Tag: Russia

FBI is investigating Russian gaming of the US election

 

The FBI is investigating how Russia used an internet army to bombard America with right-wing news and fake stories when candidate Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump was on the defensive during the 2016 election.

The Untouchables are concerned that some of those news outlets might have worked to help Russian operatives.

Led by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, the investigation is examining how stories from sites like Breitbart News, InfoWars, and the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, were spread across the internet.

The investigation, the sources said, is examining whether certain far-right sites took any action to aid Tsar Putin.

In early January 2017, America’s intelligence agencies concluded Russia had mounted a disinformation campaign to influence the US election and picked out RT’s American division as one of the culprits.

FBI Director James Comey told a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the issue that Russia’s efforts were targeted to “hurt our democracy” and specifically “hurt” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and “help” current President Donald Trump.

Of course, he did a little bit of that himself during the election and managed to keep his job after Trump took office.

Investigators are now looking at millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to real stories, and others that mixed fact and fiction, on conservative websites sent out by social media bots. These computer programmes, of “bots,” were operated by Russia on multiple social media accounts and were programmed and coordinated to spread and amplify messages across the internet.

Russia apparently used these social media accounts to bombard the internet with pro-Trump stories at times during the campaign when he was on the defensive against Clinton.

Russian bots and paid trolls used the timed release of information “to propagate stories underground and these stories appear to have been amplified by fringe elements of our media like Breitbart.

The investigation into the bots is just one branch of several investigations being run by the FBI probing Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. Others are working to identify those behind the hacks and publication of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, leading Republicans, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta.

Others are pursuing leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian intelligence officers before the November election.

This is the first time that Comey has revealed officially that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile Alex Jones of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars has claimed that the whole thing is a witch hunt by the left. “I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘I’m not a Russian stooge,’ because it’s a ******* lie,” said on his talk show.

Spooks warned of election gaming Russians

After successfully convincing the US public to vote for a bloke who owes his friends money, Tsar Vladimir Putin is working out a way to game the coming Euro elections to get his favourite candidates elected.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of the GCHQ spying agency has warned political parties to protect themselves against potential cyber-attacks.

A letter from NCSC head Ciaran Martin said that after the problems in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.

“Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond (political parties) and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts,” it said.

The NCSC did not confirm that the main cybersecurity risk was Russia, but it was possible to guess, reading between the lines.

Foreign minister Boris Johnson said: “We have no evidence that the Russians are actually involved in trying to undermine our democratic processes at the moment… but what we do have is plenty of evidence that the Russians are capable of doing that. And there is no doubt that they’ve been up to all sorts of dirty tricks,” he told ITV television’s “Peston on Sunday”.

The French government this month dropped plans to let its citizens abroad vote electronically in legislative elections in June because of concern about the risk of cyber-attacks.

Russian cyber treason charges are ancient

Treason charges against two Russian state security officers and a cyber-security expert are based on allegations made by a Russian businessman seven years ago.

The arrests concern allegations that the suspects passed secrets to US firm Verisign and other unidentified American companies, which in turn shared them with the US spooks.

Ruslan Stoyanov, head of the computer incidents investigation team at Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, was arrested and charged with treason in December along with two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev.

The arrests were a result of accusations first made in 2010 by Pavel Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman and founder of ChronoPay, an online payments company. Vrublevsky has told the press that that the arrests were a response to his claim that Stoyanov and Mikhailov had passed secrets on to American firms.

Verisign denies that it received any secret information. The firm’s iDefense unit compiled dossiers on cybercrime for clients including private firms and government agencies that include U.S. intelligence services, but it says its research did not contain classified information.

However, it did know Stoyanov, a former Russian cybercrime copper who later had a career as a consultant.

But Kimberly Zenz, a former analyst at Verisign’s iDefense unit who knows Stoyanov said that nothing like the arrangement as described by Pavel Vrublevsky ever took place.

Verisign Vice President Joshua Ray said his company acquired information in unclassified ways and does not believe its reports to government agencies and other customers included state secrets.

Kaspersky is just pointing out the charges against Stoyanov related to a period before he joined the company in 2012.

What is weird about the story is that the the Russian authorities had taken no action over the allegations made by Vrublevsky against Stoyanov and Mikhailov for so long.

The only coincidence is that the arrests came shortly after the United States accused Russia of trying to influence its presidential election through computer hacking.

It is thought that Moscow intends the arrests as a signal, in response to the US hacking accusations, that it would now take action against forms of cooperation that it previously tolerated.

After Vrublevsky first made his allegations against Stoyanov and Mikhailov, he was arrested and convicted on charges of organizing a cyber-attack on a rival Internet payments firm that competed with ChronoPay. He is now free on parole and has always denied guilt.

