Russian citizens in multiple cities across the country were greeted Wednesday morning by radio alerts, text messages, and sirens warning of an air raid or missile strikes that never occurred. Russian officials have already blamed the false alarms on cyber threat actors. “As a result of a hacker attack on the servers of some commercial radio stations in some regions of the country, information was broadcast about an alleged announcement of an air raid warning and a threat of a missile strike,” the Ministry said in a statement, according to RIA Novosti, the Russian state-owned news agency. The Ministry said the broadcasts and text messages were the result of an attack on a satellite operator’s infrastructure and that “an unauthorized tie-in is going on the air. The alarm signals transmitted on the air do not correspond [to] reality.” The fake alerts were broadcast two days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal attack on neighboring Ukraine, a “special military operation” the country’s political and military leaders said at the beginning would be wrapped up in a matter of weeks.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, if one actually took place, it is likely it was carried out by a pro-Ukrainian hacktivist group. Hacktivist groups have carried out multiple attacks on behalf of both Ukraine and Russia over the course of the conflict. Even though President Putin continues to erroneously blame the West and Ukraine for Russia’s invasion, multiple reports identified Russian backed cyber-attacks on Ukrainian organizations in the months leading up to the invasion. This particular attack not only causes a lack of faith in the Russian government and causes panic, but it also causes confusion for future air raid sirens, making citizens question its legitimacy. Hacktivists on both sides of the conflict have been effective at spreading misinformation and disruptive attacks; these types of attacks will surely be a planning factor for military strategists in future conflicts.