Russia Admits Major Info Warfare Mission

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Russia has admitted for the first time its significant investment in information warfare.

Defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, made the claims when addressing the lower house of the country’s parliament (Duma) this week, according to local reports.

He said a cyber army had been established within the Russian military, according to the state-controlled TASS news agency.

"The information operations forces have been established, that are expected to be a far more effective tool than all we used before for counter-propaganda purposes," he said. "Propaganda should be smart, competent and effective.”

This tallies very much with the allegations of state-backed interference in the US elections. It is alleged by the US security services that Russian spies stole and then released sensitive Democratic Party officials’ emails to undermine the result and push it in Donald Trump’s favor.

This kind of activity was labelled “cyberpropaganda” by Trend Micro in its 2017 predictions report, The Next Tier.

It also includes state agents posting propaganda to social media accounts, taking advantage of the limited checks many such platforms have on fake news and the like.

“The upcoming elections in France and Germany, including subsequent movements similar to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) … will be influenced by what is being shared and done using electronic media. We will likely see more sensitive information used in cyberpropaganda activities stem from espionage operations such as PawnStorm,” noted the report.

“Entities that are able to navigate public opinion using this means in a strategic manner will be able to produce results that favor them. In 2017, we will see much more use, abuse, and misuse of social media.”

The Russian tactics were also dissected by ThreatConnect, which pointed to a rise in so-called “faketivism” – that is, state spies who create the personas of lone hacktivists in order to spread sensitive hacked material online for political ends.

This is what “Guccifer 2.0” did prior to the US presidential election, using WikiLeaks as a platform to legitimize its actions.

One of the hardest things for the white hats to come to terms with is that this step-up in Russian cyber aggression is usually not intended to promote a Russian ideology – as per the Cold War – but rather to undermine Western democracy, so that voters and citizens don’t know who to trust anymore.

News organizations and social media sites are beginning to respond, with initiatives such as CrossCheck, designed to ensure “hoaxes, rumors and false claims are swiftly debunked.”

But with the current US president denouncing legitimate media as “fake news” and the social media echo chamber effect amplifying any fake news to credulous netizens, they have their work cut out.

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