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Russia deploying coronavirus disinformation to sow panic in West, EU document says • Reuters
Robin Emmott:
<p>Russian media have deployed a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters.

The Kremlin denied the allegations on Wednesday, saying they were unfounded and lacked common sense.

The EU document said the Russian campaign, pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic.

“A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing,” said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16, using the name of the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus.

“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies,” the document produced by the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said.</p>
russia  coronavirus  socialwarming 
14 days ago by charlesarthur
CNN tracks US social media trolls to Ghana, then Russia before 2020 vote - CNN
Clarissa Ward, Katie Polglase, Sebastian Shukla, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Tim Lister:
<p>In 2016, much of the trolling aimed at the US election operated from an office block in St. Petersburg, Russia. A months-long CNN investigation has discovered that, in this election cycle, at least part of the campaign has been outsourced - to trolls in the west African nations of Ghana and Nigeria.

They have focused almost exclusively on racial issues in the US, promoting black empowerment and often displaying anger towards white Americans. The goal, according to experts who follow Russian disinformation campaigns, is to inflame divisions among Americans and provoke social unrest. The language and images used in the posts - on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - are sometimes graphic.

…In a statement Thursday, Facebook said that its "subsequent assessment benefited from our collaboration with a team of journalists at CNN" and it had "removed 49 Facebook accounts, 69 Pages and 85 Instagram accounts for engaging in foreign interference."

Facebook said: "This network was in early stages of audience building and was operated by local nationals - witting and unwitting - in Ghana and Nigeria on behalf of individuals in Russia. It targeted primarily the United States."

Facebook says that about 13,200 Facebook accounts followed one or more of the Ghana accounts and around 263,200 people followed one or more of Instagram accounts, about 65% of whom were in the US. Twitter told CNN that it had removed 71 accounts that had 68,000 followers. </p>

Facebook didn't allow any political ads by them because they're outside the US. But they didn't need ads. They used Facebook.
facebook  twitter  russia  trolls  socialwarming 
20 days ago by charlesarthur
Donald Trump 'offered Julian Assange a pardon if he denied Russia link to hack' • The Guardian
Owen Bowcott:
<p>Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told.

The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US.

Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, referred to evidence alleging that the former US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher had been to see Assange, now 48, while he was still in the Ecuadorian embassy in August 2017.

Assange appeared in court on Wednesday by videolink from Belmarsh prison, wearing dark tracksuit bottoms and a brown jumper over a white shirt.

A statement from Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson shows “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks”, Fitzgerald told Westminster magistrates court.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is hearing the case at Westminster, said the evidence is admissible.

White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told reporters: “The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman. He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”</p>

Of course dozens of tweets and meetings between Trump and Rohrabacher were then provided as evidence by the internet. Completely believable that Trump would do that. Assange would be an idiot to accept it, though.
trump  assange  russia  hacking 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Finland is winning the war on fake news. Other nations want the blueprint
Eliza Mackintosh:
<p>Finland has faced down Kremlin-backed propaganda campaigns ever since it declared independence from Russia 101 years ago. But in 2014, after Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, it became obvious that the battlefield had shifted: information warfare was moving online.

Toivanen, the chief communications specialist for the prime minister’s office, said it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of misinformation operations to have targeted the country in recent years, but most play on issues like immigration, the European Union, or whether Finland should become a full member of NATO (Russia is not a fan).

As the trolling ramped up in 2015, President Sauli Niinisto called on every Finn to take responsibility for the fight against false information. A year later, <a href="">Finland brought in American experts</a> to advise officials on how to recognize fake news, understand why it goes viral and develop strategies to fight it. The education system was also reformed to emphasize critical thinking.

<img src="" width="100%" />

<em>Source: European Policies Initiative, Open Society Institute - Sofia, March 2018; Graphic: Henrik Pettersson, CNN</em>

Although it’s difficult to measure the results in real-time, the approach appears to be working, and now other countries are looking to Finland as an example of how to win the war on misinformation.

“It’s not just a government problem, the whole society has been targeted. We are doing our part, but it’s everyone’s task to protect the Finnish democracy,” Toivanen said, before adding: “The first line of defense is the kindergarten teacher.”</p>

Government-funded, which seems wise.
russia  politics  finland  fakenews  socialwarming 
december 2019 by charlesarthur
Russia involved in leak of papers saying NHS is for sale, says Reddit • The Guardian
Kevin Rawlinson and Aamna Mohdin:
<p>An anonymous online poster who disseminated documents later brandished by Jeremy Corbyn as evidence the Conservatives would put the NHS “on the table” in US trade talks was part of a campaign directed by Moscow, the site hosting the papers has said.

On Friday evening, Reddit confirmed it has banned 61 accounts, including that of a user called Gregoriator, who it believes was part of a Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion.

The anonymous user posted copies of the leaked official documents on the site in late October. Corbyn presented the same documents at a news conference last week, saying they “leave Boris Johnson’s denials [that the NHS would be for sale] in absolute tatters” and touting them as “evidence that, under Boris Johnson, the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale”.

Reddit insisted the post garnered minimal interest at the time and Labour has declined to reveal where it obtained the documents. The government has said it believes they are genuine.

However, questions will now be asked about whether Russia had a hand in introducing the papers into the UK’s public discourse and, if so, what its motivations were for doing so.

Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, said it was “extremely serious” that the leaked documents could be linked to a Russian disinformation campaign. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Morgan said: “I understand from what was being put on that website, those who seem to know about these things say that it seems to have all the hallmarks of some form of interference."</p>

None of which takes away from the key point: that the documents are genuine. Why might the Russians want to leak them? Because they like causing trouble. The next question is where they found them. Another version of the documents was published on Reddit in the summer, I thought - and the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing paper, wrote about them.
russia  nhs  hacking 
december 2019 by charlesarthur
Russia tests new disinformation tactics in Africa to expand influence • NY Times
Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel:
<p>Russia has been testing new disinformation tactics in an enormous Facebook campaign in parts of Africa, as part of an evolution of its manipulation techniques ahead of the 2020 American presidential election.

Facebook said on Wednesday that it removed three Russian-backed influence networks on its site that were aimed at African countries including Mozambique, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya. The company said the online networks were linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch who was indicted by the United States and accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Unlike past influence campaigns from Russia, the networks targeted several countries through Arabic-language posts, according to the Stanford Internet Observatory, which collaborated with Facebook to unravel the effort. Some of the posts promoted Russian policies, while others criticized French and American policies in Africa. Russians also worked with locals in the African countries to set up Facebook accounts that were disguised as authentic to avoid detection.

The effort was at times larger in volume than what the Russians deployed in the United States in 2016. While the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency posted on Facebook 2,442 times a month on average in 2016, one of the networks in northern and central Africa posted 8,900 times in October alone, according to the Stanford researchers.</p>

So now we, or at least Russia, move on to the next stage of the global disinformation war.
disinformation  russia  socialwarming  facebook 
october 2019 by charlesarthur
Millions in crypto is crossing the Russia-China border daily – and Tether is king • Coindesk
Anna Baydakova:
<p>“Hear that sound?” asked the head of an over-the-counter (OTC) cryptocurrency trading desk — let’s call him ‘Oleg’ — who requested his real name and company be withheld. “You can hear it 24/7 in here.”

Business is brisk thanks to a constant flow of Chinese merchants who come in daily with heavy bags of cash. Oleg said his OTC desk sells about $3m worth of crypto every day. Most of it usually goes to China. But what’s perhaps most surprising is which crypto.

Only 20% of Oleg’s sales are in bitcoin, the oldest cryptocurrency with the largest market capitalization. The other 80% is in the dollar-pegged token known as tether, or USDT.

Tether’s best-known application is allowing crypto traders to move money between exchanges quickly to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities. But according to several Moscow OTC traders, it has at least one real-world use case – as the go-to remittance service for local Chinese importers.

The total volume of USDT purchased by Chinese businesses can reach $10m to $30m daily, these traders said.

“They accumulate a lot of cash in Moscow and need tether to transfer it to China,” said Maya Shakhnazarova, head of OTC trading at Huobi Russia, the Moscow office serving high-roller clients of Singapore-based exchange Huobi Global.</p>

Gambling? Something.. else? Though the use of Tether completely makes sense: bitcoin can take ages and transactions can be super-expensive. Tether doesn’t have the same problem and huge amounts are washing around.
Bitcoin  tether  cryptocurrency  Russia  china 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
Gigantic, mysterious radiation leak traced to facility in Russia • New Scientist
Ruby Prosser Scully:
<p>The source of a gigantic, mysterious leak of radioactive material that swept across Europe in 2017 has been traced to a Russian nuclear facility, which appears to have been preparing materials for experiments in Italy.

The leak released up to 100 times the amount of radiation into the atmosphere <a href="">that the Fukushima disaster did</a>. Italian scientists were the first to raise the alarm on 2 October, when they noticed a burst of the radioactive ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere. This was quickly corroborated by other monitoring laboratories across Europe.

Georg Steinhauser at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany says he was “stunned” when he first noticed the event. Routine surveillance detects several radiation leaks each year, mostly of extremely low levels of radionuclides used in medicine. But this event was different.

“The ruthenium-106 was one of a kind. We had never measured anything like this before,” says Steinhauser. Even so, the radiation level wasn’t high enough to impact human health in Europe, although exposure closer to the site of release would have been far greater.

The Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Security in Paris soon <a href="">concluded that the most probable source of the leak was between the Volga river and Ural mountains in Russia</a>. This is where Russia’s Mayak facility is located. The site, which includes a plant that processes spent nuclear fuel, suffered the world’s third most serious nuclear accident in 1957.

At the time of the 2017 leak, Russian officials denied the possibility of the facility being the source, saying there were no radioactive ruthenium traces in the surrounding soil. Instead, they suggested the source may have been a radionuclide battery from a satellite burning up during re-entry into the atmosphere.</p>

How much radiation did the Fukushima disaster release, you ask? One X-ray for everyone. A hundred times that is a bit more significant.
russia  nuclear  accident 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
How Russian antitrust enforcers defeated Google's monopoly • Matt Stoller's Substack
Matt Stoller:
<p>In Russia, the anti-monopoly case played out quite differently [from that in Europe on the tying of Android to mobile default search for Google]. The Russians were not intimidated by American technology companies, not only because of residual bitterness over the end of the Cold War and a hostile geopolitical relationship with America, but because they had Yandex. Russian engineers and scientists were just as innovative as those in Silicon Valley, and they had their own search giant to prove it.

The FAS [Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service] was also hostile to Google because of a very basic problem that the company brought upon itself. Google did not take the FAS as seriously as it should have, under the assumption the FAS would rule for Yandex for protectionist reasons. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, to believe a Russian government agency would find for a Russian company. But Google never acknowledged Yandex had a serious argument, even though a respected economic consulting firm, the European arm of Charles River Associates, had done the economic analysis underpinning Yandex’s complaint.

The Russians ruled in 2015, and again in late 2016, roughly a year and a half after the start of the case and far faster than that of the EU. In 2017, Google settled, agreeing to present a “choice screen” to all Android phone users letting the user pick in a neutral manner which search engine to use. Immediately upon implementing the choice screen, Yandex recaptured a chunk of market share from Google. And its market share then stabilized.</p>
google  russia  yandex 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
FaceApp responds to privacy concerns • TechCrunch
Natasha Lomas:
<p>The tl;dr here is that concerns had been raised that FaceApp, a Russian startup, uploads users’ photos to the cloud — without making it clear to them that processing is not going on locally on their device.

Another issue raised by FaceApp users was that the iOS app appears to be overriding settings if a user had denied access to their camera roll, after people reported they could still select and upload a photo — i.e. despite the app not having permission to access their photos.

As we reported earlier, the latter is actually allowed behavior in iOS — which gives users the power to choose to block an app from full camera roll access but select individual photos to upload if they so wish.

This isn’t a conspiracy, though Apple could probably come up with a better way of describing the permission, as we suggested earlier.

On the wider matter of cloud processing of what is, after all, facial data, FaceApp confirms that most of the processing needed to power its app’s beautifying/gender-bending/age-accerating/-defying effects are done in the cloud.

