Tech

Hackers created a robot dialer to waste the time of Russian officials, and you can eavesdrop on calls

In the context: The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted several companies to stop doing business with Russia. Western countries have also hit the superpower with devastating sanctions. Even hackers have been involved in DDoS attacks on government websites.

A hacktivist group calling themselves Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade created a bot that sets up a conference call between several government agencies, making each think that the call was made by another. The stated goal is to waste government time and tie up phone lines. Automatic spam calls go non-stop during business hours in Russia.

On Wednesday, the hacker group created Web site where anyone can initiate and listen for one of these calls. The site is called Waste Russian Time Today. Users visiting the site can scroll down to the phone icon, initiate a call between random Russian agencies, and listen to the chaos as they try to figure out who is calling whom and why.

Obviously, knowledge of the Russian language can help to understand what has been said. However, attendees are likely to get angry as officials have likely been answering pointless calls all day – anger and frustration sound the same in any language. Whether or not anyone is using the site, the bot still makes calls without human intervention to ensure it wastes as much of the agencies time as possible.

“If you’re on the phone, you can’t drop bombs or coordinate soldiers,” the group said. “[Don’t speak Russian?] Block the lines! You can always guess something by the voices. And the more irritated the Duma workers, the better.”

To date, 5,186 calls have been received from the website.

The group is currently working with the telephone numbers of thousands of government officials, including Putin’s press corps, members of the Duma, the Military Police and the FSB (Russian Secret Service). The numbers range from mid-level administrators to high-ranking politicians. But the band wants more.

Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade is looking for ways to add to its database. Hackers will accept emails from anyone who may have more phone numbers. They also encourage those who would like to be more involved to conduct independent research to build a larger collection.

Users who initiate a call from a website are completely anonymous and their voices cannot be heard. Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade told Wired that muting the third party warrants that it cannot transmit any identifying information to other users on the line.

Whether these efforts are effective in slowing down the war machine remains debatable. It’s also unclear what Russia can do about the distraction. Spam calls are nearly impossible to stop under normal circumstances. The fact that nasty calls come from reliable official sources makes it even more difficult to screen them out. It should be interesting to see how Russia handles this new challenge now that the cat has been pulled out of the bag.

Image credit: Fonlamai Photos


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