I Hope Keeping The Russians Out Of The 2020 Elections Isn’t Part Of Kushner-In-law’s Portfolio

Written by on March 10, 2019

An editorial in the Washington Post stirred up a little brouhaha this morning because an International Women of Courage Award for Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro was rescinded by the State Department after it was discovered that Aro is a Trump-hater. Lost in the kerfuffle was that it was Aro who helped expose the Internet Research Agency, as the preeminent Russian troll factory that spreads propaganda online and helped steal the 2016 election for Señor Trumpanzee. Speaking of which… also this morning: Alyza Sebenius reported that the U.S. election experts at the Internet Research Agency are shifting their strategy to steal 2020 for Trump again. Will Trump’s Justice Department prevent Russian infiltrators from stealing the election for Trump? Exciting!

Sebenius wrote that “Russian internet trolls appear to be shifting strategy in their efforts to disrupt the 2020 U.S. elections, promoting politically divisive messages through phony social media accounts instead of creating propaganda themselves, cybersecurity experts say.” Remember, the vast majority of Trump supporters have significantly lower IQs than average Americans and are easy prey for this kind of Russian propaganda. Normal people tend to shrug it off as silly, manipulative and far-fetched. Sadly, your typical Trump supporter will eat it up and swear by it, especially if it’s reinforced by fascist mass media (Limbaugh, Fox, Sinclair, etc).

“Instead of creating content themselves, we see them amplifying content,” said John Hultquist, the director of intelligence analysis at FireEye Inc. “Then it’s not necessarily inauthentic, and that creates an opportunity for them to hide behind somebody else.”

Other hackers are breaking into computing devices and using them to open large numbers of social media accounts, according to Candid Wueest, a senior threat researcher at Symantec Corp. The hacked devices are used to create many legitimate-looking users as well as believable followers and likes for those fake users.

While covert efforts to amplify divisive content originated by others isn’t a new technique, hackers and trolls seem to be embracing it heavily in advance of the next U.S. presidential election.

Wueest said he observed a decrease in the creation of new content by fake accounts from 2017 to 2018 and a shift toward building massive followings that could be used as platforms for divisive messages in 2020.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking at the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, said social media remains a primary avenue for foreign actors to influence U.S. elections, and the bureau is working with companies on the problem.

“What has continued virtually unabated and just intensifies during the election cycles is this malign foreign influence campaign, especially using social media,” Wray said. “That continues, and we’re gearing up for it to continue and grow again for 2020.”

Apparently the U.S. was successful in keeping the Russians from interrupting the 2018 midterms. You knew that already, right? U.S. Cyber Command launched a cyberattack on the Russian troll farm, knocking out their internet access on election day, shutting them down for a few days.

The American military took down a Russian troll farm last Election Day in a cyberattack that continued for several days after the vote, part of what United States officials have said is a persistent campaign to block and deter interference in American democracy.

The operation was intended to prevent the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, from spreading propaganda or disinformation aimed at undermining confidence in the midterm vote or the results of the election, American officials said.

The operation was aimed at taking the Internet Research Agency off line for several days, from Election Day until the results were certified by local officials.

…Intelligence agencies had assessed that the Russian troll farms that create and spread disinformation in the United States and Europe were likely to step up their disinformation activity on the day of the vote and while votes were being counted.

Officials said the Election Day operations were part of a larger campaign led by United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency to secure the midterm vote. Those operations began with a campaign of direct messages sent to Russian operatives who had created disinformation and propaganda aimed at sowing dissent and undermining confidence in American voting systems. Those direct messages were aimed at deterring the creators of propaganda.

…After the election, under another White House executive order, the director of national intelligence conducted an analysis of foreign interference during the midterm election.

That report, which has not been made public, found that the Russians sought to interfere in the vote, not by trying to hack voting machines but by spreading disinformation. The report found that Russia used social media, fake personas and Moscow-controlled media to inflame opposite ideological sides with an aim of further polarizing the United States.

On Capitol Hill, intelligence committee officials declined to discuss the Election Day cyberoperation.

But after a hearing on the rise of authoritarianism in Russia, China and elsewhere, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said Russian efforts to interfere in elections were continuing.

“There is a prioritized part of the Russian agenda to not just interfere in our democracy but interfere in democracies in Europe,” Mr. Schiff said. “They are pushing their authoritarian model to undermine institutions that reinforce democracy.”

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