Though it claims it only uploads photos users have specifically selected for editing. Security tests have also not found evidence the app uploads a user’s entire camera roll.</p>

The app <a href="">first surfaced two years ago</a>, so that's a pretty tenacious startup.
faceapp  russia  privacy 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
Europe built a system to fight Russian meddling. It’s struggling • The New York Times
Matt Apuzzo:
<p> Efforts to identify and counter disinformation have proven not only deeply complicated, but also politically charged.

The new Rapid Alert System — a highly touted network to notify governments about Russian efforts before they metastasized as they did during the 2016 American elections — is just the latest example.

Working out of a sixth-floor office suite in downtown Brussels this spring, for example, European analysts spotted suspicious Twitter accounts pushing disinformation about an Austrian political scandal. Just days before the European elections, the tweets showed the unmistakable signs of Russian political meddling.

So European officials prepared to blast a warning on the alert system. But they never did, as they debated whether it was serious enough to justify sounding an alarm. In fact, even though they now speak of spotting “continued and sustained disinformation activity from Russian sources,” they never issued any alerts at all.</p>

"Struggling", in the headline, is generous.
russia  disinformation 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
Russian hacks on US voting system wider than previously known • Bloomberg
Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson:
<p>Russia’s cyberattack on the US electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the US investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step - complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October [2016], two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.

The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts.</p>
russia  election  hacking 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
US escalates online attacks on Russia’s power grid • The New York Times
David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth:
<p>In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.</p>

Quite a thing, right? And now look at this little extra, buried wayyyy down the story:
<p>Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.</p>

Shall we tell the president? Nah, better not.
infrastructure  russia  power  hacking  security 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Looking for free speech in Russia? Try YouTube • The New York Times
Neil MacFarquhar:
<p>“The entire social, political part of television is controlled by the authorities,” said Leonid G. Parfenov, an independent news anchor who has been shut out of state TV since 2004 for being too critical of the government. “For that reason, you cannot consider this television journalism — it is just propaganda, they are just employees of the presidential administration.”

Yet voices that the government would mute are heard regularly by tens of millions of Russians in another format: YouTube.

For more freewheeling opinions and commentary — particularly from those critical of President Vladimir V. Putin — YouTube has become the leading way to reach Russian audiences. In particular, it is challenging — if not supplanting — state TV as a source of information for the young…

Free-speech advocates fear that Russia will try to follow the Chinese model of heavy state internet censorship, and the Kremlin has taken initial steps in that direction.

But some critics say that the main threat to Russian YouTube stems from its own success. New money, shows and advertisers are pushing aside the homespun channels that have made it an important outlet, threatening to marginalize serious content, especially politics.</p>

Irony that the social network that Russia can't manipulate is the one that manipulates it back. And of course the recommendation algorithm will take viewers off down rabbit holes...
youtube  russia 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
How Russia sows confusion in the US vaccine debate • Foreign Policy
Katherine Kirk:
<p>The existence of a Russian disinformation campaign that could make Americans hesitant to vaccinate their children highlights something important about the Kremlin’s information war on the United States. Moscow’s goal has never been to advantage Republicans or Democrats. Instead, it is after a far bigger prize: the exacerbation of Americans’ distrust of one another and, in turn, the erosion of their confidence in society and the U.S. government.

A <a href="">recent study from David Broniatowski</a>, a professor at George Washington University, and his co-authors found that thousands of Russian accounts used to spread disinformation had seized on anti-vaccine messaging.

After combing through nearly 2 million tweets recorded between 2014 and 2017, the researchers found that Russian troll accounts were significantly more likely to tweet about vaccination than general Twitter users. They had turned to vaccines as a wedge issue in an effort to ramp up social discord, erode trust in public health institutions, and exacerbate fear and division in the United States.

Three tweets from the study go a long way toward capturing the style of this disorienting campaign. In one round of keystrokes, a Russian-backed account lashed out: “#vaccines are a parent’s choice. Choice of a color of a little coffin #VaccinateUS.”In one round of keystrokes, a Russian-backed account lashed out: “#vaccines are a parent’s choice. Choice of a color of a little coffin #VaccinateUS.” Another went with: “Did you know there was a secret government database of #vaccine-damaged children? #VaccinateUS.”

Moving toward the opposite pole of the discussion, a Russian troll account tweeted: “Do you still treat your kids with leaves? No? And why don’t you #vaccinate them? Its medicine! #VaccinateUS.” The study suggested that by giving the illusion of a grassroots debate, complete with content pushing both for and against vaccination, Russia could better tap into the fears and divisions among Americans—and exploit them.</p>

It's easy to suggest that social media is the problem, but it's credulity and lack of education that's the real problem.
russia  vaccine  us  socialwarming 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why • Nature
Alexandra Witze:
<p>Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.</p>

Isn't this sort of the premise of <a href="">the 2003 film The Core</a>, which critics noted proved that the centre of the earth is actually cheesy?

Oh, there's an update: "The release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown."
russia  canada  geology  core  magnetic 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
How Russian trolls used meme warfare to divide America • WIRED
<p>Conversations around the [Russian] Internet Research Agency [IRA] operations traditionally have focused on Facebook and Twitter, but like any hip millennial, the IRA was actually most obsessive about Instagram. “Instagram was perhaps the most effective platform for the Internet Research Agency,” the New Knowledge researchers write. All in, the troll accounts received 187 million engagements on Instagram, and about 40 percent of the accounts they created had at least 10,000 followers.

That isn’t to say, however, that the trolls neglected Twitter. There, the IRA deployed 3,841 accounts, including several personas that “regularly played hashtag games.” That approach paid off; 1.4 million people engaged with the tweets, leading to nearly 73 million engagements. Most of this work was focused on news, while on Facebook and Instagram, the Russians prioritized “deeper relationships,” according to the researchers. On Facebook, the IRA notched a total of 3.3 million page followers, who engaged with their politically divisive content 76.5 million times. Russia’s most popular pages targeted the right wing and the black community. The trolls also knew their audiences; they deployed Pepe memes at pages intended for right-leaning millennials, but kept them away from posts directed at older conservative Facebook users. Not every attempt was a hit; while 33 of the 81 IRA Facebook pages had over 1,000 followers, dozens had none at all.

That the IRA trolls aimed to pit Americans against each other with divisive memes is now well known. But this latest report reveals just how bizarre some of the IRA’s outreach got. To collect personally identifying information about targets, and perhaps use it to create custom and Lookalike audiences on Facebook, the IRA’s Instagram pages sold all kinds of merchandise. That includes LGBT sex toys and “many variants of triptych and 5-panel artwork featuring traditionally conservative, patriotic themes.”</p>

You might think America has done pretty well at dividing itself over the past 20 years. And you'd be right. The <a href="">report</a> is highly recommended.
america  division  russia 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
'Russia's most modern robot' revealed to be just a person in a suit • The Independent
Andrew Griffin:
<p>Video of the event went around the world, showing him taking part in banter with people on stage and being led through a series of dances. Its success was used to encourage children to explore robotics, and as proof of a technological breakthrough.

It was clear that if the robot was real it would be one of the most advanced examples of robotics in the world. Soon after that celebration, however, it became clear that it was so lifelike because it was literally alive, with a man standing inside its body controlling its functions.

Local reports straight away noted a variety of things wrong with the robot.

It wasn’t clear where the sensors that would allow it to take in the world were placed, for one. It only seemed to have LED lights in its head, rather than any visible camera or other sensors to allow it to understand its environment.

It also appeared to have come entirely out of nowhere. The robots made by Boston Dynamics – often touted as the leading company in creating robots that move like humans – have taken years to develop even simple abilities, and iheir movements are far behind some of those shown during the demonstration.

Its dancing seemed a little too human, too: its movements were clumsy – like a person trying to dance while struggling with the weight of a robot suit, not a robot that had been taught to dance, as claimed.</p>

Just explain how "a person trying to dance while struggling with the weight" looks different from a clumsy robot that has been taught to dance?
robot  fake  russia 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Google has taken down more foreign disinformation pages • Axios
David McCabe:
<p>Google on Tuesday quietly said it had taken down additional accounts implicated in online foreign influence operations aimed at least in part at the United States.

The big picture: The search giant has largely kept its head down even as Facebook and Twitter talked more publicly about online disinformation. The updated numbers posted Tuesday came in an update at the bottom of an August blog post, added two days before the Thanksgiving holiday.</p>

Ah yeah, "taking out the trash" again. One thing I do like about the internet is that nothing escapes its beady eye when it comes to actions like this.
google  disinformation  russia 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Bitcoin giveaway scams are flourishing on Twitter. They're probably coming from Russia • Buzzfeed News
Jane Lytvynenko:
<p>A BuzzFeed News analysis of the Target and G Suite account hacks suggest the perpetrators may have been the same ones responsible for similar schemes back in March. BuzzFeed News examined the websites touted in the Target and G Suite promoted tweet scams and determined they share a web server that also hosts sites like,, and

While domain registration information for those scam sites is hidden, other sites hosted the server are registered to Russian names with associated emails, and Russian addresses. A QR posted in one of the tweets was hosted on a Russian domain. The server currently hosts 600 Russian and English-language websites for illegal pharmacies, escort services, and a business that promises to improve the levels of World of Warcraft characters. Many of them appear to be based in Russia.

“The phrasing of the tweet themselves seem to suggest a Russian or Ukrainian language actor,” Kalember said. The researcher has also examined phishing emails sent by scammers to marketing and social media managers, which ultimately help them post from verified accounts like @Target. According to Kalember, those emails also show strong connections to Eastern European actors.

Twitter declined a request for technical details on the promoted scam ads.</p>
bitcoin  scam  russia 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Russia suspected of jamming GPS signal in Finland • BBC News
<p>"It is difficult to say what the reasons could be but there are reasons to believe it could be related to military exercise activities outside Norway's borders," Wenche Olsen, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway, told the Barents Observer earlier this month.

Russia is also suspected of jamming the GPS signal in Norway's border area last year when it held its own war games.

Relations between Nato and Russia have been strained since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Finnish region of Lapland and northern parts of Norway close to the Russian border were affected, with the Norwegian regional airline Widerøe confirming its pilots had experienced GPS disruption, Germany's DW news site reports.

However, the airline pointed out that pilots aboard civilian aircraft had other options when a GPS signal failed. "This is not a joke, it threatened the air security of ordinary people," said Mr Sipila, who is himself an experienced pilot. "It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities."

GPS is a global navigation system originally devised by the US military which works by sending signals from satellites above the Earth back down to receivers. "Technology-wise, it's relatively easy to disturb a radio signal, and it's possible that Russia was behind it," Mr Sipila was quoted as saying.</p>

At ground level, GPS signals are incredibly weak, essentially lost in background noise; it's only by <a href="">knowing how the signal varies</a> that it can be picked out. In turn, that means you can jam them.
gps  russia 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Blood money • TechCrunch
Jon Evans:
<p>You can make a realpolitik case for continuing to engage with Saudi Arabia. Just like my coffee companion [a paid lobbyist for Russian interests] five years ago did for continuing to engage with Russia. See how well that turned out, how since then Russia has become so much more enlightened, so progressive, such a glorious contributor to the commonwealth of nations? …Oh. Saudi Arabia is different, yes, but in a worse way; it’s so sensitive to criticism, overreacts so wildly and violently, because it is fundamentally a fragile state. Nassim Taleb, who predicted the collapse of Syria and its civil war before it happened, has predicted a similar fate for Saudi Arabia.

I don’t think the Trump administration is going to continue its support for Saudi Arabia’s new and erratic leadership for fear of the human or economic consequences if they do otherwise. “Trump’s Razor:” the stupidest reason is most likely to be correct. Here, that means the administration doesn’t want to walk back their Saudi support because they think that will make them look weak. Similarly, who are we kidding, VCs who take money from Saudi LPs aren’t doing so in order to help prop up the Pax Americana; it’s purely because they want the money, and nobody else is prepared to throw around $45bn in cash.

