The hacking group Anonymous has renamed Russian president’s Vladamir Putin’s yacht to “FCKPTN” by vandalizing maritime tracking data.
A small offshoot of the larger vigilante group – which had already pledged to support Ukraine and had attacked Russian state broadcaster RT – renamed Mr Putin’s luxury vessel “Graceful” and changed its location information to make it appear that it crashed into Snake Island in Ukraine.
The hackers then renamed its destination to “anonymous” and “anonleaks”, before finally settling on “hell”.
The yacht contains an indoor pool, spa, dancefloor, gym, bar, and a helideck – all costing £73 million of Mr Putin’s estimated $70 billion fortune.
Making these changes required the group to hack the “Automatic Identification System” used to track ship locations that has been in operation and a requirement for all passenger and commercial vessels since 2004.
The hackers, represented by a German Twitter account, “wanted to put the yacht in the scope of sanction packages as well as ‘put a little smile on some faces for a short period in these dark times’, according to Bloomberg reporter Ryan Gallagher.
On the website Vesseltracker, the callsign of the ship is still set to “ANONYMO”.
A German blog post made yesterday by the group said that there had also been attacks against Russia’s banks and services, the website of the President of the Russian Federation, Russia’s Ministry of Defense, and Roskomnadzor “but DDoS alone will not bring down a regime” .
The hackers also said this was “not an operation against the people of Russia. It’s not even one against Russian soldiers. The operation targets Putin and the Putin-controlled state apparatus, state-owned companies, the state-controlled media, and individuals and private companies that have benefited from Putin’s autocratic system for decades.
“It is also directed against groups and media that carry Putin’s gaslighting abroad. Putin, who is using hacker squads and troll armies against Western democracies, is getting a sip of his own bitter medicine.”
Mr Putin has been infamously accused of using cyber warfare to interfere with the elections of other countries, most notably the US election in 2016.
An indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2018 charged 13 Russian operatives of working for the Internet Research Agency, which “organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes”, saying it was guided by “a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election”. Russia has denied the claims.
The hacking group also gave an idea of the limits of its attacks, saying that its activists know that attacks on critical infrastructure such as nuclear plants or traffic control systems is a “no-go” for them – although other hackers “who do not feel bound by the values of Anonymous” may go further.
Instead, their intention is to keep Russia’s technicians busy on defensive work so they cannot go on offensive attacks in Ukraine or in the West.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.