Enemies of Putin targeted in newly discovered Russian disinformation campaig

The claims, detailed in the report by research firm Graphika, were rarely subtle. Clinton in 2016 was dubbed a “MURDERER.” Political rivals were depicted as incompetent or alcoholics. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which barred Russia and many of its athletes from the 2016 Olympics, was falsely accused of colluding with pharmaceutical companies.

Graphika, despite working closely with researchers from numerous social media companies, was unable to identify what part of Russia’s sprawling intelligence operations were responsible for the disinformation effort. But the motive, researchers said, was clear — to malign and divide people and organizations disliked by Putin and seen as threats to his power, particularly in Ukraine.

The researchers called the operation Secondary Infektion, a reference to the Soviet era “Operation Infektion,” which spread the false claim that the United States created the virus that causes AIDS.

“If Secondary Infektion had a motto, it would be ‘divide and conquer,’ said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika. “It looks like the overall goal of the operation was to divide and discredit the countries and institutions it targeted, setting allies against one another and driving wedges between Kremlin critics.”

Because of its extreme stealth, researchers said, Secondary Infektion was not as effective as better-known operations, such as the divisive social media campaign waged by the Internet Research Agency during the 2016 presidential election or the theft by Russian military intelligence operatives of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails, which were later posted online.

But the report underscores the ambition, sweep and scale of Russian disinformation operations, while also offering a timely reminder that such efforts are likely to persist as the United States heads into a hotly contested presidential election in November.

“Hostile foreign actors — including Russia, China and Iran — will continue to attempt to sow division,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who praised Graphika’s effort to uncover malign activity.

“It is critical that government officials, lawmakers, the media and the American public remain vigilant as foreign adversaries continue to seek to divide us, and the U.S. government needs to continue working with social media platforms and others to identify misinformation connected to foreign powers.”

Lee Foster, manager of information operations analysis with the cybersecurity firm FireEye, which has also tracked Secondary Infektion activities, said the operation is “one part of the broader messaging by Russia of Eastern European and Baltic audiences to discredit regional governments and maintain influence over regional audiences. It’s a tool in this giant apparatus of influence.”

Secondary Infektion campaigns featured fake news articles and forged documents. Another hallmark was the creation of “burner” accounts that were used only once, then fell dormant. Such single-use accounts make it difficult to identify who is behind them and suggest that this was the work of an intelligence agency concerned…

Read More: Enemies of Putin targeted in newly discovered Russian disinformation campaig

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More