Putin’s Failure in Ukraine Could Fuel Russia Election Interference | Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta/Business Insider

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has been been an unexpected and historic challenge for Russia: the Russian military is suffering global embarrassment over its inability to tamp down fierce Ukrainian resistance; the Russian economy has been decimated; and the last shreds of Putin’s international reputation are in tatters. But experts say Putin’s military failures and his status as a global pariah could make him more likely to double down on another of his goals: manipulating foreign elections and sowing distrust in democratic systems. “Because of the resistance Russia has gotten and NATO becoming even stronger, Russia has to show a sign of dominance on the cyber side, just from a playbook perspective,” David Kennedy, a former NSA hacker and the CEO of TrustedSec, told Insider. “So Putin and the intelligence agencies are going to look at how to cause as much damage as possible.” He added that the voting and election process in the US “is a ripe target” because of its vulnerability and the success Russia saw with its 2016 election interference efforts.

Full Article: Putin’s Failure in Ukraine Could Fuel Russia Election Interference

Russia: With prizes, food, housing and cash, Putin rigged Russia’s most recent vote | Regina Smyth/The Conversation

When Russians voted in early July on 200 constitutional amendments, officials rigged the election to create the illusion that President Vladimir Putin remains a popular and powerful leader after 20 years in office. In reality, he increasingly relies on manipulation and state repression to maintain his presidency. Most Russians know that, and the world is catching up. At the center of the changes were new rules to allow Putin to evade term limits and serve two additional terms, extending his tenure until 2036. According to official results, Putin’s regime secured an astounding victory, winning 78% support for the constitutional reform, with 64% turnout. The Kremlin hailed the national vote as confirmation of popular trust in Putin. The vote was purely symbolic. The law governing constitutional change does not require a popular vote. By March 2020, the national legislature, Constitutional Court and Russia’s 85 regional legislatures had voted to enact the proposed amendments. Yet, the president insisted on a show of popular support and national unity to endorse the legal process.

Russia: Putin’s Landslide Referendum Victory Is Slammed by Critics | Georgi Kantchev and Ann M. Simmons/Wall Street Journal

The day after a landslide vote that cemented President Vladimir Putin’s quest to prolong his stay in power for up to another 16 years, critics slammed the plebiscite as undemocratic, while supporters praised the results as validating his policies. Preliminary results showed that 78% of voters Wednesday approved Russia’s largest constitutional overhaul since the end of the Soviet Union that included a provision resetting presidential limits for Mr. Putin and allowing him to potentially stay in power until 2036. This would make him the longest-serving leader in Russia’s modern history, surpassing Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who ruled for almost three decades. The broad support underscores Mr. Putin’s grip on power and the value Russians place on stability and continuity, analysts and voters said. Russia’s Central Election Commission reported a 68% voter turnout. All but one of Russia’s regions voted in favor, with Moscow recording 65% support and St. Petersburg, Russia’s second city, reporting 78%. Final results will be announced Friday. On Thursday, Mr. Putin thanked Russians for their “support and trust,” during a video meeting with the Victory committee, a Kremlin-backed advisory body, and said that Russia needed to continue on the same path.

Russia: The Theatrical Method in Putin’s Vote Madness | Andrew Higgins/The New York Times

Russia’s seven-day national plebiscite, intended to keep President Vladimir V. Putin in power until at least 2036, delivered the expected verdict on Wednesday: Early results showed that three-quarters of voters had given their endorsement. Less clear, however, was why Mr. Putin even needed voters to approve a raft of constitutional amendments that, already ratified by the national parliament in Moscow and regional legislatures across the country, entered into law months ago. “From a juridical point of view, this whole exercise is insane,” said Greg B. Yudin, a sociologist and political theorist at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences. But, he added, “it is not at all a meaningless procedure,” because Russia’s system under Mr. Putin depends on the appearance of popular support to confer legitimacy on decisions he has already made. “It is theater, but very important and well-played theater. The system needs to stage displays of public support even when it doesn’t have it,” Mr. Yudin said. “This vote is putting Putin’s theatrical techniques to the test.”

