the cyber environment and offers instructions on how to counter the enemy on the information front.
Information regarding the StopRussiaChannel | MRIYA can also be accessed directly on the Cyber Police website, as well as on their verified Facebook page. Reportedly, as of October 2023, the Cyber Police, in collaboration with volunteers, have successfully blocked 14,000 hostile resources.
We followed both the link provided in the SMS message and the link available on the project’s website. We compared them and confirmed that they led to the same channel