Dispatch (August 27th) from the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Alliance for Securing Democracy, German Marshall Fund
Securing Democracy Dispath
August 27, 2018

Microsoft and social media companies uncover influence campaigns from Iran, Russia: Last week, Microsoft announced it dismantled a phishing campaign by the Russian state-sponsored hacking group Fancy Bear (also known as APT28 or Strontium, and linked to Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU) targeting two conservative organizations, the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Separately, Facebook, Twitter, and Google removed hundreds of fake accounts associated with an apparent Iranian social media influence operation, as well as a number of accounts connected to the Russian government. Facebook removed 652 pages, groups, and accounts; Twitter suspended 284 accounts; and Google removed 39 YouTube channels, 6 blogs, and 13 Google+ accounts. The Russian activity focused on politics in Ukraine and Syria, including a connection to Inside Syria Media Center, a group that often spreads pro-Russian and pro-Assad content; Facebook linked the accounts to sources previously identified as connected to Russia’s GRU. Cybersecurity firm FireEye released a report on the suspected Iranian influence operation, which promoted “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes,” and supported policies favorable to Iran. According to the report, the campaign targeted people in the United States, United Kingdom, Latin America, and the Middle East. Following the announcement, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement highlighting that Iran is “now following the Kremlin’s playbook from 2016” and that he had long said “that there’s no way the problem of social media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt.” In June, ASD’s Policy Blueprint for Countering Authoritarian Interference in Democracies highlighted that “Other authoritarian regimes … have already adopted and begun to deploy asymmetric tools for their own interference operations.” Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence September 5. (Microsoft, Los Angeles Times, Facebook, Twitter, Google, FireEye, Warner.Senate.gov, Alliance for Securing Democracy)