Operation Texonto exposes broader cybersecurity concerns in Ukraine conflict

Russia’s “Operation Texonto” uses lies and manipulation to scare Ukrainians, targeting anxieties about food, medicine, and war.

A disturbing campaign of disinformation and psychological manipulation has emerged, targeting Ukrainian citizens to erode their morale and stoke anxieties. Dubbed “Operation Texonto” by cybersecurity firm ESET, this Russia-aligned effort leverages a potent mix of fabricated narratives and manipulative tactics to sow discord and doubt within Ukrainian society. The campaign operates across multiple waves designed to exploit specific vulnerabilities and anxieties.

In the initial phase, emails masquerading as official communications from Ukrainian government agencies spread misinformation about impending shortages of food, medicine, and heating. These fabricated warnings, complete with forged logos and seemingly credible sources, aim to create panic and distrust toward the Ukrainian government’s ability to provide essential resources.


Beyond essential supplies, the campaign delves into even more disturbing territory. One email template, targeting potential conscripts, suggests self-harm as a means to avoid military service, advocating for the amputation of limbs to escape deployment. This tactic, exploiting the fear of war and the potential for forced conscription, represents a deeply cynical attempt to exploit individual anxieties for broader strategic goals.

The campaign’s reach extends beyond Ukraine’s borders. Emails targeting an Italian shoe manufacturer suggest a broader attempt to sow discord and manipulate public opinion internationally. Additionally, emails referencing jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny hint at potential efforts to target his supporters and further fracture the Russian political landscape.

Operation Texonto’s activities extend beyond mere disinformation. The same infrastructure used for the propaganda campaign was later repurposed to distribute spam emails promoting fake Canadian pharmacies. This shift suggests a potential attempt to monetize the campaign’s infrastructure, highlighting the opportunistic nature of the operation and its potential financial motivations.

ESET’s findings reveal a concerning development in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This campaign underscores the increasingly sophisticated use of information warfare as a tool to undermine morale, sow discord, and manipulate public opinion.