Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has largely been viewed as a strategic failure. As the conflict continues, Russia has had to change their strategy to account for dwindling support, increased global sanctions, and Ukrainian forces that continue to impressively combat Russian forces. Most recently, Vladimir Putin illegally annexed four Ukrainian oblasts and issued a partial mobilization of Russian citizens to bolster their military force. Immediately, Russian citizens opposed the mobilization order and men eligible for conscription began fleeing the country. Cyber threat actors wasted no time trying to capitalize on the issue and fake documents started being sold on dark web forums. According to a report by RIA Novosti, the crooks are offering certificates of unfitness for military service that will supposedly help them evade enlistment. The promise includes updating the database of the regional enlistment office within 48 hours so that the recruitment officers will never look for the buyer. In exchange for this, the fraudsters request a photocopy of the client’s passport and 27,000 rubles ($470). Other services are providing fake documents for medical conditions that would make individuals ineligible for service.
Another interesting trend that arose from the widescale exit of Russians is a 50% rise in the demand for the so-called “gray” SIM cards, as reported by Russian news outlet Kommersant. These are SIM cards that people can get without presenting an identity document or registering their real subscriber information to the telecommunication service providers. All this has led to the Russian border officers now tracking people based on their IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), a unique 15-digit identifier linked to the device’s hardware, not the SIM card. According to the Russian internet rights organization Roskomsvoboda, there are multiple reports of people who FSB agents forced to give away their IMEI numbers while crossing the border to Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Finland.
This is a perfect example of how cyber criminals exploit real world situations for profit. Although some of these services are allowing safe passage for fleeing Russians, they ultimately put the purchaser at risk while turning a profit. It is likely phishing campaigns will begin using this topic as a social engineering strategy as well. Individuals should be on the lookout for scams requesting money to aid Russians trying to flee the country due to the mobilization order.