Espionage | Homeland Security Newswire

  • SpooksMaria Butina's well-connected money contact highlights the breadth of her support network

    In an exclusive reports, the Daily Beast reports that suspected Russian spy Maria Butina had a point of contact for the cash she was getting from Russian oligarch Konstantin Nikolaev, and that man is a public relations professional with some interesting and wide-ranging connections.

  • Influence operationsWe researched Russian trolls and figured out exactly how they neutralize certain news

    By Xymena Kurowska and Anatoly Reshetnikov

    Russian “troll factories” have been making headlines for some time. First, as the Kremlin’s digital guardians in the Russian blogosphere. Then, as subversive cyber-squads meddling with U.S. elections. A few statistical analyses of large samples of trolling posts also show that institutionalized political trolling and the use of bots have become a consolidated practice that significantly affect the online public sphere. What has been shrouded in mystery so far, however, is how institutionalized, industrialized political trolling works on a daily basis. We have also lacked a proper understanding of how it affects the state’s relations with society generally, and security processes in particular.

  • The Russia connectionBritain “ready to ask” Russia to extradite suspects in Skripal poisonings

    Britain is preparing to ask Russia to extradite two men it suspects carried out the March 2018 nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy in the city of Salisbury. Russia will likely reject the request. In 2006, on Putin’s orders, former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was killed in London by two FSB (the KGB’s successor organization) agents, who put the radioactive substance polonium in his tea. In 2007 Putin rejected a British extradition request for the two operatives. The same year, one of the two operatives, Andrei Lugovoi, was elected a member of the Duma – the Russian parliament – as a member of United Russia, the Putin-led party. In 2015 Putin awarded him a state medal “for services to the motherland.”

  • The Russia connectionMaryland lawmakers question Russian investment in election technology

    Two lawmakers, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking that he instruct the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.(CFIUS), which he chairs, to review a Russian oligarch’s financial stake in ByteGrid, a web hosting company which hosts much of Maryland’s election systems. “ByteGrid hosts Maryland’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, online ballot delivery system, and unofficial election night results website. Access to these systems could provide a foreign person with ties to a foreign government with information that could be used for intelligence or other purposes adverse to U.S. interests,” the two senators write.

  • The Russia connectionA Mueller-like criminal investigation into Russia’s meddling in U.K. politics needed: MP

    British lawmaker calls for launching a criminal investigation in the U.K., modelled after the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the United States, to explore the reach and extent of Russia’s efforts to interfere in British democracy. Damian Collins, a Conservative MP, said that only a police investigation, with the power to seize documents and subpoena witnesses, could ascertain the scope of any Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to influence the 2016 referendum over Britain’s membership in the EU. Such an investigation, he said, would also ensure that future elections were protected from attack by foreign powers.

  • The Russia connectionSuspected spy socialized with Trump campaign advisor

    J. D. Gordon served for six months as the Trump campaign’s director of national security before leaving in August 2016. In November, after Trump was elected, Gordon was offered a role in the nascent Trump transition effort. Email show that suspected Russian agent Maria Butina communicated during the last few months of the 2016 presidential campaign and socialized in person on a couple of occasions. Noting that Butina networked extensively, Gordon said: “I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn’t come across?”

  • The Russia connectionU.S. national security leaders on Russia’s attacks: "Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs”

    In joint press briefing in the White House on Thursday, the leaders of U.S. intelligence and national security offered a detailed and disturbing picture of Russia’s on-going meddling in U.S. politics, and the efforts by Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists to shape the outcome of the 2018 congressional midterms elections. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russia is engaging in “pervasive messaging campaign to try to weaken and divide the United States.” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.” President Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania a few hours after the briefing at the White House, dismissed the judgement of the U.S. intelligence and national security leaders. “In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “We got along really well… Now, we are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, okay?”

