• Russia’s pro-Trump campaign began early, aiming to help him win GOP primaries: WSJ

    The U.S. intelligence community cited December 2015 as the earliest suspected time that Russian government social media account began their broad campaign in support of Donald Trump. A Wall Street Journal investigation reveals that the Kremlin’s campaign of support for Trump began six months earlier, in June 2015, days after he announced his candidacy. This earlier Russian disinformation campaign was aimed to help Trump defeat his Republican primary rivals. This early campaign, however, already engaged in dissemination of fake stories aiming to tarnish Hillary Clinton and undermine her campaign.

  • DOJ considering charging Russian government officials in DNC, Podesta hacks

    The Department of Justice has identified six Russian government officials involved in hacking the DNC and using the information against candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Prosecutors have enough evidence to bring charges against those individuals by next year. The information gathered by DOJ supports the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian government agencies to launch a coordinated effort to help Trump win the November election. DOJ has identified Russian hackers working for both military and intelligence agencies in Russia.

  • Russia’s disinformation posts reached 126 million Americans: Facebook

    Disinformation specialists at the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-affiliated Russian group, created 80,000 Facebook posts which were directly served to 29 million Americans. After the posts were liked, shared, and commented on, they traveled to the news feeds of approximately 126 million Americans at some point between January 2015 and August 2017. These numbers mean that Russian-produced disinformation and propaganda reached about 40 percent of the U.S. population. Facebook says that IRA’s 80,000 posts come on top the 3,000 political ads created by the IRA – and that these ads were seen by 11.4 million Americans. “Many of the ads and posts we’ve seen so far are deeply disturbing — seemingly intended to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other,” said Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch. “They would be controversial even if they came from authentic accounts in the United States. But coming from foreign actors using fake accounts, they are simply unacceptable.”

  • Insinuation and influence: How the Kremlin targets Americans online

    The objective of Kremlin influence operations, part of a larger set of tactics and strategies known as active measures, is to make the target population more amenable to Kremlin wants and desires. They achieve this either by gaining a sympathetic hearing of their views, or failing that, by keeping us busy fighting among ourselves. The Kremlin seeks both to sow discord and create chaos in Western societies and rally support for, or limit opposition to, its geopolitical agenda.

  • The active measures orchestra: An examination of Russian influence operations abroad

    Russia has embraced new technologies and forms of communication that have allowed it to take advantage of years of Western inattention to a growing problem. However, the tools Russia uses in its current influence operations are nothing new. Neither are its strategic objectives of subverting NATO and the EU and undermining Western governments and democratic institutions. While for many Americans Russia’s actions seem to have come out of nowhere, it is essential that we understand these actions occurred in the context of a wide and ongoing effort by the Kremlin.

  • DOD to remove Kaspersky software from Pentagon systems

    The Department of Defense is reviewing its computer systems to make sure that software from under-suspicion Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky does not touch any military systems. In September DHS issued a directive to all civilian government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive, which gave agencies three months to complete the removal, referred to deepening concerns in the U.S. intelligence community about the close relationship between Kaspersky and the Russian intelligence agencies.

  • DOD to remove Kaspersky software from Pentagon systems

    The Department of Defense is reviewing its computer systems to make sure that software from under-suspicion Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky does not touch any military systems. In September DHS issued a directive to all civilian government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive, which gave agencies three months to complete the removal, referred to deepening concerns in the U.S. intelligence community about the close relationship between Kaspersky and the Russian intelligence agencies.

  • Facebook’s evidence of Russian electoral meddling is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’

    “First of all, let’s step back and put the Russian involvement in 2016 in the overall context,” says Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It was approved at the highest level. It was coordinated in ways that were unprecedented. It included the things that have been much reported on, like hacking into both political parties and releasing information harmful to one candidate, Clinton, and helpful to Trump.” Warner adds: “I think our government and the platform companies were more than a little bit caught off guard. I don’t think anyone had seen anything of this scale before.”

  • Jeff Sessions just confessed his negligence on Russia

    The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Session’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far. The attorney general of the United States, though acknowledging and expressing confidence in the intelligence community’s assessment of foreign interference in the 2016 election and admitting that the government is not doing enough to guard against such activity in the future, could not identify a single step his department is taking or should take in that direction. This was a frank display of ignorant complacency in the face of a clear and demonstrated threat.

