Evidence confirms Russian hackers, fake news targeting Europe’s elections


Credit: Coda/Sofiya Voznaya

The campaign of the French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for previous attacks on elections in Western democracies election, the New York Times reports:

Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords…. Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group. …

On Tuesday, Trend Micro’s researchers plan to release their report detailing cyberattacks in recent weeks against Mr. Macron’s campaign — as well as members of Germany’s Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, a political foundation linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party — in what appears to be the latest Russian effort to influence political outcomes in the West.

 “This is the new normal,” said Tom Kellermann, a cyberintelligence expert and the chief executive at Strategic Cyber Ventures. “Geopolitical events will now serve as harbingers for these types of attacks.”

The Kremlin was reportedly disappointed by the results of the first round of the French presidential election.

An Oxford University study published on 22 April 2017 found that French voters are being hit with automated political content generated by “bots” — but French social media users are more likely to share legitimate news stories. Yet the “junk news” making the rounds in France, according to the studyhas a political agenda, Snopes reports:

This content [junk news] includes various forms of propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan, or conspiratorial political news and information. Much of this content is deliberately produced false reporting. It seeks to persuade readers about the moral virtues or failings of organizations, causes or people and presents commentary as a news product. This content is produced by organizations that do not employ professional journalists, and the content uses attention grabbing techniques, lots of pictures, moving images, excessive capitalization, ad hominem attacks, emotionally charged words and pictures, unsafe generalizations and other logical fallacies.

East-West relations are now “harsher” than during the Cold War, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The two sides were then involved in conflicts in third countries but “never on their own borders or directly. Even public rhetoric was softer,” he said. “Then neither crossed the limits of the permissible. Today, there are no more rules.” [HT: Paul Goble’s Window on Eurasia].

Russia has hacked the Danish defense ministry and gained access to employees’ emails in 2015 and 2016, NATO member Denmark’s defense minister told newspaper Berlingske on Sunday, Reuters adds:

The report comes at a time when several Western governments, including the United States, France and Britain, have accused Russia of resorting to hacking to influence elections — allegations Moscow has repeatedly dismissed as baseless. A report from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service’s unit for cyber security said “a foreign player” had spied against Danish authorities and gained access to non-classified documents.

Credit: Coda/Sofiya Voznaya

After working for Kremlin TV, a Russian reporter explains how the state turns journalists into propagandists, Coda reports.

Dmitry Kiselyov entered our newsroom wearing an elegant suit and a victorious smile, notes Ilya Kizirov, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian-language service. Three days earlier, on December 9, 2013, President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree dramatically reorganizing Russia’s media landscape. Kiselyov, the man whom Western media has labelled the Kremlin’s “chief propagandist,” was about to become my new boss at RIA Novosti, he writes for Coda:

For years, RIA Novosti had been one of the most unusual media organizations in Russia: a state-run agency with an excellent reputation for balanced and fair reporting. Putin’s decree meant that RIA would be absorbed by a new organization called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today). If the English-language RT was meant to bring the official Russian point of view to the West, “Rossiya Segodnya” would focus on domestic audiences. Kiselyov was appointed as its CEO. RTWT

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