  • Influence campaignsRussia’s influence campaign can “wreak havoc in our society and in our elections”

    On Wednesday, 1 August, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee convened an open hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms. “Twenty-one months after the 2016 election – and only three months before the 2018 elections – Russian-backed operatives continue to infiltrate and manipulate social media to hijack the national conversation and set Americans against each other. They were doing it in 2016. They are still doing it today,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice-chairman of the committee said. “These active measures have two things in common: They are effective. And they are cheap. For just pennies on the dollar, they can wreak havoc in our society and in our elections. I’m concerned that even after 18 months of study, we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to Russia’s information warfare.”

  • The Russia connectionBipartisan bill introduces “crushing” measures against “Kremlin aggression”

    An influential bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a package of measures designed to “defend American security from Kremlin aggression,” including new financial sanctions and a “strong statement of support” for NATO. The bill introduced on 2 August represents at least the fourth piece of legislation circulating in Congress to punish Russia for its alleged interference in U.S. elections, its aggression in Ukraine and Syria, and other “malign” activities. “The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said in a statement introducing the bill. “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the U.S. electoral process, halts cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria,” Graham said.

  • Considered opinion: Election securityAs midterm elections approach, a growing concern that the nation is not protected from Russian interference

    By Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg

    The United States has done little to protect the country’s election systems against Russian interference – or interference by other foreign state actors. Two years ago, Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists conducted an effective campaign of interference in the 2016 presidential election. Their disinformation campaign on social media — aiming to deepen divisions in American society along racial, ethnic, and religious lines and increase political polarization and acrimony – has never stopped. It is on-going. There is evidence that the Russian government hackers have already began their hacking efforts to help shape the 2018 midterm congressional elections. Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg write in the Washington Post that Russian efforts to manipulate U.S. voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the United States.

  • The Russia connectionHow the Russian government used disinformation and cyber warfare in 2016 election – an ethical hacker explains

    By Timothy Summers

    The Soviet Union and now Russia under Vladimir Putin have waged a political power struggle against the West for nearly a century. Spreading false and distorted information – called “dezinformatsiya” after the Russian word for “disinformation” – is an age-old strategy for coordinated and sustained influence campaigns that have interrupted the possibility of level-headed political discourse. Emerging reports that Russian hackers targeted a Democratic senator’s 2018 reelection campaign suggest that what happened in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election may be set to recur.

  • Truth decaySocial media manipulation rising globally: Report

    The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to public life. Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science.

  • The Russia connectionMidterms first Kremlin hacking target revealed: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

    In 2016, on orders of President Vladimir Putin, the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence branch, launched a broad and effective hacking and disinformation campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The Kremlin is already busy orchestrating another hacking and disinformation campaign to shape the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections.

  • Cyberespionage & cyberwarWith hacking of U.S. utilities, Russia could move from cyberespionage toward cyberwar

    By Frank J. Cilluffo and Sharon L. Cardash

    Even before the revelation on 23 July that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer systems of U.S. electric utilities and could have caused blackouts, government agencies and electricity industry leaders were working to protect U.S. customers and society as a whole. These developments highlight an important distinction of conflict in cyberspace: between probing and attacking. The distinction between exploiting weaknesses to gather information – also known as “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” – and using those vulnerabilities to actually do damage is impossibly thin and depends on the intent of the people doing it. Intentions are notoriously difficult to figure out. In global cyberspace they may change depending on world events and international relations. The dangers – to the people of the United States and other countries both allied and opposed – underscore the importance of international agreement on what constitutes an act of war in cyberspace and the need for clear rules of engagement.

  • NRA in CyrillicGun play: The rise and fall of Maria Butina's wannabe Russian NRA

    Maria Butina’s motives, movements, and connections have become a subject of intense scrutiny and debate, and have resulted in a diplomatic standoff with Moscow. But her sudden emergence seven years ago — at the age of 22 — as a well-connected gun-rights activist also caught many off guard in Russia, where the gun issue has long been on the political fringe.