Right now, though, and for the foreseeable future, sovereign Saudi money is tainted, poisoned, blood money.</p>

"Trump's Razor". Nice. (<a href="">Concept rriginated back in July 2016</a>, by Josh Marshall, about Trump wanting to reverse his decision to have Mike Pence as his vice-presidential candidate; <a href="">named by John Scalzi</a>.)
saudi  trump  russia 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Twitter just published millions of Russia- and Iran-linked tweets so researchers can study election interference • Buzzfeed News
Davey Alba:
<p>Twitter <a href="">published data sets Wednesday</a> containing millions of tweets, photos, videos, and the names of thousands of accounts with potential election-meddling information operations that the company found on its platform since 2016.

Twitter had previously disclosed that election-meddling information operations had been detected, but said in a new blog post that opening up the data sets for scrutiny by independent researchers, academics, and journalists could help bring more understanding about foreign interference in political conversations on the platform.

“It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease,” wrote Vijaya Gadde, the legal, public policy, and trust and safety lead at Twitter, and Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, in the blog post. “These types of tactics … will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and new technologies emerge.” But, Gadde and Roth said, the company would continue to “proactively combat nefarious attempts to undermine the integrity of Twitter” and partner with civil society, government, researchers, and industry peers to understand nefarious online political campaigns.</p>

From the Twitter post:
<p>These large datasets comprise 3,841 accounts affiliated with the IRA, originating in Russia, and 770 other accounts, potentially originating in Iran. They include more than 10 million Tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts, including the earliest on-Twitter activity from accounts connected with these campaigns, dating back to 2009.</p>

It's about 365GB in total, so get those hard drives ready. There's also some Brexit stuff in there too.
twitter  russia  politics 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
July 2017: Russian national and bitcoin exchange charged in 21-count indictment for operating alleged international money laundering scheme and allegedly laundering funds from hack of Mt. Gox • USAO-NDCA | Department of Justice
July 2017:
<p>A grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted a Russian national and an organization he allegedly operated, BTC-e, for operating an unlicensed money service business, money laundering, and related crimes…

…“Mr. Vinnik is alleged to have committed and facilitated a wide range of crimes that go far beyond the lack of regulation of the bitcoin exchange he operated.  Through his actions, it is alleged that he stole identities, facilitated drug trafficking, and helped to launder criminal proceeds from syndicates around the world,” said Chief Don Fort, IRS Criminal Investigation.  “Exchanges like this are not only illegal, but they are a breeding ground for stolen identity refund fraud schemes and other types of tax fraud.  When there is no regulation and criminals are left unchecked, this scenario is all too common. The takedown of this large virtual currency exchange should send a strong message to cyber-criminals and other unregulated exchanges across the globe.”

“BTC-e was noted for its role in numerous ransomware and other cyber-criminal activity; its take-down is a significant accomplishment, and should serve as a reminder of our global reach in combating transnational cyber crime,” said Special Agent in Charge of the USSS Criminal Investigative Division Michael D’Ambrosio. “We are grateful for the efforts of our law enforcement partners in achieving this significant result.”

"The arrest of Alexander Vinnik is the result of a multi-national effort and clearly displays the benefits of global cooperation among US and international law enforcement,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Hess. </p>

OK, so that was more than a year ago. But you can bet that if there's money laundering on one bitcoin exchange, then given how many there are around, it will be happening on others. Which brings us to…
bitcoin  russia  crime  moneylaundering 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Is Putin’s power wavering? What the GRU spy story says • Medium
Rudolf Van Der Berg:
<p>hacking the OPCW was strategically completely unimportant to Russia. Yes, the Skripal poisoning and the Chemical Warfare in Syria cases were investigated, but all the fingers had already pointed to Russia. Russia knew it had done both things. All they would figure out is that the OPCW is competent at its job and found traces of Russia’s wrong doing. Of course spies want to know everything, for example the (confidential) sources of data. However why this warranted an attack on such short notice, with such great risk is unclear. When you already know the answer to the question of the researchers and the timing of publication is quite clear, why send four guys with haste and diplomatic passports? It is so undiplomatic. To me it shows the clique around Putin is extremely unsure about themselves and their position. They need to know ahead what the outcome of the OPCW research is, otherwise they fear for their position.

The WADA/IOC hacking shows some spy tradecraft and to some extent it is understable, that Russia wants to know which delegates compromised themselves while online at these events. It may help Russia’s case (and it appears it did, as Russia can play again) However, you also have to wonder why this is a case for high ranking hackers from the most serious Russian intelligence agency. I mean, stealing the plans of a new USA missile seems a far better use of military intelligence. Really this is what you spent your time on? Why? It shows the insecurities of Russian leaders.</p>

The comical nature of the GRU's attempts to hack the OPCW, and the public shaming meted out by the Dutch and British intelligence services, must have hurt. But this is payback for years of interference abroad.
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Viral “manspreading” video is staged Kremlin propaganda • EU vs Disinfo
<p>The St. Petersburg-based online magazine Bumaga <a href="">found and interviewed</a> one of the men appearing in the recording, who said that he was paid for acting as a victim.

So, if the video is fiction, and if In The Now even openly states this – what is then the purpose of promoting the story to international audiences? What is in it for a Russian state media outlet?

The key to a possible answer is found in the reactions the video has been able to spur.

In the comments section on Facebook, users express outrage against the alleged feminist activist, often in strongly misogynic language, with <a href="">this comment</a> as the most popular, gathering by now more than 14,000 likes: <em>"Robin Stedman: This is not a protest, it's assault. Maybe someone should pour bleach water on her for sticking her breasts out. Same thing."</em>

In other words, the video stages extreme feminist activism and manages to provoke extreme anti-feminist reactions.

A central element in the modus operandi of the famous “troll factory” in St. Petersburg has been to promote not just one, but different and opposing extreme views.

During the American Presidential election campaign in 2016, the goal of the operation was to sow discord in the political system, and address divisive issues via groups and pages falsely claiming to represent US activists. Messaging was e.g. not only pro-Trump, but also protesting against Trump, all to drive in wedges.

An investigation from 2017 by the independent Russian news outlet RBC found that “Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the US to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues”.</p>

Russia is so much better at information warfare than the west, principally because the west (particularly in the US) makes a habit of standing around looking for fights to pick. Men v women? Democrats v Republicans? Star Wars done by George Lucas v Star Wars done post-George Lucas? All hills worth dying on, apparently.
socialwarming  Infowarfare  disinfo  russia 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
How Russian spies infiltrated hotel Wi-Fi to hack victims up close • Wired
Andy Greenberg:
<p>some of the most surprising elements of those intrusion operations are the ones that got the Russian hackers caught red-handed: Parking vehicles outside of target buildings, and infiltrating Wi-Fi networks to hack victims.

“When the conspirators’ remote hacking efforts failed to capture log-in credentials, or if those accounts that were successfully compromised did not have the necessary access privileges for the sought-after information, teams of GRU intelligence officers traveled to locations around the world where targets were physically located,” the Justice Department’s indictment reads. "Using specialized equipment, and with the remote support of conspirators in Russia, these on-site teams hacked into Wi-Fi networks used by victim organizations or their personnel, including hotel Wi-Fi networks."

The new details on those in-person hacking operations illustrate just how brash the GRU's hackers have become, says John Hultquist, the director of research at security intelligence firm FireEye, who has closely tracked GRU operations for years. "If they're willing to play like this, they are extremely aggressive," Hultquist says. "It’s risky and brazen that they’re doing this physically. Obviously your chance of getting caught and exposed in person are higher, but it gives them a whole new avenue to get into networks that might have otherwise been a challenge."</p>

"Honey? Should I join this network called DEFINITELY NOT STEAL UR DATA? It doesn't need a password."
Russia  hacking 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Reckless campaign of cyber attacks by Russian military intelligence service exposed • UK National Cyber Security Centre
<p>Today, the UK and its allies can expose a campaign by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, of indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has identified that a number of cyber actors widely known to have been conducting cyber attacks around the world are, in fact, the GRU.  These attacks have been conducted in flagrant violation of international law, have affected citizens in a large number of countries, including Russia, and have cost national economies millions of pounds.

Cyber attacks orchestrated by the GRU have attempted to undermine international sporting institution WADA, disrupt transport systems in Ukraine, destabilise democracies and target businesses.

This campaign by the GRU shows that it is working in secret to undermine international law and international institutions.</p>

It then lists 10 attacks which it attributes to the GRU - "high confidence the GRU was almost certainly responsible". Maybe just do a confidence score out of 10?
cyber  gru  russia 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian trolls tweeted disinformation long before US election • WSJ
Rob Barry:
<p>Alice Norton posted an emergency message on a cooking-website forum on Thanksgiving 2015: Her entire family had severe food poisoning after buying a turkey from Walmart.

“My son Robert got in the hospital and he’s still there,” wrote Ms. Norton, who had described herself as a 31-year-old New York City mother of two. “I don’t know what to do!”

Within hours, Twitter users repeated the claim thousands of times, and a news story was published saying 200 people were in critical condition after eating tainted turkey.

The catch? No outbreak of food poisoning matching this description occurred, according to New York City health officials. A Walmart Inc. spokesman said the company had spotted the posts but determined they were a hoax and didn’t investigate their origin further.

In fact, many of the claims came from accounts linked to a pro-Kremlin propaganda agency charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office last week for meddling in U.S. politics. Security experts now believe the early posts, and others like them, may have been practice for a bigger target: the 2016 U.S. election.

While it is impossible to be sure what was in the minds of Russians tweeting false stories in 2014 and 2015—which also included tales of contaminated water, terrorist attacks and a chemical-plant explosion—these experts say it is as if the Russians were testing to see how much they could get Americans to believe.</p>

Turns out that the latter is "really quite a lot". America's a big country, and a lot can happen. And a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on, as people say.
america  russia  information  warfare  socialwarming 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
How Russia helped swing the election for Trump • The New Yorker
Jane Mayer:
<p>Politicians may be too timid to explore the subject, but a new book from, of all places, Oxford University Press promises to be incendiary. “<a href="">Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know</a>,” by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, dares to ask—and even attempts to answer—whether Russian meddling had a decisive impact in 2016. Jamieson offers a forensic analysis of the available evidence and concludes that Russia very likely delivered Trump’s victory.

The book, which is coming out less than two months before the midterm elections, at a moment when polls suggest that some sixty per cent of voters disapprove of Trump, may well reignite the question of Trump’s electoral legitimacy. The President’s supporters will likely characterize the study as an act of partisan warfare. But in person Jamieson, who wears her gray hair in a pixie cut and favors silk scarves and matronly tweeds, looks more likely to suspend a troublemaker than to be one. She is seventy-one, and has spent forty years studying political speeches, ads, and debates. Since 1993, she has directed the Annenberg Public Policy Center, at Penn, and in 2003 she co-founded, a nonpartisan watchdog group. She is widely respected by political experts in both parties, though her predominantly male peers have occasionally mocked her scholarly intensity, calling her the Drill Sergeant. As Steven Livingston, a professor of political communication at George Washington University, puts it, “She is the epitome of a humorless, no-nonsense social scientist driven by the numbers. She doesn’t bullshit. She calls it straight.”

Indeed, when I met recently with Jamieson, in a book-lined conference room at the Annenberg Center, in Philadelphia, and asked her point-blank if she thought that Trump would be President without the aid of Russians, she didn’t equivocate. “No,” she said, her face unsmiling. Clearly cognizant of the gravity of her statement, she clarified, “If everything else is a constant? No, I do not.”</p>

It is quite a claim, indeed. But so few votes - 80,000 in three states - made the difference in the 2016 election that the only question is how <em>little</em> effect Russia's messing about would have needed to make the crucial difference.
russia  politics  trump 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Russia secretly ran news websites in eastern Europe • Buzzfeed News
Holger Roonemaa and Inga Springe:
<p>Russian state media created secret companies in order to bankroll websites in the Baltic states — a key battleground between Russia and the West — and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The scheme has only come to light through Skype chats and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, Estonian newspaper Postimees, and investigative journalism outlet Re:Baltica via freedom of information laws, as part of a criminal probe into the individual who was Moscow’s man on the ground in Estonia.

The Skype logs and other files, obtained from computers seized by investigators, reveal the secrets and obfuscating tactics used by Russia as it tries to influence public opinion and push Kremlin talking points.