  • Why are Russian media outlets hyping the Mueller investigation?

    Four major Russia investigations are underway in Washington, along with at least six related federal inquiries. Russia’s most popular media outlets compare the investigations to those of the McCarthy era, calling them “witch hunts” focused on a “phantom menace.” Amid all the emphasis of “Russophobia run wild,” however, Russian media coverage seems to have become more positive in regard to one issue: The Justice Department’s investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. While state-sponsored outlets continue to deny any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, they’ve begun to applaud Mueller’s efforts to look into the past business deals of the U.S. president and his team. In affirming the U.S. investigation into Trump’s business practices, Kremlin strategists can co-opt the charges of Putin’s critics and direct them at Trump. They can argue that the U.S. is neither more virtuous than Russia nor more efficacious. And they can do so without having to acknowledge that a Mueller-style investigation into top-level government malfeasance would never be allowed in their own country today.

  • Russia used Pokemon Go "to sow division” in run-up to 2016 presidential election

    CNN broke the news yesterday that Russian government hackers did not only use Facebook, Twitter, and Google platforms for a broad, systematic, and sophisticated disinformation campaign in the run-up to the 2016 election – they also used the popular video game Pokemon Go. The game was used to promote a Black Lives Matter-like message about police brutality, aiming to discourage African American voters from going to the polls, while creating a White backlash against those criticizing the police.

  • U.S. bans Russian anti-virus software after Israel warns about hacking

    The U.S. government recently prohibited federal agencies from using the products of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. Kaspersky’s anti-virus software is used by 400 million people globally – and the off-the-shelf software was installed on many U.S. government systems. Israeli intelligence officials warned their U.S. counterparts that Russian government hackers had morphed Kaspersky’s anti-virus software into a search engine for sensitive information. The classified data was then extracted back to Russian intelligence systems. Kaspersky’s denials notwithstanding, cyber experts say it is not technically possible that Kaspersky Lab’s officials were ignorant of the Russian government’s use of the company product.

  • Could we reverse a hacked presidential election?

    What would happen if we discover that Russians hacked into the results of the 2016 presidential election and tipped the outcome in favor of Donald Trump — literally changed the vote totals? “It is cold comfort that we have no evidence so far that Moscow actually manipulated vote tallies to change the election’s outcome,” the authors write. But what if it emerges that Russian operatives were successful on that front as well? Setting Trump aside, what if a foreign government succeeds in the future in electing an American president through active vote manipulation? The Constitution offers no clear way to remedy such a disaster.

  • U.S. voting machines can be easily, quickly hacked: DEFCON report

    DEFCON yesterday released its much-anticipated report, detailing findings from its first-ever “Voting Machine Hacking Village.” The Voting Village was held three months ago at DEFCON25 in Las Vegas. The report highlighted how every piece of equipment in the Village – which included voting machines and poll books still largely in use in current U.S. elections – was effectively breached in a matter of minutes by hackers. “What the report shows is that if relative rookies can hack a voting system so quickly, it is difficult to deny that a nefarious actor – like Russia – with unlimited time and resources, could not do much greater damage,” said Voting Village organizer and University of Chicago cybersecurity instructor, Jake Braun. “That threat becomes ever more poignant when you consider they could hack an entire line of voting machines, remotely and all at once via the supply chain.”

  • Russia already moving to the next cyber incursion in U.S.

    “From a technological point of view, this [hacking U.S. voting machines] is something that is clearly doable,” said Sherri Ramsay, the former director of the federal Central Security Service Threat Operations Center, which handles cyber threats for the military and the National Security Agency. “For us to turn a blind eye to this, I think that would be very irresponsible on our part.” Cybersecurity experts are increasingly concerned that Russia and others are already moving to the next incursion. “What really concerns me is having suffered these probing attacks last year, we may be in for an even more sophisticated, more potentially effective assault next time around—and oh, by the way, others were watching,” said Ambassador Doug Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as the permanent representative to NATO from 2013 to 2017.