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March 17, 2021

Hackers fabricate a report of an alleged radioactive cloud that formed in Lithuania and is moving towards Poland.The attack originated in a hacked website of Lithuania’s nuclear regulatory agency, a breached website of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency and the country’s ministry of health.In the attack, hijacked social media accounts of experts and local government officials are also used.

Fake news ABOUTA RADIOACTIVE WASTE LEAK

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How the attack unfolded

Source content

an authentic communication from Lithuania’s State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI)

Fabricated website

of Lithuania’s Inspectorate with manipulated fake news about a ‘disaster’

Hacked website

of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency and fake post about an increase in radiation levels

Hacked website

of Poland’s ministry of health containing a warning about a radiological hazard

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Expert’s

hacked Twitter account lends credibility to the fake report

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Hijacked accounts

of government officials are used to spam social media

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~5:00 AM

Lithuanian websites publish the original VATESI communication (State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate) about public consultations on the decommissioning of the radioactive waste storage facilityThe agency says that the radioactive waste is secure and does not pose a threat.The communication will be used as source material to create fake news.

Originalmessage:VATESI on the decommissioning of the radioactive waste storage facility

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Fabricated websitewith fake news about a ‘distaster’

~9:45 AM

Hackers register the VATESL.LT domain (an exact copy of VATESI.LT) and publish a page with a fabricated article that contains fake information about a leak of radioactive materials from a decommissioned storage facility

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Hackersgain access tothe Atomic Energy Agency website

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~9:55 AM

Hackers get into the CMS of the National Atomic Energy Agency website and publish a fake communication about increased radiation levels.To lend the story credibility, the article redirects to a fabricated Lithuanian website as a source of information.A copy of the webpage is created on Webarchives.org in case the fake news is removed.

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Hackers gain access toMinistry of Health website

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~11:30 AM

Hackers hijack Poland’s ministry of health website and publish a fabricated article about a radiological threat based on a fake message from National Atomic Energy AgencyTo lend the news even more credibility, they supplement it with information on radiation sickness from Polish medical websites.

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Fake news is disseminatedvia expert accounts on Twitter

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~12:00 PM

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Hackers get access to Mark Budzisz’s Twitter account. He is an expert on Russia and cybercriminals had gained access to his account earlier during a phishing attack.Cybercriminals use the hijacked account, which has 3,900 followers, to share the post dozens of times, including with politicians. The post redirects to the hacked websites and their copies in WebArchives.Marek Budzisz regains control of his account 7 hours later.

Fake news is disseminated via government officials

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The spoofed text is also disseminated by hijacked accounts of local activists and members of PiS structures.Fake news reaches, among others, the official website of the Garwolin starost and PiS electoral district in Krosno Odrzańskie.The hacked Twitter account, which had so far been used by Andrzej Rochmiński, head of the local party structures in Zielona Góra, will share the message at least 50 times.The hijacked accounts link to the archived versions of the communication – as a result, news about the radioactive hazard is circulating on the Internet even after the fake news has been deleted and the radioactive spill denied by the authorities.

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