Russia’s race baiting; fighting Russian election hacking; Russia’s influence operations, and more

More than half of Russian Facebook ads focused on race (Chris Danner, New York Magazine)
More than half of the Facebook ads created by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency to influence Americans during and after the last presidential election made references to race, according to a new analysis by USA Today. The news organization reviewed every one of the 3,517 IRA ads released to the public earlier this week by the House Intelligence Committee (IRA), and its reporters discovered that nearly 2,000 of the ads referred to race — accounting for some 25 million impressions from targeted Facebook users. Previous examinations of a smaller selection of the ads established that the IRA worked to influence voters using already contentious American issues like race, immigration, gun rights, sexual orientation, and political party tribalism, but this new analysis makes it clear that racial tension was the Russian operation’s go-to wedge.

Russian operatives tried to stir violence between pro-Beyonce and anti-Beyonce groups (Marsha Silva, Digital Music News)
We’re all familiar with how Russians operatives used Facebook to manipulate public opinion during the 2016 elections.  But now we’re starting to see this ugly animal’s fangs. And, intelligence for exploiting controversial public figures. Like Beyonce.
The disclosure demonstrated the sheer magnitude to which Kremlin-directed forces used Facebook to create social, cultural and political unrest.  With razor-like precision, Russian operatives were able to use the platform’s targeting tools to deliver fake information to highly-specific targets.

“I’m Scared of That World” (Isaac Chotiner, Slate)
A former U.S. ambassador to Russia on the disinformation campaign against him—and Russia’s increasingly sophisticated attacks on reality.

Spain strengthens its defenses against disinformation campaigns (David Alandete, El Pais)
New think tank report places Spain, France, Germany and Poland among the most protected from interference by Russia-funded media

Birth of a counternarrative: How fake news enters the mainstream. (Holmes Lybrand, Weekly Standard)
In late April, I came across the intrepid headline “BREAKING: OPCW finds NO Chemical Weapons at Damascus research center,” a claim peddled by a website named the Duran that had quickly gained momentum on Facebook.
This account of findings by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) turned out to be false. Fact checking it, I began to see just how much “fake news” the Russian and the Syrian governments had been churning out since the chemical attacks earlier that month, and how some Western media outlets came to accept these stories.

Oligarch linked to Cohen payment was flagged by FBI for possible ties to Russian intelligence (Aris Folley, The Hill)
The FBI cautioned four years ago that a foundation controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg might be a conduit for Russian espionage.

Russian hackers found the ‘ultimate’ hacking tool buried in the supply chain of laptops (Chris Bing, Cyberscoop) When Vitaly Kamluk, a security researcher with Kaspersky Lab, discovered a mysterious program named “Computrace” deeply burrowed into his colleagues’ computers, he expected to find an elite hacking group at the other end — something the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm is keenly familiar with. Instead, Kamluk had uncovered a flawed but legitimate tracking software program developed by a Canadian company, named Absolute Software, which had been apparently installed at the manufacturer level.

6 states hit harder by cyberattacks than previously known, new report reveals (Miles Parks, WPSU)
Two years after Russia’s wave of cyberattacks against American democracy, a Senate committee investigating election interference says those hackers hit harder than previously thought in several states. The committee also added that it still doesn’t know with complete certainty exactly how much of U.S. voting infrastructure was compromised.