 

Russian hackers seek to game Euro elections

After their success in helping get Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump elected in the US, Tsar Putin has set his Russian hackers gaming the EU elections, a US DoJ bloke has warned.

A former Justice Department official who served in the Obama administration said European countries must be willing to respond forcefully to efforts by Russia or others to use cyber-attacks to meddle in their elections.

While the US was also aware that attacks were taking place they didn’t manage to stop Putin getting a bloke who owes him and his chums money from getting elected.

Former Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who ran the national security division at the Justice Department and oversaw the pursuit of cyber criminals, said the United States did not do enough to deter the hacking and leaking of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“What we did was too late. We weren’t bringing deterrence at all to the table.”

Carlin warned that countries with upcoming elections should be prepared to offer forceful and timely responses to cyber-attacks.

“Pre-election, it’s vital that not just the United States but partners like Germany, like France make it clear what the red line is, that there’s going to be strong deterrence and that in terms of deterrence, our policy has got to be we are going to take action until the action stops,” Carlin said.

Elections are set this year in European countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands.

US senators investigate Russian hacking

russian-villagersWhile Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump is denying his chum Tsar Vladimir Putin unleashed his team of hackers to help him win the election, senior U.S. intelligence officials will testify in Congress on Thursday on Russia’s alleged cyber-attacks during the 2016 election campaign.

Trump has not been briefed on the hacks yet, but that has not stopped him denying they took place.  He is apparently going to receive details on the DMC hack today.

He is already heading for a spat with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom don’t like Putin and distrust Trump’s praise of the chap.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin.

Their testimony on cyber threats facing the United States will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election.

US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election, a conclusion supported by several private cybersecurity firms. Moscow denies it.

US intelligence officials have also said the Russian cyber-attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Several Republicans acknowledge Russian hacking during the election but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win.

Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were leaked to the media in advance of the election, embarrassing the Clinton campaign.

Trump and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize his election victory by accusing Russian authorities of helping him.

However, he has not helped his case by nominating Moscow-friendly types to senior administration posts, including secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, who while Exxon Mobil chief executive, was awarded the Order of Friendship, a Russian state honour, by Putin in 2013.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also hold a closed-door hearing today to look at Russia’s alleged hacking and harassment of US diplomats.

 

Germany thinking of fining Facebook for each fake news story

German coat of armsThe German government is thinking of slapping a huge fine on Facebook for each fake news story it publishes.

For those who came in late, fake news is the latest thing.  It is news which is sometimes called “satire” in the US by people who don’t know what satire is.  It is normaly conspiracy laden rubbish which no sane person would believe and is tailored to repeat things that people want to believe. It was considered a factor in the election of  the Russian-backed Donald (prince of Orange) Trump in the US.

Germany is worried. Particularly as it fears that the Far-Right in its country will use fake news to stir up trouble about immigrants.  After all they have a long history of doing just that. According to the article, “Lawmakers in the country are reportedly hoping it will prevent Russia from interfering in Germany’s elections next year.”

The government of Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a ‘fake news’ story up without deleting it.

Germany’s parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party Thomas Oppermann said in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that the law would reportedly apply to other social networks too.

“If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros.”

Under the law, “official and private complainants” would be able to flag news on Facebook as fake. Facebook and other affected social networks would have to create “in-country offices focused on responding to takedown demands,” the report says. The bill, slated for consideration next year, is said to have bipartisan support.

 

 

Czech form police fake news unit to defend against Putin

putin-buzz1The Czech Republic is setting up a new counter-terrorism unit to combat the rise of fake news or “foreign disinformation campaigns.”

Dubbed the “The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats” the unit will start operations on January 1.

Apparently the new center will monitor internal security threats, including attacks on soft targets and extremism, as well as “disinformation campaigns related to internal security.”

Czech spooks have been allowed that the Russians have been running disinformation and cyber-espionage activities against the Czech Republic, European Union and NATO. The Czech Republic is due to hold a general election next year and it is a bit worried that Tsar Putin will attempt to put his favour candidate in power – in much the same way as he did in the US elections.

According to the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) annual report, Russia in 2015 used “influence and information operations” to try to manipulate public opinion in the Czech Republic in relation to Syria and Ukraine. Russia is involved in conflicts in both these countries.

The report claimed that Russia’s hybrid warfare operations included “weakening the strength of Czech media” through “covert infiltration of Czech media and the Internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state.”

Russian operations included founding puppet organizations, the “covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects,” and “disrupting the coherence and readiness of NATO and the EU.”

“The above-mentioned activities pose a threat to the Czech Republic, EU and NATO not only in relation to the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. “The infrastructure created for achieving these goals will not disappear with the end of the two conflicts. It can be used to destabilise or manipulate Czech society or political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so.”