The websites presented themselves as independent news outlets, but in fact, editorial lines were dictated directly by Moscow. Raul Rebane, a leading strategic communications expert in Estonia, said that this scheme and others like it are “systemic information-related activities on foreign territory. In other words — information warfare.”

He said that Russian propaganda networks in the Baltics had been operating for years but had become more intense recently. “The pressure to turn [Estonia] from facing the West to facing the East has grown.”

Long before Russian interference in the 2016 US election became one of the biggest stories in the world, and Kremlin disinformation campaigns became a household issue, Moscow faced accusations of trying to influence public opinion in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which are all members of NATO.

The revelations about the websites in the Baltic states provide a rare and detailed inside look into how such disinformation campaigns work, and the lengths to which Moscow is willing to go to obscure its involvement in such schemes.</p>
russia  disinformation  socialwarming 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Russia Indictment 2.0: what to make of Mueller’s hacking indictment • Lawfare
<p>The timing of the indictment given the upcoming Helsinki summit is a powerful show of strength by federal law enforcement. Let’s presume that Mueller did not time this indictment to precede the summit by way of embarrassing Trump on the international stage. It is enough to note that he also did not hold off on the indictment for a few days by way of sparing Trump embarrassment—and that Rosenstein did not force him to. Indeed, Rosenstein said at his press conference that it is “important for the president to know what information was uncovered because he has to make very important decisions for the country” and therefore “he needs to know what evidence there is of foreign election interference.” But of course Rosenstein and Mueller did not just let Trump know. They also let the world know, which has the effect—intended or not—of boxing in the president as he meets with an adversary national leader.

Put less delicately: Rosenstein has informed the president, and the world, before Trump talks to Putin one-on-one that his own Justice Department is prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, in public, using admissible evidence, that the president of the Russian Federation has been lying to Trump about Russian non-involvement in the 2016 election hacking.</p>

The byline has eight names, which is nearly as many as were indicted - 12 GRU hackers who used the alias "Guccifer 2.0" to contact Trump-linked people such as Roger Stone. (Stone <a href="">admits he is "probably" the person who responded</a> to the hackers. Make that "definitely".)
russia  trump  politics 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian Trolls Weigh In on Roseanne Barr and Donald Trump Jr. • WSJ
Georgia Wells, Rob Barry and Shelby Holliday:
<p>Newly identified Russian trolls posted politically divisive messages on Twitter as recently as last month, hitting on a wide array of hot-button issues, according to a Journal analysis of recently revealed investigative documents and Twitter data.

The new tranche of about 1,100 account names, released Monday by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, brings the total number of publicly known Russian troll farm-operated accounts to more than 3,800. Last month, the Journal reported that the identities of many of the Russian accounts had not been publicly revealed.

The newly identified users posted more than 2.9 million tweets and retweets, bringing the total amount of Russian troll farm content on the platform to more than 8 million tweets and retweets, the Journal’s analysis found.</p>

EIGHT MILLION. Is that a lot? I mean, there are lots of tweets every day. Twitter says it has 330 million monthly active users. And a lot of these accounts are pretty small beer - though they have had a couple of viral tweets. There's influence, and then there's "influence". I wonder if the writers looked at each other when they got the 8m number and went "eh, sounds big enough for the newsdesk if we look outraged - say EIGHT MILLION in a loud voice."
twitter  russia 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
VPNFilter EXIF to C2 mechanism analysed • Securelist
"GReAT" on the Russian malware that had taken over thousands of routers, but whose command system the FBI grabbed last week:
<p>Some of the things which stand out about VPNFilter are:

• It has a redundant, multi-stage command and control mechanism which uses three different channels to receive information<br />• It has a multi-stage architecture, in which some of the more complex functionality runs only in the memory of the infected devices<br />• It contains a destructive payload which is capable of rendering the infected devices unbootable<br />• It uses a broken (or incorrect) RC4 implementation which has been observed before with the BlackEnergy malware<br />• Stage 2 command and control can be executed over TOR, meaning it will be hard to notice for someone checking the network traffic.</p>

It then headed off to Photobucket for instructions, taken from EXIF data - but the way that Photobucket has shut down many pages has made it impossible. So it would head to a hard-coded domain. That's what the FBI took over.
vpnfilter  russia  hacking 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: FBI seizes control of Russian botnet • Daily Beast
Kevin Poulsen:
<p>FBI agents armed with a court order have seized control of a key server in the Kremlin’s global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers, The Daily Beast has learned. The move positions the bureau to build a comprehensive list of victims of the attack, and short-circuits Moscow’s ability to reinfect its targets.

The FBI counter-operation goes after  “VPN Filter,” a piece of sophisticated malware linked to the same Russian hacking group, known as Fancy Bear, that breached the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. On Wednesday security researchers at Cisco and Symantec separately provided new details on the malware, which has turned up in 54 countries including the United States.

VPN Filter uses known vulnerabilities to infect home office routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, and TP-Link. Once in place, the malware reports back to a command-and-control infrastructure that can install purpose-built plug-ins, according to the researchers. One plug-in lets the hackers eavesdrop on the victim’s Internet traffic to steal website credentials; another targets a protocol used in industrial control networks, such as those in the electric grid. A third lets the attacker cripple any or all of the infected devices at will.

The FBI has been investigating the botnet since at least August, according to court records, when agents in Pittsburgh interviewed a local resident whose home router had been infected with the Russian malware. “She voluntarily relinquished her router to the agents,” wrote FBI agent Michael McKeown, in an affidavit filed in federal court. “In addition, the victim allowed the FBI to utilize a network tap on her home network that allowed the FBI to observe the network traffic leaving the home router.”</p>

That was quick.
cyberwar  russia  fbi  botnet 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian troll farm hijacked American teen girls’ computers for Likes • Daily Beast
Kevin Poulsen:
<p>The Kremlin-linked Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency took an ominous detour into malware distribution in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign, targeting teenage girls in the US with a Chrome plug-in that pulled their browsers into a crude botnet, according to an analysis by The Daily Beast and outside security experts.

The app, called FaceMusic, was billed as an embedded music player that would allow users to listen to free tunes while browsing Facebook. The Internet Research Agency purchased Facebook ads promoting the app in May 2016 through one of its fraudulent profiles, “Stop All Invaders,” which normally pushed xenophobic anti-immigration memes in support of the Donald Trump campaign.

Facebook data released by Congress last week shows the FaceMusic ads garnered 24,623 impressions from 107 ads, but only 85 clicks in all. The most successful single ad run, with 28 clicks, used Facebook’s targeting system to go after female users in the United States between 14 and 17 years old. (In total, more than 13,000 machines were likely infected by the FaceMusic malware, according to a Daily Beast analysis.)

Google has since removed the malicious app from the Chrome store, and the public FaceMusic website at fbmusic[.]com is now defunct. But an examination of an archived copy of the code, coupled with an analysis of its web traffic, shows it packed hidden functionality that was active even when the victim wasn’t on Facebook.</p>

Despite passing Google's review before going on the Chrome Web Store, it could connect to a server and silently connect to web addresses it was told to. Considering what Chrome extensions can do, that's unlikely to have attracted attention. But it's a basis for clickfraud and botnets. Time to reconsider Chrome extensions, as it once was for ActiveX on IE6?
google  chrome  russia  bot  facebook 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
#BlueLivesMatter and Beyoncé: Russian Facebook ads hit hot-button US issues • The Guardian
Olivia Solon and Julia Carrie Wong:
<p>The ads cover a range of issues, including racial injustice, gun control, LGBT rights, immigration and patriotism. Included with each ad is information about how many people saw or engaged with the ad, the price paid in rubles and the target audience.

A sample of the ads bought by the notorious Russian troll factory between 2015 and 2017 for a total of about $100,000 was previously released by Democrats on the House intelligence committee last year. Facebook provided them to the panel last year as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the election.

The collection doesn’t include the 80,000 posts that were shared by 120 fake Russian-backed pages, shared by 29 million Americans directly and viewed by as many as 126 million Americans.

Among the cache are sponsored posts describing police brutality against black people, including the killings of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and the unarmed motorist Walter Scott. They link to the “Black Matters” page on Facebook.

One batch of advertisements promotes “Williams and Kalvin”, a pair of black YouTube vloggers who decried racism and police brutality in their advertisements. The Daily Beast previously reported on the pair’s YouTube videos, in which they railed against Clinton and supported Trump.

The documents show that Williams and Kalvin targeted their ads specifically toward African Americans: many of the ads instruct Facebook to exclude people who are designated as showing Hispanic or Asian American “behavior” but include people whose “behavior” is designated as “African American (US)”. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on how Facebook defines African American “behavior”.</p>

In September I was on a radio show as all this was getting underway, and suggested there was plenty more to come out. Even with this, there's still plenty more to come out. But it does show how easily Russia made an end run around Facebook (and America) by understanding the value and nature of propaganda.
facebook  russia  ads 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Google confirms some of its own services are now getting blocked in Russia over the Telegram ban • TechCrunch
Ingrid Lunden:
<p>currently, nearly 18 million IP addresses are knocked out from being accessed in Russia, all in the name of blocking Telegram.

And in the latest development, Google has now confirmed to us that its own services are now also being impacted. From what we understand, Google Search, Gmail and push notifications for Android apps are among the products being affected.

“We are aware of reports that some users in Russia are unable to access some Google products, and are investigating those reports,” said a Google spokesperson in an emailed response. We’d been trying to contact Google all week about the Telegram blockade, and this is the first time that the company has both replied and acknowledged something related to it.

(Amazon has acknowledged our messages but has yet to reply to them.)

Google’s comments come on the heels of RKN itself also announcing today that it had expanded its IP blocks to Google’s services. At its peak, RKN had blocked nearly 19 million IP addresses, with dozens of third-party services that also use Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS, such as Twitch and Spotify, also getting caught in the crossfire.

Russia is among the countries in the world that has enforced a kind of digital firewall, blocking periodically or permanently certain online content. Some turn to VPNs to access that content anyway, but it turns out that Telegram hasn’t needed to rely on that workaround to get used.

“RKN is embarrassingly bad at blocking Telegram, so most people keep using it without any intermediaries,” said Ilya Andreev, COO and co-founder of Vee Security, which has been providing a proxy service to bypass the ban.</p>
telegram  russia 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Russia moves to block Telegram after encryption key denial • ZDNet
Zack Whittaker:
<p>Russia's media and internet regulator has asked a court to block the encrypted messaging app Telegram after the company refused to give its encryption keys to state authorities.

The regulator, known as Roskomnadzor, filed the suit Friday in a Moscow district court.

The lawsuit, which has yet to be published, contains a "request to restrict access to the territory of Russia to the information resources" of the app, said a statement.

In other words, the government wants to block the app from working in the country.

The lawsuit lands after the Russian state security service, the FSB (formerly known as the KGB), demanded that the Dubai-based app maker hand over its encryption keys, which Russia contends is a legal demand. Russian entrepreneur and company founder Pavel Durov refused, and the Russian government took Telegram to court.

Russia's Supreme Court upheld the demand in late March.

Telegram was ordered to hand over the keys by Wednesday, but refused. Roskomnadzor must now sue the company to obtain the authority to block the service.

Durov said that any threats to block Telegram in the country "won't bear fruit," but did not outright say if he or the company would hand over the keys.</p>

Continuing the court case. I take it that Russia would block Telegram by blackholing the Telegram servers (<a href="">because</a> it's a "cloud-based messenger with seamless sync"). What if someone uses a VPN to access it, though? Now you have to block VPNs as well.
russia  telegram 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian bots are tweeting their support of embattled Fox News host Laura Ingraham • Washington Post
Amanda Erickson:
<p>Russian-linked Twitter accounts have rallied around the conservative talk-show host, who has come under fire for attacking the young survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks the spread of Russian propaganda on Twitter, the hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800% in 48 hours this weekend. On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners.

The website, which tracks 1,500 “political propaganda bots,” found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles tweeted by Russia-linked accounts this weekend. “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham” were the top two-word phrases being shared.

