Robotic calls have become a modern scourge, the destroyer of focus, the annoyance that somehow cannot be eradicated. But perhaps at least they can be reused to achieve a very small and somewhat absurd blow against the Russian government’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Today, a group of international hacktivists launched a website, WasteRussianTime.today, designed to combine prank calls and robotic calls into an automated telephone nuisance weapon aimed at the Russian state. Visit the site, click a button and go through a filtered list of Russian government, army and intelligence phone numbers to connect two random Russian officials and allow the site visitor to listen in silence while these officials waste time trying. find out why they’re talking to each other and who started the call.
“We expect confusion, that they get annoyed and that they can even be interesting calls to listen to for Russian-speaking people,” says one of the site’s creators named Shera. The group of artists, activists and programmers behind the site is called, according to Shera, Scheherazade’s Blurred Dreams. “This war started in Moscow and St. Petersburg, within Putin’s circle of power, and that’s who we want to annoy and annoy.”
Since Russia began its large-scale war in Ukraine on February 24, hacktivists working independently and even meeting with the Ukrainian government have carried out an unprecedented campaign of piracy operations aimed at Russian organizations, some of which have led to the theft and leaking of hundreds of gigabytes of Russian e-mails and other private information. The Ukrainian government itself at one point published a list of what it said were the names and contact details of 620 Russian intelligence agents.
Now, reviewing this pile of leaked information, deleting phone numbers from emails and combining results with those found in other public sources, the creators of WasteRussianTime.today say they have gathered more than 5,000 Russian government phone numbers. both fixed. and mobile phones, including members of the Russian military police, staff of his parliament, known as the Duma, and even the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, all of whom are now the target of his automated dialing campaign.
WasteRussianTime.today is designed to work by initiating a VoIP call, automatically dialing 40 of the filtered phone numbers and merging the user into a three-way call with the first two phones of Russian officials connecting. The creators of the site say they decided not to let visitors to the site actually talk on the calls, for fear that they might say something that could identify them and put themselves in danger. Instead, the site functions as a kind of performing arts facility, allowing visitors to silently watch and enjoy their spam calls. “Join the civil intervention against the war,” says a message on the site. “If you’re on the phone, you can’t drop bombs or coordinate soldiers.”
With WIRED’s dozen test calls to the site just before its release, it looked like it was still resolving some issues. It only worked on the desktop and many of the calls resulted in at least one voice message, silent at one end of the line, or two voice messages talking to each other. In about half of the calls, at least one confused Russian-speaking person answered. But in just one call two people picked up the phone and due to a delay, one hung up before the other started talking. Shera said developers were investigating a possible latency issue.