Shredding the Putin playbook; Bush 43: Russia meddled; Russian hackers wish list, and more

Warner: U.S. unprepared to combat weaponized social media. (John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who is actively involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, warned on Wednesday (Feb. 7) that the weaponization of social media by Russia and others for harassment, fraud and disinformation has challenged the promise of social media technology, adding that a year and a half ago he could not have imagined how comprehensive Russia’s misuse of social platforms was. Warner said he was not sure the country had a handle on it yet. He pointed to the thousands of disinformation accounts and groups and pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and others. “You name it and there were agents of misinformation active,” he said. Warner said paid ads were used, but that they were not the major focus — that was the creation of fake accounts masquerading as Americans or organizations. Warner said the use of social media was providing purveyors of disinformation—fake news, stolen e-mails and the like—incredible bang for the buck. He said all the money that had been spent on trying to affect the U.S. elections, the French elections and the Dutch elections together was less than the cost of one U.S. fighter plane.

The market vs. democracy (Dipayan Ghosh, Slate)
The tools that let companies place targeted ads online also help bad actors like Russia spread disinformation.

The Netherlands just revealed its cyber capacity. So what does that mean? (Max Smeets, Washington Post)
There’s a new cyberpower in the world. Last month, Dutch reporters from Nieuwsuur and de Volkskrant revealed that in mid-2014 the Dutch Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU) infiltrated the computer networks of the infamous Russian hacker group “Cozy Bear.” By sharing information with their U.S. counterparts, JSCU helped oust the Russian government-linked group thought to be responsible for the Democratic National Committee breach during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. (Cyber) power comes with a price. Russian hackers — and other actors — may now see the Dutch intelligence services as a more interesting target. Russia may retaliate accordingly — and publicly — against the Dutch to signal mutual vulnerability. At least the Dutch government seems to have taken precautions, choosing to tabulate election results by hand earlier this year.

Q&A on the Nunes memo (Lori Robertson, FactCheck)
Q: President Trump says the GOP memo “totally vindicates” him in the Russia investigation. Does it? A: Trey Gowdy, the Republican [House Intelligence] Committee member who viewed the FISA application documents, disagreed that the memo affected the Russia investigation. “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” he said on Feb. 4 on CBS’ Face the Nation. “There is a Russia investigation without a dossier,” Gowdy said. “So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos’ meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”

FBI surveillance of Carter Page might have picked up Bannon (Kyle Cheney, Politico)
The former Trump campaign adviser says he spoke to Trump aide Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017, at a time when the FBI had a controversial warrant to monitor Page’s communications.

Outlets in eight countries are using ProPublica’s tool to monitor political ads on Facebook (Jennifer Valentino-DeVries)
From Australia to Scandinavia, ProPublica’s Political Ad Collector is holding advertisers accountable by revealing pitches that only a targeted slice of Facebook users would otherwise see.

Should data scientists adhere to a Hippocratic Oath? (Tom Simonite, Wired)
In San Francisco Tuesday, dozens of data scientists from tech companies, governments, and nonprofits gathered to start drafting an ethics code for their profession. The general feeling at the gathering was that it’s about time that the people whose powers of statistical analysis target ads, advise on criminal sentencing, and accidentally enable Russian disinformation campaigns woke up to their power, and used it for the greater good.

Poll: Most Americans think Russia will interfere again in 2018 elections (Andrew Arenge, John Lapinski, and Stephanie Perry, NBC News)
More than half of Americans think Russia will likely attempt to influence this year’s midterm elections, according to the results of a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll released Wednesday — and most don’t think the government is doing enough to stop it. With the congressional probes aimed at investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 race still incomplete, a majority of Americans — 55 percent — are not confident that the federal government is doing enough to prevent foreign interference in our elections. Additionally, 57 percent of Americans think it’s likely that Russia will try to influence this year’s midterms. However, there’s a significant party divide. Republicans surveyed were more likely to express confidence that government is doing enough to prevent future interference, and less likely to believe that Moscow would try to meddle. A majority of Independents (58 percent) and an overwhelming majority of Democrats (80 percent) say Russian interference is likely in 2018.

The club that wants Russia to take over the world (Natasha Bluth. Coda Story)
A small group of intellectuals are working on a blueprint for a new Russian empire: Last fall, a prominent right-wing Russian newspaper called Zavtra published a fictional story about an underground movement supposedly conspiring to get Vladimir Putin elected as Germany’s next chancellor. The inspiration for Zavtra’s piece seems to have come from a report on a Swedish right-wing site, which claimed that posters had appeared in the German capital, Berlin, with the slogan “Vote Putin For Chancellor.” But upon closer examination, it was clear that the photo used in the report had been doctored — and the posters themselves may not even have physically existed. It looked like a textbook case of online misinformation — an attempt to spread a contentious claim that could be easily exposed as fake, but which nonetheless stirred debate, creating the impression it might be true simply because it had been published. That the story was in Zavtra gave it extra weight, because the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Alexander Prokhanov, is also head of an increasingly influential ultranationalist think tank. Known as the Izborsky Club, it is a self-described “intellectual circle” of philosophers, journalists, business-people and Orthodox priests, dedicated to promoting Russian power. They call themselves “Izborists” and claim to seek a more “just” world order, but with clear imperial ambitions to put Russia at its center. And since Prokhanov created the club six years ago, he and its members have been working hard to try to make their ideas a cornerstone of Kremlin policy.

Russian hackers wish list exposed (Associated Press)
Russian cyberspies pursuing the secrets of military drones and other sensitive U.S. military technology tricked key contract workers into exposing their email to theft, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Russia embarks on military buildup in the Far East (Sergey Sukhankin, RealClearDefense)
The Russian government stated, on February 1, that units of the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily—VKS) are to be located on Iturup Island (southern end of the Kurile Islands chain, disputed with Japan). This deployment should be seen as a first step in a strategy aimed at militarily fortifying the Russian Far East.

How Dutch spies were able to outwit Russian hackers (Steven Melendez, Fast Company)
Online spies outfoxed the notorious Russian hacking group and fed information about their attacks on U.S. federal systems to American authorities.

Kremlin, angry over alleged hacker’s extradition, warns U.S. to stop ‘hunting down’ Russians (Doug Stanglin, USA Today)
The Russian foreign ministry demanded Thursday that the U.S.“stop hunting down our citizens around the globe.” The strongly worded request comes one week after the U.S. secured the extradition of an alleged Russian botnet hacker from Spain.

Here’s how the Winter Olympics are connected to Russia’s hacking of the U.S. election (Kevin Collier, BuzzFeed)
As the Winter Games begin in South Korea — without Russia, which has been banned for cheating — it’s clear that the hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency came from the same playbook Russia used in elections around the world.