Russia: ‘It looks like a gameshow’: Russia’s pseudo-vote on Putin’s term limits | Andrew Roth/The Guardian

The people of Moscow received text messages this week telling them they had been registered to win “millions of prizes”. The catch? They have to vote on constitutional amendments that include allowing Vladimir Putin to remain in the Kremlin potentially until 2036. Organisers of Russia’s pseudo-referendum to amend the constitution – originally scheduled for 22 April but delayed owing to the coronavirus outbreak – appear to be making up the rules as they go along. In a single vote, Russians must choose whether to support a package of amendments that include pension and minimum wage boosts, a modest reorganisation of government, a constitutional mention of “faith in god”, a ban on gay marriage, exhortations to preserve Russian history, and a ban on top officials holding dual citizenship. Ads for the vote barely mention that it will also reset term limits for Putin, who has ruled since 2000. It is not an official referendum and the rules are custom-designed. Unlike in normal elections, voting is allowed online and takes place over a week, between 25 June and 1 July. As Russia continues to grapple with the coronavirus, some voting officials have decided it is safer to collect ballots outdoors, planting ballot boxes on tree stumps, in the boots of cars, in public buses and on plastic patio furniture.

Russia: Moscow sets up gift certificate raffle to entice referendum voters | Deutsche Welle

As the vote on constitutional reforms draws near in Russia, a senior city official in Moscow pledged over 2 million vouchers as prizes for referendum voters. “The certificates would be valid exclusively in the Moscow consumer service industry, restaurants, and trade companies,” official Alexei Nemeryuk was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. Every Muscovite who votes in the referendum would “receive a code, and there will be a raffle for points.” “After the raffle, the people would receive points that they can use,” he added. Nemeryuk, who heads Moscow’s capital trade and services sector, said the raffle aims to stimulate the economy in the Russian capital. The city of 12.5 million people had faced weeks of lockdown while struggling with the coronavirus outbreak. The move could also serve to boost the turnout in the referendum. If adopted, the government-backed reforms would allow the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to stay in office until 2036. The vote was originally set for April 22, but the Kremlin was forced to postpone it because of the coronavirus.

Russia: Moscow Said to Hire Kaspersky to Build Voting Blockchain With Bitfury Software | Anna Baydakova/CoinDesk

Voting and blockchain have been a controversial couple but Moscow appears determined to use the technology for a national referendum involving President Vladimir Putin. Russia will vote on changing its constitution, adopted in 1993, on July 1. The main issue to be decided is whether to allow Russia’s president to stay in power for more than the current limit of two consecutive six-year terms. Most of the nation will use traditional paper ballots, but residents of Moscow and the Nizhny Novgorod region will have the option of casting their votes electronically and, at least in the Muscovites’ case, having them recorded on a blockchain. According to an official page dedicated to electronic voting, Moscow’s Department of Information Technologies, which is working on the technical solution, plans to use Bitfury’s open-source enterprise blockchain, Exonum. “The blockchain technology is working in the Proof of Authority mode,” the page says in Russian. “A smart contract for the ballot ledger will be recording the votes in the system, and after the voting is complete it will decode them and publish them in the blockchain system.” The Department of Information Systems did not respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment by press time. Bitfury’s spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s involvement in the project.

Russia: Despite rising virus cases, Putin sets July 1 for vote to extend his rule for years | Vladimir Isachenkov/Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday set a July 1 date for a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments allowing him to extend his rule until 2036, even as the nation is continuing to record high numbers of new coronavirus cases. Speaking during a live video call with top officials, Putin insisted that the pace of the outbreak has slowed down, allowing the nation to safely hold the vote. If approved, the constitutional amendments would allow Putin to spend another 12 years in power after his current term ends in 2024. The Russian leader argued that Russia will have 30 days before the vote to take additional efforts to control contagion and make the ballot fully safe. The vote was postponed from April 22 due to the pandemic. “We have fulfilled the main task — to prevent the explosive negative development of the situation,” Putin said. “It allows us to return to normal life as the situation is gradually stabilizing.” Officials reported to Putin that voters will have a chance to cast ballots in the six days before July 1 to reduce crowds and increase safety amid the pandemic. They said they would distribute free masks, gloves and pens at polling stations, adding that voting would be held outdoors in many areas to make it even safer.

