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Senator: Russia used 'thousands' of internet trolls during US election

Grant Gross | March 31, 2017
Disinformation campaign was designed to raise questions about the US process, experts say.

The Russian disinformation and hacking campaigns were "not a crisis, not something that will pass soon," Rumer added. "It is the new normal. We will see Russia relying on this toolkit in the months and years to come."

While Russian disinformation campaigns are nothing new, Russian hackers seemed to change their tactics in mid-2014, said Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye. Instead of covering their tracks, they continued their hacking campaigns even after being identified by security researchers, he said.

The Russian hackers also began "operating at a scale and scope where you could easily detect them," Mandia added.

During the U.S. election, Russia operatives "left behind more clues and more traces than ever before," added Thomas Rid, a professor in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.

The Russian disinformation campaign goes even beyond elections, Watts said. An April 2014 petition on the U.S. White House website demanded the country give Alaska back to Russia.

The petition generated 39,000 signatures in a short time, with many signatures appearing to come from bots used to push Russian propaganda months earlier, Watts said. 

Soviet-era disinformation tactics "have been reborn and updated for the modern Russian regime in the digital age," he said.

 

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