Russians are told to take anti-radiation pills, rush to bomb shelters as TV station servers are hacked
Russians were warned today to take anti-radiation pills and rush to the nearest bomb shelters after hackers compromised state television’s servers to broadcast chilling messages.
TV and radio programs in Moscow and the Sverdlovsk region, including the city of Yekaterinburg, were interrupted with an alarming message telling citizens that a missile strike had been carried out on Russian territory.
The population was urged to take potassium iodide pills, put on gas masks to protect themselves and to seek shelter.
Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said hacking was responsible for the false alarm – the third such case in the past month, but the first in which viewers were warned to take anti-radiation pills.
An ominous map of Russia slowly turning red was broadcast into people’s homes with the message ‘Everyone to shelter immediately’
A warning to Russians to take anti-radiation pills after a missile strike appeared on TV channels in Moscow and the Sverdlovsk region today
Russian media has been the target of several hacking attacks since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022
A TV alert accompanied by a wailing siren warned, “Urgent message. There was a strike.
‘Emergency to an asylum. Seal the premises. Use all types of gas masks.
“In the absence of gas masks, use cotton gauze bandages. Take potassium iodide pills.
‘Stay calm. If you feel worse, go to the nearest medical facility.’
Hacked screens showed an ominous map of Russia, gradually covered in red from west to east.
Below it was a message in bright yellow: “Everyone to the safe house immediately.”
The screen then showed the instantly recognizable black and yellow radiation warning sign.
A statement from Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said: “A false air raid siren was broadcast in Moscow after servers of radio stations and TV channels were hacked.”
There were claims that satellite signals broadcasting the TV and radio content were being interfered with.
Some commentators claimed this could be a ploy by the Kremlin to warn the public to be ready for war as Putin ramps up his rhetoric amid deep tensions between east and west over the conflict in Ukraine.
Responsibility was not immediately claimed, although Russian media has been the target of several hacking attacks since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Another high-profile hack recently interrupted the broadcast of President Putin’s state speech in Moscow in February 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor Conference Center in Moscow, Russia, February 21, 2023
One such hacking attempt last month involved millions of Russians in four time zones told to rush to air raid shelters due to imminent missile strike as radio transmissions were interrupted.
The spoof warning claimed, “An air raid siren is being announced. Everyone, go immediately to the bomb shelters. Attention! Attention! A missile strike is imminent.’
The affected cities included Belgorod, Stary Oskol, Ufa, Kazan, Novouralsk, Novosibirsk, Pyatigorsk, Tyumen, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Magnitogorsk, as well as a number of places in the Moscow region.
A spokesman for Gazprom Media, which operates several of the hacked stations, said at the time: “We are dealing with this problem. This will not happen again in the near future.’
Another high-profile hack recently interrupted the broadcast of President Putin’s state speech in Moscow in February 2021.
The web links of the main state channels, which are part of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company [VGTRK]were hit by what appears to be a major hacking operation as Putin spoke to lawmakers in the Russian parliament.
Instead of Putin’s speech, a message on the screen announced “Mistake 500” and that “technical works” were in progress.
There was no official confirmation of hacking, but it seemed that a major problem had hit the state broadcaster in all 11 Russian time zones.
The state-run news agency RIA Novosti later said the outage was the result of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, but did not name a suspect.