• Russia’s active measures architecture: Task and purpose

    Russia’s latest iteration of the Soviet-era tactic of “active measures” has mesmerized Western audiences and become the topic de jour for national security analysts. In my last post, I focused on the Kremlin’s campaign to influence the U.S. elections from 2014 to 2016 through the integration of offensive cyber hacking, overt propaganda, and covert social media personas In this post, I focus on the elements of Russia’s national power that execute active measures abroad.

  • U.S. disrupted major Russian cyberattack, possibly on Ukraine

    The U.S. Justice Department has seized an Internet domain controlled by a hacking group tied to Russian military intelligence that was planning a major cyberattack, possibly in Ukraine. The U.S. move late on 23 May was aimed at breaking up what the department said was a dangerous botnet of a half-million infected computer network routers that could have allowed the hackers to take control of computers and stage destructive attacks, as well as steal valuable information.

  • Russia’s corruption, influence “a matter of national security”: U.K. Parliamentary panel

    “Dirty” Russian money is undermining Britain’s efforts to stand up to the Kremlin and supports President Vladimir Putin’s campaign “to subvert the international rules-based system,” a British parliamentary report says. “The scale of damage that this ‘dirty money’ can do to U.K. foreign-policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transactions in the City,” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat said today (21 May) ahead of the release of the report. “Over the years, Moscow has turned from being a corrupt state to an exporter of instability. Russian corruption and influence has become a matter of national security,” he added.

  • “The day that we can't protect human sources”: The president and the House Intelligence Committee burn an informant

    It wasn’t that long ago that both the executive branch and the legislature considered the protection of intelligence sources a matter of surpassing national importance. In 1982 Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which criminalized the knowing and intentional outing of U.S. covert operatives and intelligence sources whom the government is taking active steps to protect. So what happens, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in Lawfare , “when the intentional outing of U.S. intelligence assets is the province not of rogue insiders, not of foreign hackers or foreign agents, not of people who end up spending the rest of their lives as fugitives, but of senior officials in two branches of this country’s government who are most responsible for protecting those assets” — and “when they do so for frankly political reasons?”

  • The top three trends we miss when discussing Russian ads

    Last week, the Democrats of the House Intelligence Committee released the trove of over 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) from 2015 to 2017. For the most part, the release confirms what we already knew: Accounts based in Russia exploited America’s societal fissures to sow chaos in the United States in order to weaken our democratic structures, force us to turn inward, and thereby increase Russia’s standing in the world. But taken holistically, three trends emerge that are not evident when only highlighting the most divisive content.

  • What's trending in fake news?

    Researchers have launched upgrades to two tools playing a major role in countering the spread of misinformation online. The improvements to Hoaxy and Botometer aim to address concerns about the spread of misinformation and to build trust in quality journalism. A third tool — which goes by the name Fakey — is an educational game designed to make people smarter news consumers, was also launched with the upgrades.

  • Putin’s doctrine blends “bare-face lying,” “social media disinformation,” and “criminal thuggery”: MI5 Director

    In a speech on Wednesday, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker discussed the security challenges the West is facing, chief among them the threat from Russia. Parker said the threat from Russia is a “hybrid threat,” as Russia is a practitioner of a doctrine “blending media manipulation, social media disinformation and distortion with new and old forms of espionage, high levels of cyberattacks, military force, and criminal thuggery.” Parker added: “Our democracies, our societies and our bonds of partnership are strong. But we must not be complacent about the longer-term potential impact of this [Russian] activity on the international rules-based order that supports our security and prosperity.”

  • Kaspersky to move data center from Russia to Switzerland

    Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based anti-virus maker will open a Swiss data center after allegations that Russian hackers exploited the company’s software to spy on customers. The said the new location would help it “rebuild trust.”

  • The Facebook ad dump shows the true sophistication of Russia’s influence operation

    The massive trove of Facebook ads House Intelligence Committee Democrats released last Tuesday offers a breathtaking view of the true sophistication of the Russian government’s digital operations during the 2016 presidential election. Many stories have already been written about the U.S. intelligence community’s investigation of the hacking operation Russian intelligence services carried out to influence the election in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. Derek Hawkins writes that the more than 3,000 “incredibly specific and inflammatory” Russian ads released last week allow us for the first time to “have a swath of empirical and visual evidence of Russia’s disinformation campaign.”

  • War on fake news could be won with the help of behavioral science

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently acknowledged his company’s responsibility in helping create the enormous amount of fake news that plagued the 2016 election – after earlier denials. Yet he offered no concrete details on what Facebook could do about it. Fortunately, there’s a way to fight fake news that already exists and has behavioral science on its side: the Pro-Truth Pledge project. I was part of a team of behavioral scientists that came up with the idea of a pledge as a way to limit the spread of misinformation online. Two studies that tried to evaluate its effectiveness suggest it actually works.

  • Russia conducted "unprecedented, coordinated" attacks on U.S. voting systems in 2016: Senate Intelligence Committee

    Hackers affiliated with the Russian government conducted an “unprecedented, coordinated” campaign against the U.S. voting system, including successfully penetrating a few voter-registration databases in 2016, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded. The cyberattacks targeted at least eighteen states, and possibly three more. “Russian actors scanned databases for vulnerabilities, attempted intrusions, and in a small number of cases successfully penetrated a voter registration database,” the committee said in an interim report releaed Tuesday.

  • Russian bots did “influence the General Election by promoting Jeremy Corbyn”: Study

    An examination by Swansea University and the Sunday Times found that Russian government bots distributed thousands of fake posts on social media in the run-up to Britain’s election last June, aiming to help Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn win the election. He did not win, but still achieved unexpectedly good results for the Labor Party – results which defied predictions — in the process weakening Prime Minister Theresa May. The methodology of the Russian government’s pro-Corbyn social media campaign was similar to the Kremlin’s broad disinformation campaign to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  • The “European Approach” to fighting disinformation: Lessons for the United States

    The European Commission published a communication on 26 April to the European Council and Parliament outlining the “European Approach” to combatting disinformation. The report provides an important opportunity for reflection across the transatlantic space, as the United States seeks to inoculate its democracy from ongoing hostile foreign interference activities. Takeaways from the “European Approach” to fighting disinformation can help U.S. policymakers develop more targeted policy measures, and identify potential shortcomings in the U.S. response.

  • Enemies of the state: Russia tracked Russian émigrés in the U.S.

    Last month the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom,. after Russian intelligence operatives poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England in March. Among those expelled were intelligence operatives who were tracking Russian defectors and their families in the United States, probably setting the stage for killing some of them as “enemies of the state.”

  • European Commission to call out Russia for “information warfare”

    The European Commission is set to single out Russia directly for what it calls Moscow’s “information warfare” as part of EU efforts to fight back against online disinformation campaigns considered a threat to European security. The draft of a communique seen by RFE/RL states that “mass online disinformation campaigns are being widely used by a range of domestic and foreign actors to sow distrust and create societal tensions, with serious potential consequences for our security.”