Wading into controversy is a key strategy for Russian propaganda bots, which seize on divisive issues online to sow discord in the United States. Since the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, Russian bots have flooded Twitter with false information about the massacre.</p>

If you want more, see <a href="">Josh Russell's</a> tweets - he is the one looking at this stuff.

Raises the question: he can find this stuff so easily, why isn't Twitter zapping them faster?
Twitter  russia  bots 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
#PutinAtWar: trolls on Twitter • Medium
The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Lab looks at how a poll about the Skripal poisoning by a British user was hijacked by a Russian account which spread it to others bots:
<p>From Lisitsa, the retweet cascaded to dozens of other, primarily Russian-language accounts, forming the most substantial cluster of retweets throughout the scan.

None of these Russian accounts has an organic focus on, or interest in, UK politics; their content is dominated by pro-Kremlin messaging, mostly in Russian or English. Their purpose in retweeting the poll therefore seems to have been to spread it to a Russian audience which could be expected to vote against the UK government.

This intervention was small in itself, impacting one poll, from one account. However, the source account was an influential member of a politically vocal UK community; thus, by targeting it, the Russian accounts may have hoped to reinforce their message among UK opposition supporters.

If so, they succeeded. @Rachael_Swindon is not a member of this troll community; it has had no interactions with @malinka1102 or @rixstep, and does not post on hot-button Kremlin topics such as Crimea or MH17.

However, still on March 17, the account had a conversation with @ValLisitsa, at the end of which @Rachael_Swindon claimed, based on its own poll, that the “mood of the British public is starting to shift.”</p>

If these researchers find it this easy to find Russian trolls, why can't Twitter? Also, anyone who takes the slightest notice of a Twitter poll needs telling off.
twitter  russia  politics 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
‘I created Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower • The Observer
Carole Cadwalldr:
<p>What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and [Aleksandr] Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasn’t authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. What’s more, under British data protection laws, it’s illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

“Facebook could see it was happening,” says Wylie. “Their security protocols were triggered because Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”

Kogan maintains that everything he did was legal and he had a “close working relationship” with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Cambridge Analytica had its data. This was the foundation of everything it did next – how it extracted psychological insights from the “seeders” and then built an algorithm to profile millions more.

For more than a year, the reporting around what Cambridge Analytica did or didn’t do for Trump has revolved around the question of “psychographics”, but Wylie points out: “Everything was built on the back of that data. The models, the algorithm. Everything. Why wouldn’t you use it in your biggest campaign ever?”

In December 2015, the Guardian’s Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign to be the US Republican candidate. But it wasn’t until many months later that Facebook took action. And then, all they did was write a letter. In August 2016, shortly before the US election, and two years after the breach took place, Facebook’s lawyers wrote to [data whistleblower Christopher] Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that “GSR was not authorised to share or sell it”. They said it must be deleted immediately.

“I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it,” says Wylie. “Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.”</p>

Facebook staff and ex-staff have been saying: 1) not a data breach as such (a headline on another of these stories) 2) this stuff doesn't affect anyone anyway. The second isn't believable. Are we meant to think advertising has no effect? If that were the case, nobody would do it.
facebook  russia  politics  data 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Only Russia could be behind UK poison attack: toxin's co-developer • Reuters
Joseph Ax:
<p>A Russian chemist who helped develop the Soviet-era nerve agent used to poison a former Russian double agent in southern England said only the Russian government could have carried out the attack with such a deadly and advanced toxin.

Vil Mirzayanov, 83, said he had no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible, given that Russia maintains tight control over its Novichok stockpile and that the agent is too complicated for a non-state actor to have weaponized.

“The Kremlin all the time, like all criminals, denying - it doesn’t mean anything,” Mirzayanov said in an interview in his home in Princeton, New Jersey, where he has lived in exile for more than 20 years.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence agent who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence, and his daughter are fighting for their lives after they were found on March 4 collapsed on a bench, having been poisoned with Novichok, according to British authorities.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that it was “highly likely” that Putin was behind the attack, a charge Russia denies.</p>

Russia's use of products that simply aren't available to any standard criminal - polonium and now a nerve agent - is an obvious way of telling any Russian considering working for another state that the consequences are going to be severe. What's surprising is that the UK's response has been comparatively milquetoast; at the very least one would have hoped for a version of the <a href="">Magnitsky Act</a> (which Russia's rulers really hate).
russia  novichok 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Leaked: secret documents from Russia’s election trolls • Daily Beast
Ben Collins:
<p>what The Daily Beast has seen provides a new level of texture and detail to the [Russian troll farm Internet Research Agency] US efforts, online and off. While the troll farm’s use of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook is now well-known, the leak shows that the Internet Research Agency also operated on Reddit and had a substantial footprint on Tumblr. They documented and tracked their personalized interactions with specific, unsuspecting Americans, some of whom are named in the leaks.

Those outreach efforts display conceptual sophistication. The leaks show that IRA imposter accounts targeted activists for specific causes the Russians wanted promoted. On the target list: the daughter of one of Martin Luther King’s lieutenants.

But the leaks also provide a glimpse into the troll farm’s weaknesses. Some of the Americans the group contacted described receiving impersonal entreaties from unfamiliar accounts, asking for trivial aid and then declining to follow up. The Internet Research Agency might have known how to leverage social media, but they knew far less about how users authentically interact with each other on it—which itself attracted suspicion amongst the very people the Russians were contacting.

“I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know who they were and why they were remaining anonymous, and I didn’t really see the need for it,” said Craig Carson, a Rochester, New York, attorney and civil rights activist who was contacted by the farm-created account Blacktivist.

Shanall LaRay Logan—who lives in Sacramento, California, and said she is active in Black Lives Matter campaigns —told The Daily Beast that these kind of trolling overtures are “actually just counterproductive to our movement.”

The leaks also reveal the IRA’s previously unreported connection to two additional 2016 rallies, one outside Atlanta and another in western New York, The Daily Beast can now confirm. One of them turned violent.</p>

This came out last week. On Monday, Reddit <a href="">admitted</a> it was investigating and so far had found "a few hundred" accounts that were directly Russian-controlled - but also that (foolish American) people had amplified Russian propaganda. This is far from over.
Reddit  russia  election 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
After Florida school shooting, Russian 'bot' army pounced • NY Times
Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi:
<p>When the Russian bots jumped on the hashtag #Parklandshooting — initially created to spread news of the shooting — they quickly stoked tensions. Exploiting the issue of mental illness in the gun control debate, they propagated the notion that Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman, was a mentally ill “lone killer.” They also claimed that he had searched for Arabic phrases on Google before the shooting. Simultaneously, the bots started other hashtags, like #ar15, for the semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting, and #NRA.

The bots’ behavior follows a pattern, said Mr. Morgan, one of the researchers who worked with the German Marshall Fund to create Hamilton 68, the website that monitors Russian bot and fake Twitter activity. The bots target a contentious issue like race relations or guns. They stir the pot, often animating both sides and creating public doubt in institutions like the police or media. Any issue associated with extremist views is a ripe target.

The goal is to push fringe ideas into the “slightly more mainstream,” Mr. Morgan said. If well-known people retweet the bot messages or simply link to a website the bots are promoting, the messages gain an edge of legitimacy.

An indictment made public on Friday by Mr. Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the election mentioned a Russian Twitter feed, @TEN_GOP, which posed as a Tennessee Republican account and attracted more than 100,000 followers. Messages from this now-deleted account were retweeted by the president’s sons and close advisers including Kellyanne Conway and Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser…

By Friday morning, the bots that pushed the original tweets around the Parkland shooting had moved on to the hashtag #falseflag — a term used by conspiracy theorists to refer to a secret government operation that is carried out to look like something else — with a conspiracy theory that the shooting had never happened.

By Monday, the bots had new targets: the Daytona 500 auto race in Daytona Beach, Fla., and news about William Holleeder, a man facing trial in the Netherlands for his suspected role in six gangland killings. It is unclear why.</p>
bots  russia 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Facebook battles new criticism after US indictment against Russians • WSJ
Robert McMillan:
<p>The Twitter comments of Mr. Goldman, Facebook’s head of advertising, also fueled disagreement about the intent of the Russian efforts. One of Mr. Goldman’s tweets said “swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” of the Russian ads, and that “the majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election.”

On Saturday, President Donald Trump cited Mr. Goldman’s comment in support of the idea that Russia’s actions didn’t affect the election.

Following criticism that he was obscuring the intent of the Russians, Mr. Goldman later tweeted that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Mr. Trump.” He also dialed back some of his claims. “I am only speaking here about the Russian behavior on Facebook. That is the only aspect that I observed directly,” he tweeted.

Clint Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute who studied the Russian influence campaign, said the ads bought on Facebook were only “a much smaller part of a very large effort.”

“Mr. Goldman should have stayed silent,” Mr. Watts said, adding that playing down the effect of the influence campaign risked further angering Americans. “The public is upset that they got duped on Facebook’s platform. Facebook got duped,” he said. “It makes it seem like they don’t get it.”

While Facebook’s role in the Russian campaign is in the spotlight, some researchers who have studied the efforts note that it was far from the only institution to fall short.

“Let’s not mince words. The Obama administration did not react quickly enough to this problem. The intelligence community did not react quickly enough to this problem,” said Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University.</p>
Facebook  mueller  russia  election 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
A former Russian troll speaks: 'it was like being in Orwell's world' • Washington Post
Anton Troianovski interviewed one such:
<p>What was the working environment like — was it really like a factory?

There were two shifts of 12 hours, day and night. You had to arrive exactly on time, that is, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. There were production norms, for example, 135 comments of 200 characters each. … You come in and spend all day in a room with the blinds closed and 20 computers. There were multiple such rooms spread over four floors. It was like a production line, everyone was busy, everyone was writing something. You had the feeling that you had arrived in a factory rather than a creative place.

How did the trolling work?

You got a list of topics to write about. Every piece of news was taken care of by three trolls each, and the three of us would make up an act. We had to make it look like we were not trolls but real people. One of the three trolls would write something negative about the news, the other two would respond, “You are wrong,” and post links and such. And the negative one would eventually act convinced. Those are the kinds of plays we had to act out.

Do you think it worked?

Who really reads the comments under news articles, anyway? Especially when they were so obviously fake. People working there had no literary interest or abilities. These were mechanical texts. It was a colossal labor of monkeys, it was pointless. For Russian audiences, at least. But for Americans, it appears it did work. They aren’t used to this kind of trickery. They live in a society in which it’s accepted to answer for your words. And here — I was amazed how everyone was absolutely sure of their impunity, even as they wrote incredibly offensive comments. They were sure that with the anonymity of the Internet, no one would find them.

How much would you get paid?

Around 40,000 rubles a month [about $700 at the current exchange rate]. We’d work 12-hour days, two days on, two days off.</p>

I love the nose-wrinkling of "who really reads the comments under news articles, anyway?"
Russia  troll 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Trolls on twitter: how mainstream and local news outlets were used to drive a polarized news agenda • Medium
Jonathan Albright has done extensive (as in, <em>really</em> extensive work on how (Russian-controlled?) troll accounts went to work in the US election:
<p>The chart below is the top-line breakdown of where these 11-plus thousand external links in my set of 36.5k troll tweets from 2016 pointed to. This includes the expanded short URLs and redirects. This shows the news outlets the troll accounts (through tweeting, retweeting, and tweet-quoting) tended to re-broadcast from the middle of 2016 through election day:

<img src="*qxzDom0huWdY1pf0s3_vnQ.png" width="100%" />
<em>Top 25 most-linked news sources across 11.5k troll tweets (using thousands of expanded short links)</em>

Looking at this breakdown, a result from this sample of tens of thousands of tweets is that the most-shared news outlets from 11.5k links across 388 troll accounts in the six months leading up to the election isn’t your typical hyper-partisan “fake news.”

Sure, Breitbart ranks first, but it’s followed by a long list of what many would argue are credible — if not mainstream — news organizations, as well a surprising number of local and regional news outlets.

Another result from this analysis is the effect of “regional” troll accounts, aka the fake accounts with a city or region name in the handle (e.g., HoustonTopNews, DailySanFran, OnlineCleveland), which showed a pattern of systematically re-broadcasting local news outlets’ stories.