Russia: Putin changes Russia’s electoral law to allow remote vote | Elena Pavlovska/New Europe

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Saturday approved changes to the country’s electoral law, allowing the public to vote electronically or by mail in future polls, the Kremlin said. The new law allows the Central Election Commission to organise voting by mail or via the Internet. The gathering of signatures needed to qualify for elections can be conducted through a special government website. Supporters of the new system say it will help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Critics complain that an electronic system will be easier to manipulate and that Russians will not be able to protest against the changes because of the coronavirus lockdown. In January, Putin proposed changes to the constitution that could pave the way for his indefinite rule, and remained secretive about the reforms he proposed, saying that they were intended to strengthen government bodies.

Russia: Coronavirus Threat Delays Vote to Keep Putin in Power | Charles Maynes/VoA News

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Russia’s growing crisis surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus — postponing a constitutional referendum whose key provision provides a path for the longtime Russian leader to retain power beyond the end of his current term and far into the next decade. The nationwide vote was to have taken place in April. “The absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people. Therefore, I believe that the vote should be postponed until a later date,” said Putin in a hastily scheduled address to the nation on Wednesday. The decision came as a government task force said the number of suspected coronavirus cases in Russia surged past the 800 mark, with the government embracing tighter restrictions and acknowledging the deaths of two elderly patients due to complications from the virus. This marked the first time Russia attributed deaths to a global contagion. “What is happening today in many Western countries, both in Europe and overseas, can become our immediate future,” warned Putin. “We must understand that Russia, simply because of its geographic location, cannot isolate itself from the threat.”

Russia: Russian media ‘spreading Covid-19 disinformation’ | Jennifer Rankin/The Guardian

Pro-Kremlin media have been spreading disinformation about coronavirus with the aim of “aggravating” the public health crisis in the west, the European Union’s diplomatic service has concluded in a leaked report. An EU monitoring team collected 80 examples of disinformation from Russian sources in nearly two months up to 16 March. Coronavirus was claimed to be a biological weapon deployed by China, the US or the UK. Other conspiracy theories contended the outbreak was caused by migrants or was a pure hoax. “Pro-Kremlin media outlets have been prominent in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, with the aim to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems,” states the report, seen by the Guardian. The European commission’s chief spokesperson on foreign and security policy, Peter Stano, said there had been an increase in “disinformation, misleading information, outright lies and wrong things” since the start of the outbreak. The commission had noticed, he said, an increase in disinformation from Russia, providers based in the country and those with links to pro-Kremlin sources.

Russia: U.S. drops charges against accused IRA sponsor over concerns Russia would weaponize evidence | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

U.S. prosecutors said on Monday they would drop criminal charges against two Russian firms accused of funding disinformation efforts ahead of the 2016 election, amid concerns that the companies would weaponize evidence in the trial to boost future operations. The U.S. Department of Justice charged the two companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, in 2018 as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Both shell firms funded Russian efforts to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to divide public opinion in the U.S., prosecutors said. With a trial set to begin April 6, though, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The abrupt change came after U.S. attorneys complained in prior court filings they would need to provide the defendants with some details about the U.S. government’s sources and methods for its national security investigation. Justice Department officials had expressed trepidation over whether Concord would release or somehow use details about its intelligence-collection for the defendants’ own gain, according to the New York Times.

Russia: Justice Department abandons prosecution of Russian firm indicted in Mueller election interference probe | Spencer S. Hsu/The Washington Post

The Justice Department on Monday dropped its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The stunning reversal came a few weeks before the case — a spinoff of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — was set to go to trial. Assistants to U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea of Washington and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers cited an unspecified “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination,” according to a nine-page filing accompanied by facts under seal. Prosecutors also cited the failure of the company, Concord Management and Consulting, to comply with trial subpoenas and the submission of a “misleading, at best” affidavit by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a co-defendant and the company’s founder. Prigozhin is a catering magnate and military contractor known as “Putin’s chef” because of his ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events . . . the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord . . . promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” federal prosecutors wrote.

Russia: How Russian election meddling is back before 2020 vote — via Ghana and Nigeria — and in your feeds | CNN

The Russian trolls are back — and once again trying to poison the political atmosphere in the United States ahead of this year’s elections. But this time they are better disguised and more targeted, harder to identify and track. And they have found an unlikely home, far from Russia itself. In 2016, much of the trolling aimed at the US election operated from an office block in St. Petersburg, Russia. A months-long CNN investigation has discovered that, in this election cycle, at least part of the campaign has been outsourced — to trolls in the west African nations of Ghana and Nigeria. They have focused almost exclusively on racial issues in the US, promoting black empowerment and often displaying anger towards white Americans. The goal, according to experts who follow Russian disinformation campaigns, is to inflame divisions among Americans and provoke social unrest. The language and images used in the posts — on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — are sometimes graphic. One of the Ghanaian trolls — @africamustwake — linked to a story from a left-wing conspiracy website and commented on Facebook: “America’s descent into a fascist police state continues.”