According to the Czech interior ministry, its new unit won’t be interrogating anyone, censoring online content or bringing legal proceedings, nor will it “have a button for ‘switching off the internet.'” But it will monitor threats, inform the public about “serious cases of disinformation” and promote internal security expertise.

White House rushes to lock out Russian hackers

Vladimir Putin - Wikimedia CommonsThe White House is rushing to stop Russian hackers from gaming future US elections before Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes over and lets them get away with it.

President Obama wants to implement measures to penalise Russia for allegedly interfering in the US presidential elections. In 2015, the White House announced new economic sanctions, which authorised the Obama administration to punish and prevent foreign hackers who attack US national security and economy.

The National Security Council, the sanctions fall short of providing the current administration enough power to punish the biggest and most controversial cyberattack that hit the Democratic National Committee so now it is trying to work out how to tailor the sanctions to punish the Russian election hackers.

According to reports, one way of striking back at the Russian election hackers would be to declare electoral systems as critical infrastructure and what the Russians did actually harmed it,

The White House is seeking to employ measures that not only provide authority to penalise hackers who harm national security, but also prevent such attacks in the future.

US authorities blame Russian state-sponsored hackers for targeting political parties in efforts to interfere in the elections and help Trump secure a victory. The White House’s allegations were bolstered by US intelligence and the FBI’s analysis of the attacks, which also hold Russia responsible for its interference in the elections.

The worry is that if the Russians think “that worked pretty well” they will try to do it every-time the US has an election until they get the sort of government they want. The fear is that when Trump enters the White House he will abandon any moves to shore up the defenses against Russia because he owes them rather a lot of money.  If the rules are in place before he takes over, it might be more difficult for him to bin them.

US drones turned over by Russian hackers

orvillecopter-bart-jansen-cat-droneWhile the US has spent a fortune on drone technology, that gear has never actually had to stand up to an opponent that can fight back.

The situation is a bit like the days of the British colonial wars where the prerequisite of a campaign was that the enemy should under no circumstances carry guns. Drones can buzz around blowing up who they like safe in the knowledge that the Iraqis, Isis or Afghans have not got anything to stop them.

According to a new Reuters report  all that is coming unstuck in the Ukraine which has spent a fortune on US drone technology only to find itself deployed against the Russians who know how to take it out.

Millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied drones that Kiev had hoped would help in its war against Russian-backed separatists have proven ineffective against jamming and hacking.

The 72 Raven RQ-11B Analog mini-drones were so disappointing following their arrival this summer that Natan Chazin, an advisor to Ukraine’s military with deep knowledge of the country’s drone programme, said if it were up to him, he would send them back to the US.

He said that it was a wrong decision to deploy the AeroVironment drones in the Ukraine conflict where the separatists have their own Russian made high tech gear which can intercept and jam their video feeds and data.

For some reason the drones use an analogue signal which means that the the command channels and data are not protected from interception and suppression.

The US itself is a bit spooked.  It had convinced itself since the Cold War was over that the Russians could not technologically match it. Arrogantly it assumed it was the masters of electronic warfare only to discover that Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities were far more sophisticated than thought.

The U.S. Army told Reuters it still uses Ravens but has upgraded them to digital versions, but the Ukrainians apparently can’t have these. One of the US officials cautioned about limitations on America’s ability to export drones that can evade Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities.  The US is still smarting from IS capturing shedloads of its gear from the Iraqis.

The Ukrainians have found the older tech so useless that the do not use them in the front lines and are mostly in storage.

This was because they allowed the enemy to see Ukrainian military positions and, when it wanted, easily take them down. Their battery life was too short to be useful at gaining intelligence on artillery positions, he said. Meanwhile it is continuing the build its own drones from commercially available tech.

Putin likes Sailfish

Vladimir Putin - Wikimedia CommonsJolla’s Sailfish OS appears to have interested Tsar Putin’s Russian Kingdom.

The mobile OS is made by a Finnish company and is being touted as a rival to Android. The open saucy code appears to have attracted the all-seeing eye of Putin who is rather keen to get his nation off its addiction to decadent western technology which is often made by homosexuals.

The government has said it wants to radically reduce its reliance on foreign mobile OSes by half in 2025 vs the 95 percent of the market garnered by Android in 2015. Two OSes were being considered – Sailfish and Tizen. Now Sailfish has achieved domestic certification in Russia for government and corporate use it looks like it has sent its rival Tizen packing.

Sailfish’s local certification in Russia also follows an announcement earlier this year that a new Russian company, Open Mobile Platform (OMP), had licensed the OS with the intention of developing a custom version of the platform for use in the domestic market.

This means that a Russian, strategic ‘Android alternative’ is currently being built on Sailfish.