The linking pattern is also consistent: a large number of story links are Bitly-wrapped, and links to local outlets often originate through RSS or Google Feedproxy — to some degree co-opting local outlets’ content streams in an attempt to establish themselves and connect with local audiences.</p>

The collapse in local news outlets in the US (largely mirrored in the UK) magnifies this effect.
Russia  trolls  twitter  us  election  interference 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
What Mueller’s indictment reveals about Russia’s Internet Research Agency • New Yorker
Adrian Chen:
<p>The indictment names thirteen Russians, twelve of whom worked for a shadowy, Kremlin-connected outfit called the Internet Research Agency. The Agency has been linked to a campaign of online disinformation that included the creation of hundreds of fake political pages on Facebook and accounts on Twitter that were presented as belonging to everyday Americans; during the election, according to the indictment, this disinformation campaign was aimed at boosting Donald Trump, undermining Hillary Clinton, and sowing general “political discord” in the United States by supporting radical causes on both sides. It was sort of like a cutting-edge social-media marketing operation run, as the indictment alleges, by a St. Petersburg-based oligarch named Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Much of the information in the indictment isn’t new. The Agency was first noticed by Russian media outlets in 2014, when it was dedicated mainly to spreading online propaganda in support of pro-Russian separatists in the Ukraine conflict. In the spring of 2015, when the idea of a President Donald Trump was still a laughable fantasy, I travelled to St. Petersburg <a href="">to investigate the Agency</a>, which had recently started experimenting with targeting audiences outside Russia. As I conducted my reporting, I was myself the target of an elaborate smear campaign to label me a neo-Nazi sympathizer and U.S. intelligence agent—an early use of the kind of bizarre tactics that have been documented by numerous investigations in both the Russian and Western media, and by the internal investigations of social-media companies.

Yet the new indictment offers the most complete look yet at the Agency’s internal workings. Mueller’s investigators discovered that the Agency used a network of shell companies— entities with names like MediaSintez LLC, GlavSet LLC, and MixInfo LLC—to hide its activities and funding. The indictment alleges that the Agency employed hundreds of workers, and that by September, 2016, it had a monthly budget of more than $1.25m. The document details how the Agency’s “specialists” worked in day and night shifts, and the way they were constantly trying to measure the effect of their efforts. The employees ran fake conservative Twitter and Facebook accounts, and even planned (sparsely attended) real-life rallies.</p>
Russia  propaganda  fake 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
'Olympic Destroyer' malware hit Pyeongchang ahead of opening ceremony • Wired
Andy Greenberg:
<p>while neither Olympics organizers nor security firms are ready to point the finger at the Kremlin, the hackers seem to have at least left behind some calling cards that look rather Russian.

Over the weekend, the Pyeongchang Olympics organizers confirmed that they're investigating a cyberattack that temporarily paralyzed IT systems ahead of Friday's opening ceremonies, shutting down display monitors, killing Wi-Fi, and taking down the Olympics website so that visitors were unable to print tickets. (While Intel also scrubbed its planned live drone show during the opening ceremonies, the Pyeongchang organizing committee said in a statement that the cause was "too many spectators standing in the area where the live drone show was supposed to take place," rather than malware.)</p>

Russian (state) hackers don’t seem too concerned that people can figure out their motivation.
Russia  hacking  olympics 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian nuclear scientists arrested for 'bitcoin mining plot' • BBC
<p>Russian security officers have arrested several scientists working at a top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies.
The suspects had tried to use one of Russia's most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoins, media reports say.

The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area.

The centre's press service said: "There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining."

The supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet - to prevent intrusion - and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear centre's security department was alerted. They were handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian news service Mash says.

"As far as we are aware, a criminal case has been launched against them," the press service told Interfax news agency.</p>

Mining  russia 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Russian trolls ran wild on Tumblr and the company refuses to say anything about it • Buzzfeed
Craig Silverman:
<p>Russian trolls posed as black activists on Tumblr and generated hundreds of thousands of interactions for content that ranged from calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” to supporting Bernie Sanders and decrying racial injustice and police violence in the US, according to new findings from researcher Jonathan Albright and BuzzFeed News.

While Facebook and Twitter continue to face intense public and congressional pressure over the activity from trolls working for the Russian Internet Research Agency, Tumblr has somehow managed to escape scrutiny. But the blogging platform was in fact home to a powerful, largely unrevealed network of Russian trolls focused on black issues and activism.

“The evidence we've collected shows a highly engaged and far-reaching Tumblr propaganda-op targeting mostly teenage and twenty-something African Americans. This appears to have been part of an ongoing campaign since early 2015,” said Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

Tumblr and its parent company, Oath, did not reply to multiple emails with questions from BuzzFeed News. Despite not responding, tracking software shows the emails were opened more than 290 times, and the included links were clicked more than 70 times.

BuzzFeed News also did not receive a response from the office of Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.</p>

That’s a lot of clicking and sharing of those questions.
Buzzfeed  russia  trolls  tumblr 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Maersk reinstalled 45,000 PCs and 4,000 servers to recover from NotPetya attack • Bleeping Computer
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>These new details came to light yesterday, while Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman of [shipping company] A.P. Møller-Maersk, participated in a panel on securing the future of cyberspace at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

The incident Snabe was referencing is the NotPetya ransomware outbreak that hit companies around the world.

"I'll never forget, It was the 27 of June when I was woken up at 4 o'clock in the morning. A call came from the office that we had suffered a cyberattack," Snabe said.

"The impact of that is that we basically found that we had to reinstall an entire infrastructure," Snabe continued. "We had to install 4,000 new servers, 45,000 new PCs, 2,500 applications."

"And that was done in a heroic effort over ten days. Normally —I come from the IT industry— I would say it's gonna take six months. It took ten days," Snabe added, referring to his previous position as SAP's CEO.</p>

The CIA <a href=“”>has concluded</a> that Russia was behind NotPetya. Marrakesh did PK - it handled 80% of normal volume manually.
Notpetya  ransomware  Russia  hacking 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Update on Twitter’s review of the 2016 U.S. election • Twitter public policy blog
<p>As previously announced, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available.

Examples of IRA Content

Most user engagement was with a very small number of IRA-associated accounts… [a number of examples are provided…]…

…As part of our ongoing review, we have identified both more IRA and automated Russia-based accounts. The results of this supplemental analysis are consistent with the results of our previous work: automated election-related content associated with Russian signals represented a very small fraction of the overall activity on Twitter in the ten-week period preceding the 2016 election.

We have identified an additional 1,062 accounts associated with the IRA. We have suspended all of these accounts for Terms of Service violations, primarily spam, and all but a few accounts, which were restored to legitimate users, remain suspended.</p>

The question is not really whether these bots had an effect - they must have done - but whether it was significant. Removing the content makes that more difficult to find out and evaluate independently.
twitter  russia  election 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
The secret history of the Russian consulate in San Francisco • Foreign Policy
Zach Dorfman with a fascinating long read about the now-closed consulate and its former occupants:
<p>Some suspected Russian intelligence officers were found engaging in weird, repetitive behaviors in gas stations in dusky, arid burgs off Interstate 5, California’s main north-south artery. In one remarkably strange case, said one former intelligence official, two suspected Russian spies were surveilled pulling into a gas station. The driver stood next to his car, not purchasing any fuel. The passenger approached a tree, circling it a few times. Then they both got back into the car and drove away. Suspected Russian intelligence operatives would perform the same strange rituals multiple times at the same gas stations.

Multiple theories about these activities emerged. One was that the Russians were trying to confuse and overwhelm their FBI surveillance teams, in order to gauge just how extensive their coverage really was — in other words, to test the capacity of their counterspies. Another theory revolved around a long-standing communications technique among Russian spies, known as “burst transmissions,” wherein intelligence operatives transmit data to one another via short-wave radio communications. But for these, said another former intelligence official, you need a line of sight, and such transmissions are only effective at relatively short distances.

Many of these behaviors, however, didn’t seem to fit a mold. For one, the FBI couldn’t establish that these suspected Russian intelligence operatives — some of whom were spotted with little devices in their hands, others without — were engaging in any communications. But according to multiple sources, one recurrent and worrying feature of these activities was that they often happened to correspond to places where underground nodes connected the country’s fiber-optic cable network.</p>

And then it gets a whole lot more spooky.
Russia  spying  hacking 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Popular destinations rerouted to Russia • BGPmon
Andree Toonk:
<p>Early this morning (UTC) our systems detected a suspicious event where many prefixes for high profile destinations were being announced by an unused Russian Autonomous System.

Starting at 04:43 (UTC) 80 prefixes normally announced by organizations such Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitch, NTT Communications and Riot Games were now detected in the global BGP routing tables with an Origin AS of 39523 (DV-LINK-AS), out of Russia.

Looking at timeline we can see two event windows of about three minutes each. The first one started at 04:43 UTC and ended at around 04:46 UTC. The second event started 07:07 UTC and finished at 07:10 UTC.

Even though these events were relatively short lived, they were significant because it was picked up by a large number of peers and because of several new more specific prefixes that are not normally seen on the Internet. So let’s dig a little deeper.

One of the interesting things about this incident is the prefixes that were affected are all network prefixes for well known and high traffic internet organizations. The other odd thing is that the Origin AS 39523 (DV-LINK-AS) hasn’t been seen announcing any prefixes for many years (with one exception below), so why does it all of sudden appear and announce prefixes for networks such as Google? </p>

I won't pretend to understand this, but they don't think it's good.
internet  security  russia  infrastructure 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Fingerprints of Russian disinformation: from AIDS to fake news • The New York Times
Linda Qiu:
<p>Called Operation Infektion by the East German foreign intelligence service, the 1980s disinformation campaign seeded a conspiracy theory that the virus that causes AIDS was the product of biological weapons experiments conducted by the United States. At the time, the disease disproportionately afflicted gay men, and the Reagan administration’s slow response had escalated into suspicions in the gay community that the United States government was responsible for its origins.

“The K.G.B. picked up on that, and added a new twist with a specific location: Fort Detrick, Md.,” where military scientists conducted biological weapons experiments in the 1950s and 1960s, said Douglas Selvage, the project director at the Office of the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records in Berlin.

The K.G.B. campaign began with an anonymous letter in Patriot, a small newspaper published in New Delhi that was later revealed to have received Soviet funding. It ran in July 1983, under the headline “AIDS May Invade India: Mystery Disease Caused by U.S. Experiments” and pinned the origin of the disease to Fort Detrick.

The choice of Patriot was deliberate, said Thomas Boghardt, a military and intelligence historian who traced how the campaign unfolded. “It had no explicit links to the Soviets and was an English-language newspaper easily accessible to a global audience.

“The Soviets intuitively understood how the human psyche works,” Dr. Boghardt said. He said the playbook was simple but effective: Identify internal strife, point to inconsistencies and ambiguities in the news, fill them with meaning and “repeat, repeat, repeat.”</p>
fakenews  aids  russia 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
How the Kremlin tried to pose as American news sites on Twitter • Bloomberg
Selina Wang:
<p>The Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency operated dozens of Twitter accounts masquerading as local American news sources that collectively garnered more than half-a-million followers. More than 100 news outlets also published stories containing those handles in the run-up to the election, and some of them were even tweeted by a top presidential aide. These news imposter accounts, which are part of the 2,752 now-suspended accounts that Twitter Inc. has publicly disclosed to be tied to the IRA, show how the Russian group sought to build local communities of followers to disseminate messages.

Many of the news imposter accounts amassed their following by tweeting headlines from real news sites, while others sought to represent certain communities. They targeted a diverse set of regions across the political spectrum, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Several of the accounts were impersonating local news outlets in swing states, like @TodayPittsburgh, @TodayMiami and @TodayCincinnati.</p>

How soon before the US rules that Twitter is an agent of a foreign power?
twitter  russia  fake 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Inside Airbnb’s Russian money-laundering problem • Daily Beast
Joseph Cox:
<p>Scammers are leveraging Airbnb to launder dirty cash from stolen credit cards, according to posts on underground forums and cybersecurity researchers consulted by The Daily Beast.

