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

    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.

  • Social 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.

  • Midterms 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.

  • With hacking of U.S. utilities, Russia could move from cyberespionage toward cyberwar

    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.

  • Gun 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.

  • Senate committees to hold hearings on Russia, recommend additional punitive measures

    Two Senate committees – the Foreign Relations Committee and the Banking Committee – announced they will hold a series of hearings on Russia. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) tasked Senators Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, with holding hearings on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and asked them to recommend to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter what he called “Russian malign behavior.”

  • Maria Butina's own words belie claim that charges are “trumped up”

    Maria Butina was arrested in Washington, D.C. on 15 July on charges of illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government in a covert operation aimed at infiltrating the U.S. political establishment. According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a 21 July phone call that Maria Butina’s arrest was an “unacceptable act” and the charges against her were “trumped-up.”

  • DOJ releases Cyber-Digital Task Force report

    The Department of Justice last Thursday released a report produced by the Attorney General’s Cyber-Digital Task Force. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the cyber-enabled threats confronting the United States and details the ways in which the DOJ combats those threats. The first section of the report focuses on what DOJ describes as “the most pressing cyber-enabled threats confronting the United States: the threat posed by malign foreign influence operations.”

  • Why Russian spies really like American universities

    If the charges against Maria Butina are accurate, she’s only the latest in a long line of Russian agents to go undercover on U.S. campuses. Dating back to the Soviet era, Russian spies have sought to take advantage of academia’s lax security, collaborative, global culture, and revolving door with government. Russian intelligence understands that today’s professor of international relations may be tomorrow’s assistant secretary of state, and vice versa. Although cyber-spying and hacking offer opportunities to glean secrets at less personal risk, the traditional strategies of human espionage persist, and sending a spy to school is prominent among them.

  • DOJ’s new initiative: Alerting public to foreign-influence activities targeting U.S. democracy

    The Department of Justice on Thursday announced that DOJ will begin to alert the public about foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy. The new DOJ initiative is aims to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016. The government will inform American companies, private organizations, and individuals that they are being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. “Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda,” he said.

  • New cosponsors for the bipartisan DETER Act

    More lawmakers have joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) in sponsoring the DETER Act. DETER uses the threat of powerful sanctions to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in U.S. elections by ensuring that they know well in advance that the costs will outweigh the benefits. “We must make sure Putin understands that we will not overlook his hostilities, and he will face punishing consequences if he tries to interfere in our elections again,” Rubio said. “Vladimir Putin would like nothing more than to continue sowing discord and meddling in Western democracies without consequence. Passing this legislation would help improve Americans’ faith in their system of government and send an unmistakable signal to the Kremlin that it’s not worth trying it again,” said Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

  • Russia interfered in 2016 election, continuing “malign influence operations to this day”: FBI Director Wray

    FBI director Chris Wray on Wednesday pushed back against President Donald Trump’s recent comments that cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. On Monday, two hours after the Trump-Putin summit, Director of National Security Dan Coats issued a terse statement reaffirming his agreement with the U.S intelligence community’s conclusions. “My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day,” Wray told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt at the Aspen Security Forum.

  • Russian intelligence, masquerading as the “Cyber Caliphate,” cyber-harassed U.S. military families

    Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) sent a letter last week to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Department of Justice to investigate cyber harassment of U.S. military families by Russian intelligence services. Russian intelligence officers, masquerading as the “Cyber Caliphate,” had launched an intimidation campaign against several U.S. military spouses in 2015.

  • Russia, post-World Cup, plans to intensify aggression against West: U.S., U.K. intel sources

    Sources familiar with intelligence collected by the United Kingdom, the United States, and other allies say that Russian intelligence agencies are about to ramp up operations targeting Western countries. The growing concern about Russia’s plans preceded the meeting earlier this week between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Intelligence officials in the United States and the United Kingdom told CNN that the Russians ordered a relative lull in activity during the month-long soccer tournament, which was hosted by Russia.

  • U.S. steps up charges against alleged Russian “agent” in Washington

    A U.S. grand jury has stepped up criminal charges against a woman accused of acting as a covert agent for Russia by cultivating ties with U.S. politicians, while Russian officials denounced the case. The U.S. grand jury late on 17 July charged Maria Butina, 29, a student at American University in Washington and founder of a Russian gun-rights group, with conspiracy and acting as an agent of the Russian government.