Hi guys,

Pro-Russian scammers have been using social engineering and impersonation tactics to trick well-known public figures into conducting recorded video calls. Over the past year, these campaigns have increased in frequency and intensity. The two scammers, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, also known as Vovan and Lexus, are tracked by security software vendor Proofpoint as TA499. Their targets include politicians, CEOs, and celebrities, whom they hope to manipulate into saying something that can be selectively edited to support their pro-Russian agenda.

Once the targets agree to follow-up hoax video calls, TA499 begins by asking a serious question or two. Afterward, they attempt to catch the target in embarrassing comments or acts. The recordings are then posted on social media sites such as YouTube, Rutube, and Twitter.

While the scammers may seem like harmless pranksters, they pose a real threat to their targets. Getting involved in TA499’s pro-Putin propaganda can damage an individual’s or company’s reputation and amplify the duo’s disinformation campaigns.

The scammers have become more politically active since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and their campaigns have shifted to focus on high-profile individuals who have spoken out against Putin and supported sanctions against Russia. To make their emails look legitimate, TA499 has adopted new personality impersonations, such as Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and his assistant. They use popular email providers and write subject lines to appear as if they are Ukrainian government officials making a request of the target.

This is happening all the time. Here is a LINK to a video of the scammers talking to the former British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who thinks he is speaking with the former president of Ukraine.

Proofpoint cautions C-suite executives and politicians to be aware of potential email scams from “Ukrainian” sources who reach out “suddenly via email” with no prior introduction. They suggest potential targets proceed with caution, and their research includes a list of indicators of compromise.

All the best,

Max Roberts
Incognito Privacy Care Team