The news shows how fraudsters will seize any opportunity they can, especially when there is an opening for pushing cash through online services, which sometimes require relatively little effort, a computer, and just a bit of creativity.

“People [have] been doing it forever,” one current and experienced credit-card scammer told The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast found a number of recent posts on several Russian-language crime forums, in which users were looking for people to collaborate with to abuse Airbnb’s service. According to Rick Holland, VP of strategy from cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows, these operations rely on an individual or group using legitimate or stolen Airbnb accounts to request bookings and make payments to their collaborating Airbnb host. The host then sends back a percentage of the profits, despite no one staying in the property. 

In essence, it’s a way to extract value out of stolen credit cards. In another case, fraudsters might buy electronic goods such as iPhones with stolen cards to then resell at a profit. This is the same idea of laundering funds, just with Airbnb.</p>
fraud  airbnb  crime  russia 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Facebook to show users which Russian propaganda they followed • Bloomberg
Sarah Frier:
<p>Facebook Inc. will show people which Russian propaganda pages or accounts they’ve followed and liked on the social network, responding to a <a href="">request from Congress</a> to address manipulation and meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

The tool will appear by the end of the year in Facebook’s online support center, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. It will answer the user question, “How can I see if I’ve liked or followed a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency?” That’s the Russian firm that created thousands of incendiary posts from fake accounts posing as U.S. citizens. People will see a list of the accounts they followed, if any, from January 2015 through August 2017.

It’s Facebook’s most direct effort to explain to users how they may have been affected by the IRA’s postings, which reached an estimated 150 million people and stirred up controversy over gun rights, immigration, race relations and religion in the U.S., sometimes prompting real-world protests on both sides of a debate. </p>

I bet this won't make the slightest bit of difference to those who've been persuaded by said propaganda.
facebook  russia 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
We knew Julian Assange hated Clinton. We didn’t know he was secretly advising Trump • The Intercept
Robert Mackey:
<p>[Barrett Brown, who went to prison for posting a link to a Wikileaks dump of Stratfor documents because those included credit card details] was particularly outraged by an Oct. 26, 2016 message, in which Assange had appealed to Trump Jr. to let WikiLeaks publish one or more of his father’s tax returns in order to make his group’s attacks on Hillary Clinton seem less biased. “If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” the Assange-controlled @Wikileaks account suggested. “That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.”

As Brown pointed out in another tweet, it was all-caps exasperating that Assange was in this case “complaining about ‘slander’ of being pro-Trump IN THE ACTUAL COURSE OF COLLABORATING WITH TRUMP.”

The journalist, an Intercept contributor, whose work had been championed by WikiLeaks, also shared a link to a Reddit AMA conducted two days after the election in which WikiLeaks staff, including Assange’s longtime collaborator Sarah Harrison, had denied point-blank that they had collaborated with the Trump campaign.

“The allegations that we have colluded with Trump, or any other candidate for that matter, or with Russia, are just groundless and false,” the staffers wrote then. “We were not publishing with a goal to get any specific candidate elected.”

It is not surprising that Brown felt personally betrayed by Assange, since, as he explained on Facebook Tuesday night, “I went to prison because of my support for WikiLeaks.” Specifically, Brown said, the charges against him were related to his role in “operations to identify and punish members of the government and members of private companies that had been exposed by Anonymous hackers of my acquaintance, via email hacks, as having conspired to go after Assange, to go after WikiLeaks.”

That sort of activism, dedicated to making public secret wrongdoing, Brown argued, is very different from “colluding with an authoritarian presidential campaign backed by actual Nazis while publicly denying it.”</p>
trump  wikileaks  russia 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian Twitter accounts promoted Brexit ahead of EU referendum: Times newspaper • Reuters
<p>The Times cited research from an upcoming paper by data scientists at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley, which it said showed accounts based in Russia had tweeted about Brexit in the days leading up to the June 23 vote.

The Times said most of the tweets seen by the newspaper encouraged people to vote for Brexit, although a number advocated remaining in the EU. It quoted Tho Pham, one of the paper’s authors, as saying “the main conclusion is that bots were used on purpose and had influence”.

The research tracked 156,252 Russian accounts that mentioned #Brexit, including one, Svetal1972 which posted 92 tweets between June 20 and 24, including one calling for Britain to “make June the 23rd our Independence Day”.

It said many of the messages appear to have come from automated accounts known as bots or from cyborg accounts which are heavily automated but have some human involvement.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million votes, or 51.9 percent of votes cast, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million votes, or 48.1 percent of votes cast, backed staying.</p>

Did it make all the difference? Unlikely. Did it make no difference? Also unlikely. So how much difference did it make?
brexit  russia  bots 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Russia Twitter trolls deflected Trump bad news • Associated Press
Ryan Nakashima and Barbara Ortutay:
<p>Disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year’s presidential election while straining to refocus criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to an Associated Press analysis of since-deleted accounts.

Tweets by Russia-backed accounts such as “America_1st_” and “BatonRougeVoice” on Oct. 7, 2016, actively pivoted away from news of an audio recording in which Trump made crude comments about groping women, and instead touted damaging emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Since early this year, the extent of Russian intrusion to help Trump and hurt Clinton in the election has been the subject of both congressional scrutiny and a criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. In particular, those investigations are looking into the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

AP’s analysis illuminates the obvious strategy behind the Russian cyber meddling: swiftly react, distort and distract attention from any negative Trump news.

An exclusive AP analysis found that disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year’s election while refocusing criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (Nov. 9)

The AP examined 36,210 tweets from Aug. 31, 2015, to Nov. 10, 2016, posted by 382 of the Russian accounts that Twitter shared with congressional investigators last week. Twitter deactivated the accounts, deleting the tweets and making them inaccessible on the internet. But a limited selection of the accounts’ Twitter activity was retrieved by matching account handles against an archive obtained by AP.</p>

This would be the election that Trump has been assured by Putin there was no meddling in?
trump  twitter  russia 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
What Carter Page told House Russia investigators • Bloomberg
Billy House and Shannon Pettypiece:
<p>Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, refused last week to give a congressional committee documents related to the Russia investigation because he said they might not all "match up" with information from earlier wiretaps that caught his conversations.

The House Intelligence Committee Monday night released a <a href="">243-page transcript</a> of his lengthy appearance behind closed doors with its Russia probe. Page, who said he never met or spoke with Trump, said that he did have contact with Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip in Moscow. But he insisted he wasn’t doing so as a representative of the Trump camp. 

"Unfortunately, I am the biggest embarrassment surrounding the campaign," he told the panel.</p>

1) crowded field
2) wiretaps - <em>plural??</em>
russia  trump 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian Twitter support for Trump began right after he started campaign • WSJ
Mark Maremont and Rob Barry:
<p>Kremlin-backed support for Donald Trump’s candidacy over social media began much earlier than previously known, a new analysis of Twitter data shows.

Russian Twitter accounts posing as Americans began lavishing praise on Mr. Trump and attacking his rivals within weeks after he announced his bid for the presidency in June 2015, according to the analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

A US intelligence assessment released early this year concluded the Kremlin developed a “clear preference” for Mr. Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, but cited December 2015 as the earliest suspected time that Russian social-media accounts advocated for Mr. Trump.

The earlier starting point of pro-Trump tweets highlights the breadth of the Russian effort to manipulate social media during the 2016 election. Kremlin-paid actors sowed division among Americans with fake pages and accounts, inflammatory postings and thousands of paid ads aimed at both liberal and conservative audiences, according to testimony before Congress last week.

The Journal analyzed 159,000 deleted tweets from accounts that Twitter identified to congressional investigators as operated by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.</p>

I get a feeling that the journalists on the WSJ are trying to send a not-so-subtle message to their editor about his support for Trump.
trump  russia  twitter 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Two popular conservative Twitter personalities were just outed as Russian trolls • Philadelphia Inquirer
Rob Tornoe:
<p>Jenna Abrams was a popular figure in right-wing social media circles. Boasting nearly 70,000 followers, Abrams was featured in numerous news articles during the 2016 election, spotlighted by outlets as varied as USA Today, the Washington Post, the BBC, and Yahoo! Sports. Her tweet about CNN airing porn during Anthony Bourdain’s show (it didn’t) was reported by numerous outlets.

But Abrams never existed.

According to information released by House Democrats earlier this week, Abrams was one of more than 2,750 fake Twitter accounts created by employees at the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” funded by the Russian government based in St. Petersburg. In addition to the Abrams account, several other popular conservative social media personalities — @LauraBaeley, SouthLoneStar, Ten_GOP — were all revealed to be troll accounts. All have been deactivated on Twitter.

According to the Daily Beast, the agency developed a following around the Abrams account by offering humorous, seemingly non-political takes on pop culture figures like Kim Kardashian. The agency also furnished the fake account, which dates back to 2014, with a personal website, a Gmail account and even a GoFundMe page.

Once the Abrams account began to develop a following, the tone of its tweets shifted from pokes and prods at celebrities to divisive views on hot topics like immigration and segregation.

“To those people, who hate the Confederate flag. Did you know that the flag and the war wasn’t about slavery, it was all about money,” the Abrams account wrote in April of 2016. The tweet quickly went viral, earning rebukes from historian Kevin Kruse and Al Letson, the host of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s popular Reveal podcast.

Those rebukes only allowed Abrams initial message to spread even wider, which was the ultimate intention of Russia’s propaganda campaign — to sow dissension and increase the racial divide among America’s voting populace, revealing the world’s only superpower as a country in decline.</p>

The other troll was a pro-Trump account, indistinguishable in its excitement from real-life American idiots wrongly excited about Trump.
trump  twitter  russia  fake 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Twitter sidestepped Russian account warnings, former worker says • Bloomberg
Selina Wang:
<p>In 2015, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley approached Twitter, asking for help, [Leslie] Miley said. They had found that Twitter had a significant amount of fake accounts, but wanted more data to further their research. Three employees on the product safety and security team, including Miley, met with them. They declined to give the academics data, but the meeting made them curious.

Afterward, the employees ran an analysis on Twitter's accounts. Miley [then a manager on the accounts team, responsible for the infrastructure handling logins] said he was stunned to find that a significant percentage of the total accounts created on Twitter had Russian and Ukrainian IP addresses. According to Miley's recollections, he brought the information to his manager, who told him to take the issue to the growth team. Miley said that he doesn’t have records of the tallies. 

"When I brought the information to my boss, the response was 'stay in your lane. That's not your role'," Miley said.

Miley said he advised the growth team to delete most of the accounts they had surfaced from Russia and Ukraine, since the analysis suggested that most were inactive or fake. The growth team didn’t take any action on the Russian and Ukrainian accounts after he presented the data to them, according to Miley.

Many pro-Trump bots that were active during the 2016 U.S. elections were long-dormant accounts, according to researchers. These profiles give the illusion that they’re legitimate, and not created for the sole purpose of spreading propaganda during a campaign, according to Samuel Woolley, research director of the Digital Intelligence Lab at Institute for the Future, a non-profit research organization.</p>

What a mess. We've always known that the only number that mattered to Twitter was the number of accounts, but this is terrible.
twitter  russia  politics  election 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Prosecutors consider bringing charges in DNC hacking case • WSJ
Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilber:
<p>The Justice Department has identified more than six members of the Russian government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and swiping sensitive information that became public during the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors and agents have assembled evidence to charge the Russian officials and could bring a case next year, these people said. Discussions about the case are in the early stages, they said.

If filed, the case would provide the clearest picture yet of the actors behind the DNC intrusion. US intelligence agencies have attributed the attack to Russian intelligence services, but haven't provided detailed information about how they concluded those services were responsible, or any details about the individuals allegedly involved.

The high-profile hack of the DNC’s computers played a central role in the US intelligence community’s assessment in January that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” Mr. Putin and the Russian government have denied meddling in the US election.</p>

There's a sort of quiet war going on between the WSJ's reporters and its editor. This story won't get much - if any - coverage on Fox News, which has consistently run with a wild story about an insider hack. All the evidence anyone can gather suggests it wasn't.
dnc  hacking  election  russia 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian content on Facebook may have reached 126 million users — far more than first disclosed, company testimony says • The Washington Post
Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin:
<p>Facebook plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that 126 million of its users may have seen content produced and circulated by Russian operatives, many times more than what the company previously disclosed about the reach of the disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.

