Ukrainian hackers use Russian officer's wife's nude photos to gather intelligence

Mrs. Atroshchenko agreed to surprise the regiment with a pinup calendar, thinking she was speaking with an officer rather than Ukrainian hackers.

 Russian hacking underground newsletter is seen in this illustration taken, December 19, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
Russian hacking underground newsletter is seen in this illustration taken, December 19, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)

The Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, also called Cyber Resistance, teamed up with InformNapalm, a pro-Ukrainian informational news website, to trick twelve Russian military wives into giving away their husbands' personal information over the course of several months.

This culminated with a grand reveal in late March on InformNapalm's website: Hackers pretended to be putting together a pinup calendar to improve morale among Russian officers to get these twelve wives to take photos in their husbands' uniforms, providing them with enough information to track down plenty of biographical info on each officer. 

Both InfoNapalm and Cyber Resistance were created in 2014 and 2016 respectively, as a response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. They have continued their efforts to spread information about the tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the years and redoubled those efforts with the outbreak of the war in February 2022. 

The pinup calendar that started it all

  (credit: Wikimedia Commons) (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The operation began with Russian Colonel Sergey Valeriyevich Atroshchenko, whose address, date of birth, phone number and email are all available on the InfoNapalm website. Hackers were able to find and publish images of his face and home, as well as his government documents. They used his COVID-19 vaccination records to find his current address. From there they located his duty station and hack into his portal on the Russian Ministry of Defense website where they found out how much he gets paid. 

"Among the large volumes of correspondence and spam in the mail dumps of the 960th AAR commander, Col. Sergey Atroshchenko, we managed to find and isolate various detailed lists of pilots, performance evaluation records of officers, bulletins, memos, theoretical and practical calculations, etc which are of material interest for the Ukrainian intelligence," reads the InfoNapalm report. "Therefore, for now, we are not posting the entire dump for public viewing. We believe that it is not up to us to make life easy for the Russian counterintelligence, so we will let them figure out the scope of the leak for themselves."

The hackers did not stop with Col. Atroshchenko - they moved on to his wife. Her personal information including birth date, phone numbers, email and passport number are also on the InfoNapalm site. Hackers also found some nude or nearly-nude photos of Mrs. Atroshchenko which she sent to her husband. Two of those are also available for viewing on InfoNapalm. 

Under the impression that she was speaking with an officer from her husband's regiment, Mrs. Atroshchenko agreed to surprise the regiment with a pinup calendar featuring photos of all the regiment's military wives (who also agreed to participate in the project). Mrs. Atroshchenko "readily supported the proposal and organized everything," according to the report. 

She did fabulous work for the Ukrainian hackers, providing closeups of all the women posing in their husbands' uniform jackets. The husbands in question were, according to InfoNapalm, generally very careful with about showing themselves online and kept a low profile. However, thanks to the work of Mrs. Atroshchenko and her peers, the Ukrainians were easily able to find photos and personal data on all of them. 

"We thank our hacktivist friends from Cyber Resistance for the exclusive opportunity to make this exciting story public," concluded the InfoNapalm report. "United we stand. Glory to Ukraine!"