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Fake Polish Press Agency reports on Poland sending troops to Ukraine blamed on Russian hackers | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Two false dispatches reporting that Poland was calling up 200,000 for military service and sending them to Ukraine appeared on the website of the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Friday afternoon. Senior officials, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk, have blamed the incident on Russian hackers.

The fake news story was published twice – at 2.00 p.m. and 2.20 p.m local time – and was quickly withdrawn by the state-owned PAP each time.

Its first three sentences read: “On 1 July 2024, partial military mobilisation will be announced in Poland. Two hundred thousand Polish citizens, both former military and ordinary civilians, will be called up for compulsory military service. All those mobilised will be sent to Ukraine.”

The agency immediately released statements making clear that the stories were false and not produced by PAP.

“We’ve identified the source, the path it took, and we’ve secured it,” PAP’s deputy editor-in-chief Justyna Wojteczek told Polsat News. “We know how it happened and now the matter is being investigated.”

Fifteen minutes after the first story was published, the Polish government also denounced it. “The alleged PAP news story about the mobilisation is untrue. The [security] services are clarifying the incident,” the prime minister’s chief of staff, Jan Grabiec, wrote on X.

Shortly afterwards, Tusk himself released a statement blaming Russia for the attack and linking it to the upcoming European elections, which take place next week. Poland has in recent weeks faced a series of sabotage attempts attributed to Russia.

“Another very dangerous hacking attack illustrates well Russia’s destabilisation strategy on the eve of the European elections,” wrote Tusk.

“The Polish services are prepared and operate under the supervision of the interior and digital affairs ministers. It is becoming increasingly clear how important these elections are for us.”

Digital affairs minister Krzysztof Gawkowski, who also serves as deputy prime minister, also announced that “an urgent investigation” has been launched into the incident. “Everything points to a cyber attack and planned disinformation!”

Speaking to broadcaster Polsat News, Gawkowski added that “everything points to the fact that the cyber attack was directed from the Russian side”.

“The aim is to disinform and paralyse the public before the elections,” he said. Gawkowski also thanked Polish journalists and news outlets for quickly identifying the news story as disinformation.

Defence minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz declared that both hacker attacks and recent increased migration pressures on the Belarus border are part of efforts to “destabilise” Poland.

The opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party has called on the government to explain the incident quickly.

“We expect concrete action and clear information from those in power about this attack and the state of security of critical infrastructure,” said Radosław Fogiel, a PiS MP and the party’s former spokesman.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, meanwhile, said that the incident raises “questions about the entire mechanisms of the state, which also includes information institutions, which was demolished in an irresponsible and completely illegal way by the current government”.

Those remarks are likely to refer to the Tusk government’s takeover of state-owned media outlets, including PAP, shortly after taking power from PiS in December last year.

Recent press reports have suggested that Poland may be among some NATO countries considering sending troops to Ukraine in order to bolster its defence against Russia.

In an interview earlier this week with European newspapers, Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski said that the government “should not rule out” sending troops to Ukraine.

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Main image credit: NATO/Flickr (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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