Google on Monday acknowledged for the first time that its platforms were also compromised, revealing that Russian trolls uploaded over a thousand videos to YouTube on 18 different channels.

The disclosures, which are contained in draft testimonies obtained by The Washington Post ahead of three Capitol Hill hearings this week, come as tech giants face mounting pressure to more fully investigate how Russians used their platforms to influence American voters and reveal more of their findings to the public.

Previously, Facebook had focused its disclosures on Russian ads. The company has said that 470 accounts and pages run by a Russian troll farm had purchased roughly 3,000 ads, which the company said reached an estimated 10 million users. But the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency, also published free content. Researchers estimated that the spread of free content was far greater than that of ads and that Facebook has been under pressure to share more about those posts.</p>
facebook  russia  election 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Twitter was warned repeatedly about this fake account run by a Russian troll farm and refused to take it down • Buzzfeed
Kevin Collier:
<p>Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state's real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.

The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was "permanently suspended."

Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.

Twitter, already under fire, along with Facebook, for being slow to recognize its role in Russian election meddling, declined to comment. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company does not comment on individual accounts.

@TEN_GOP gained enough support from the far right that when it was finally shut down, commentators like Reddit’s pro-Trump r/the_donald forum expressed outrage. Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump internet activist who himself has more than 213,000 Twitter followers, questioned the action when Twitter temporarily suspended the account in July.</p>

Posobiec then deleted every one of this tweets referring to that account after Buzzfeed approached him for this story.
twitter  russia 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian journalists publish massive investigation into St. Petersburg troll factory's U.S. operations • Meduza
<p>The Internet Research Agency, Russia’s infamous “troll farm,” <a href="">reportedly</a> devoted up to a third of its entire staff to meddling in U.S. politics during the 2016 presidential election. At the peak of the campaign, as many as 90 people were working for the IRA’s U.S. desk, sources told RBC, revealing that the entire agency employs upwards of 250 people. Salaries for staff working in the U.S. department apparently range from 80,000 to 120,000 rubles ($1,400 to $2,100) per month.

The head of the IRA’s U.S. desk is apparently a man originally from Azerbaijan named Dzheikhun Aslanov (though he denies any involvement with the troll factory).

In August and September this year, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter suspended 118 communities and accounts run by the St. Petersburg “troll factory,” disabling a network capable of reaching 6 million subscribers. In 2016, at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, this network reportedly produced content that reached 30 million people each week.

A source also told RBC that the Internet Research Agency spent almost $80,000 over two years, hiring roughly 100 local American activists to stage about 40 rallies in different cities across the United States. The activists were hired over the Internet, communicating in English, without their knowledge that they were accepting money or organizing support from a Russian organization. According to RBC, internal records from the IRA verify its role in these activities.

The main activity in the troll factory’s U.S. desk was to incite racial animosity (playing both sides of the issue), and promoting the secession of Texas, objections to illegal immigration, and gun rights.</p>
russia  us  election  hacking  socialwarming 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
An ex St. Petersburg ‘troll’ speaks out: Russian independent TV network interviews former troll at the Internet Research Agency • Meduza
<p>According to "Max", the IRA’s [Russia's Internet Research Agency] “foreign desk” had open orders to “influence opinions” and change the direction of online discussions. He says this department within the agency considered itself above the “Russian desk,” which he claims is generally “bots and trolls.” The foreign desk was supposedly more sophisticated. “It’s not just writing ‘Obama is a monkey’ and ‘Putin is great.’ They’ll even fine you for that kind of [primitive] stuff,” Max told Dozhd. People in his department, he says, were even trained and educated to know the nuances of American social polemics on tax issues, LGBT rights, the gun debate, and more.

Max says that IRA staff were tasked with monitoring tens of thousands of comments on major U.S. media outlets, in order to grasp the general trends of American Internet users. Once employees got a sense of what Americans naturally discussed in comment forums and on social media, their job was to incite them further and try to “rock the boat.”

According to Max, the Internet Research Agency’s foreign desk was prohibited from promoting anything about Russia or Putin. One thing the staff learned quickly was that Americans don’t normally talk about Russia: “They don’t really care about it,” Max told Dozhd. “Our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia,” he claims. “Our task was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent, and to lower Obama’s support ratings.”</p>
russia  socialmedia  soclalwarming 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms • The Washington Post
Elizabeth Dwoskin, Adam Entous and Craig Timberg:
<p>Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company's investigation.

The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.

The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook -- a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.</p>

Still plenty more to come on this.
google  election  ads  russia 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Removed Facebook Pages: engagement metrics and posts - dataset by d1gi •
Jonathan Albright:
<p>The data presented here is a catalog of the non-promoted organic reach of the posts on each of the alleged foreign influence ops pages, showing the "total shared to" and sum of interactions (FB "reactions" + "likes" + shares, and comments) for each of the individual posts. Data was obtained directly from Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned social analytics service.

Along with the complete text archive for each of posts, this data sheds light on the larger potential impact of the use of Facebook's platform beyond of a single advertising buy. Specifically, the work presented here suggests that there was a much more subtle, if not outright subversive campaign on these five closed pages to:

a) Siphon Facebook users' data related to their personal views and moral standings about sensitive topics by observing their responses to suggestive statements followed by discussion questions and conversation prompts;
b) Use faux-support, trust-building, and actor deception to test users' attitudes, core values, religious beliefs, and push the boundaries of social norms (e.g., racism justification through immigration); and
c) Encourage users' to be tracked through emotional sharing vectors - "likes," "reactions," and url shares - to monitor issue "wedges," further segment audiences, and to identify "hot-button" issues and keywords around current events.</p>

In one case, one of the pages went overnight from 0 followers to between 70,000 and 200,000 followers. Either purchased, or bots. That's a determined campaign.

And notice this is non-promoted posts - so this isn't to do with the $100,000 in ads which targeted marginal states. (Albright is research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.)
facebook  russia  bots 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian hackers stole NSA data on US cyber defense • WSJ
Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris:
<p>Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the US penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.

The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said.

The theft, which hasn’t been disclosed, is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the US.

The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter.

The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.</p>

Aha. So this is why the US government has tacitly - well, perhaps not so tacitly - declared cyberwar on Kaspersky: they think it is feeding stuff back to the Kremlin. Kaspersky denies it.

And well done NSA on tightening up those safeguards against data exfiltration after Snowden in 2013 👌
nsa  kaspersky  security  russia  hacking 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Twitter finds hundreds of accounts tied to Russian operatives • The Washington Post
Elizabeth Dwoskin, Adam Entous and Karoun Demirjian:
<p>Twitter has shut down 201 accounts that were tied to the same Russian operatives who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook, the company told congressional investigators in a meeting Thursday and revealed in a blog in the afternoon.

The company also found three accounts from the news site RT — which Twitter linked to the Kremlin — that spent $274,100 in ads on Twitter’s platform in 2016.

The meeting between the company and Congressional investigators was part of a widening government probe into how Russian operatives used Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms to sow division and disinformation during the 2016 campaign. Those companies are under increasing pressure from Capitol Hill to investigate Russian meddling on their platforms and are facing the possibility of new regulations that could impact their massive advertising businesses.

Still, some lawmakers have raised questions over the tech industry grasps the serious nature of the problem.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Twitter’s presentation to a closed door meeting of lawmakers from the Senate and House was “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate on almost every level.”</p>

Only 201? I'd have thought it would be about a thousand times more at least.
twitter  russia 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
What we're doing about political ads • Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook
The Zuck is back from holiday, and he's getting to work:
<p>Here are 9 things we'll be working on over the next few months:

1. We are actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We have been investigating this for many months, and for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads. When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress -- and this morning I directed our team to provide the ads we've found to Congress as well. As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly. But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete.

2. We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government. We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools. These investigations will take some time, but we will continue our thorough review.

3. Going forward -- and perhaps the most important step we're taking -- we're going to make political advertising more transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they're required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don't know if you're seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser's page and see the ads they're currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.</p>

There's more, but note that the transparency is completely unlike <a href="">what Facebook argued in 2011</a>. Moved fast, broke things, now trying to fix them.
facebook  russia  advertising 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Fake Russian ads could have very real implications for Facebook • AdExchanger
Allison Schiff:
<p>“One of the radical things Facebook has done is to take the interfaces and dashboards that only people in ad tech ops used to look at and make them available to anyone with a credit card,” [professor of media design at The New Schoo, and Facebook critic David] Carroll said. “And now we’ve seen the effects of putting industrial-strength ad targeting tools into the hands of ordinary people and even foreign state adversaries.”

But that’s not to say Facebook puts out the welcome mat for anything and everything. Facebook’s ad quality team, which is now headed by ad tech vet Rob Leathern, is constantly vetting content in an never-ending game of cat and mouse.

“That’s why you’re not seeing nudity or iPad fill-out-this poll scams like you used to, and why people under 21 or people in Saudi Arabia don’t see ads for alcohol,” said former Facebook exec and “Chaos Monkeys” author Antonio Garcia Martinez, who led the team that built Facebook’s ad exchange and also helmed the ad quality crew in 2012, right around the time of the second Obama election.

“This content is tagged using machine learning and goes to a special workflow,” Garcia Martinez said. “There’s no reason Facebook couldn’t do this with political content as well.”

Facebook has long demurred that it’s a platform rather than a publisher. But current events are pushing Facebook to take more responsibility for the news and ad content it distributes, as well as to be more proactive in finding out who’s making money off the content or paying for ads.</p>

Martinez's intervention is notable.
facebook  russia  ads 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Purged Facebook page tied to the Kremlin spread anti-immigrant bile • The New York Times
Scott Shane:
<p>The notice went out on Facebook last year, calling citizens of Twin Falls, Idaho, to an urgent meeting about the “huge upsurge of violence toward American citizens” by Muslim refugees who had settled there.

The inflammatory post, however, originated not in Idaho but in Russia. The meeting’s sponsor, an anti-immigrant page called “Secured Borders,” was one of hundreds of fake Facebook accounts created by a Russian company with Kremlin ties to spread vitriolic messages on divisive issues.

Facebook acknowledged last week that it had closed the accounts after linking them to advertisements costing $100,000 that were purchased in Russia’s influence campaign during and after the 2016 election. But the company declined to release or describe in detail the pages and profiles it had linked to Russia.

A report by the Russian media outlet RBC last March, however, identified the Secured Borders page as the work of the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg firm that employs hundreds of so-called trolls to post material in support of Russian government policies. A Facebook official confirmed that Secured Borders was removed in the purge of Russian fakes…

…It also promoted the Aug. 27, 2016, meeting in Twin Falls, called “Citizens before refugees,” which was <a href="">first reported by The Daily Beast</a>. The call came amid incendiary claims, linking Muslim refugees in Twin Falls to crime, that circulated on far-right websites last year. In May, Alex Jones, of the conspiracy site, retracted a claim that the Twin Falls yogurt company Chobani, which had made a point of hiring refugees, had been “caught importing migrant rapists.”

Shawn Barigar, the mayor of Twin Falls, said that the City Council Chambers, where the supposed meeting was called on a Saturday, were closed that day and that officials did not recall any gathering. But he said that after two years of “robust debate” over the city’s refugee resettlement program, which dates to the 1980s, it was “kind of surreal” to discover that Russia had joined in.</p>

This reminds me of a Philip K Dick short story called "<a href="">If There Were No Benny Cemoli</a>" which - because he was a genius ahead of his time - is all about fake news and fake events. Something about this really gives me the shivers.
facebook  fakenews  russia 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
The fake Americans Russia created to influence the election • The New York Times
Scott Shane:
<p>Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

<img src="" width="100%" />
<em>A Facebook post, by someone claiming to be Melvin Redick, promoting a website linked to the Russian military intelligence agency G.R.U. Credit The New York Times</em>

The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site’s phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.</p>

This is quite an investigation, done by the NYT with FireEye.
facebook  russia  trolls  election 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
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