Russia: Kaspersky wants you to vote on its machines | Robert Stevens/Decrypt

Now now, settle down; just because Kaspersky is a Russian company with (ALLEGED) ties to its government, that doesn’t mean that the new blockchain-based voting system, developed by Polys, a Russian company that came out of Kaspersky’s innovation lab, is trying to manipulate elections.  All Polys wants from you is to cast your anonymous vote on your country’s next leader through its blockchain-based voting machines. The system’s secure, it claims, because it decentralizes vote information on several blockchain nodes. Vote organisers can choose the computers on which they store this data from trusted organizations. And to use the machines, voters must prove their identities by submitting various documents, which nets them a unique and private QR code.

Russia: U.S. Targets Russian ‘Evil Corp’ Hacker Group With Sanctions, Indictments | Ian Talley & Sadie Gurman/Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration Thursday placed a $5 million bounty on the leader of a Russian hacker group called Evil Corp for his alleged work for Moscow’s intelligence agency, part of what U.S. officials say is a broader reprisal for a Kremlin-directed cyber offensive against the U.S. The State Department’s action against Maksim Yakubets coincides with Treasury Department sanctions and indictments by the Justice Department and the U.K.’s National Crime Agency against core members of the group, which is accused of orchestrating the theft of more than $100 million from more than 300 banks in the U.S. and dozens of other countries. The cyber theft, using malware that stole credentials and passwords, isn’t believed to be directed by Russian intelligence, though a senior administration official said the activities couldn’t have been carried out without the knowledge of the Russian government. But the Treasury Department said Mr. Yakubets was conducting separate work for Russia’s Federal Security Service as of 2017, and was seeking a license to handle classified intelligence with the agency in April of last year. The State Department bounty is for information that leads to the capture or conviction of Mr. Yakubets.

Russia: Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says | Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg/The New York Times

Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit. The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative.” She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it. In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair. The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.

Russia: The Russian attempt to swing 2020 for Trump | James Adams/Spectator USA

American intelligence is warning of a concerted effort overseen by Russian president Vladimir Putin to swing next year’s presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Reports prepared by the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency are unequivocal, detailing a two-pronged Russian strategy: sow dissension inside America by manipulating social media and attack the voting process itself. There is also concern that a new front could be opened in this battle by the use of deepfakes, videos generated using artificial intelligence that recreate the image and voice of anyone, who can be made to say and do anything. The leading Democratic candidate, for example, could be seen to suggest pardoning Patrick Crusius, the man who killed 22 people in El Paso in August. Such fake videos are both easy to make and difficult to detect, and they could undermine any candidate. Already in the Democratic primaries, trolls have been hard at work influencing the conversation. One fake meme that proved popular, for example, declared that every Democratic candidate had changed his or her name. ‘Democrats are so fraudulent and corrupt that they don’t even use their real names with the American people,’ claimed the meme, which said Cory Booker’s real name is Tony Booger and Bernie Sanders’s is Bernard Gutman.

Russia: How Russian operatives also used Google to influence Americans in 2016 | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

While Russian propagandists relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to spread disinformation before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a new congressional report elaborates on how they also used Google and YouTube to sway Americans’ public opinion in favor of Donald Trump. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a report detailing expansive, and ongoing, information warfare directed against American internet users. The 85-page explanation confirmed much of what was already known about Russian operations: a Kremlin-directed effort utilized an array of social media networks, with their targeted advertising capabilities, to provoke and confuse likely voters ahead of a contentious presidential election. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were the most crucial aspects of this effort, though Russia’s Internet Research Agency also leveraged Google and its subsidiaries for its own gain. “Periodically, particularly in the context of fast breaking news, Google’s algorithm can elevate extremist content or disinformation to the top of certain searches,” the Senate report said. “Days after the 2016 presidential election, a falsified media account of President-elect Donald Trump having won the popular vote briefly ranked higher than stories that accurately reflected the U.S. popular vote result.”

Russia: CIA source pulled from Russia had confirmed Putin ordered 2016 meddling | Zack Budryk/The Hill

A CIA asset reportedly pulled from Russia in 2017 played a major role in the agency’s determination that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to The New York Times. The informant, while not in Putin’s inner circle, interacted with him regularly and was privy to decisionmaking at high levels of the Russian government, according to the Times. Information on the informant’s identity was so carefully guarded that it was kept out of then-President Obama’s daily security briefings in 2016, instead transmitted in separate sealed envelopes. In 2016, high-level CIA officials ordered a full review of the source’s record and grew suspicious he might have become a double agent after he rejected an offer of exfiltration from the agency, according to the Times. Other officials said these concerns were alleviated when the source was offered a second time and accepted.

Russia: Masked man tasers Russian election chief before regional vote | Reuters

A masked man broke into the home of Ella Pamfilova, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, in the early hours of Friday morning and repeatedly tasered her, Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said. The attack came two days before Russians vote in regional elections, including in Moscow. The vote in the Russian capital has triggered weeks of protests after Pamfilova and her colleagues refused to register a slew of opposition-minded candidates. Election officials said the barred candidates had not collected enough genuine signatures to take part in Sunday’s election, an allegation the candidates denied. “The masked intruder broke in through a window and got onto the house’s terrace and repeatedly tasered the home owner (Pamfilova) and then fled,” the ministry said in a statement.

Russia: Anger over alleged Moscow election tampering spurs protest | Nataliya Vasilyeva/Associated Press

Thousands of people marched across central Moscow on Saturday to protest the exclusion of some city council candidates from the Russian capital’s local election, but did not result in riot police making mass arrests and giving beatings like at earlier demonstrations. Opposition-led protests erupted in Moscow this summer after election officials barred more than a dozen opposition and independent candidates from running in the Sept. 8 election for the Moscow city legislature. Some marchers on Saturday held placards demanding freedom for political prisoners: 14 people arrested in earlier protests face charges that could send them to prison for up to eight years. The only police seen along the route to Pushkin Square were traffic officers, a contrast to the previous unsanctioned demonstrations where phalanxes of helmeted, truncheon-wielding riot police confronted demonstrators. At earlier protests, authorities did not allow key opposition figures to get anywhere near the places they were held. Individuals were detained outside their homes and sent them to jail for calling for an unpermitted protest. This time, the protest leaders attended the gathering unhindered.

Russia: Moscow’s blockchain-based internet voting system uses an encryption scheme that can be easily broken | Sugandha Lahoti/Security Boulevard

Russia is looking forward to its September 2019 elections for the representatives at the Parliament of the city (the Moscow City Douma). For the first time ever, Russia will use Internet voting in its elections. The internet-based system will use blockchain developed in-house by the Moscow Department of Information Technology. Since the news broke out, security experts have been quite skeptical about the overall applicability of blockchain to elections. Recently, a French security researcher Pierrick Gaudry has found a critical vulnerability in the encryption scheme used in the coding of the voting system. The scheme used was the ElGamal encryption, which is an asymmetric key encryption algorithm for public-key cryptography. Gaudry revealed that it can be broken in about 20 minutes using a standard personal computer and using only free software that is publicly available. The main problem, Gaudry says is in the choice of three cyclic groups of generators. These generators are multiplicative groups of finite fields of prime orders each of them being Sophie Germain primes. These prime fields are all less than 256-bit long and the 256×3 private key length is too little to guarantee strong security. Discrete logarithms in such a small setting can be computed in a matter of minutes, thus revealing the secret keys, and subsequently easily decrypting the encrypted data. Gaudry also showed that the implemented version of ElGamal worked in groups of even order, which means that it leaked a bit of the message. What an attacker can do with these encryption keys is currently unknown, since the voting system’s protocols weren’t yet available in English, so Gaudry couldn’t investigate further.

Russia: Prominent journalist Alexey Venediktov has accused ‘Meduza’ of cheating to prove Moscow’s online voting system is hackable. He’s wrong. | Mikhail Zelenskiy/Meduza

This September’s elections for the Moscow City Duma have already gained renown for inspiring regular mass protests, but they are also remarkable for another reason: In three of the Russian capital’s districts, voters will be able to use an online system to select their new representatives. Moscow’s Information Technology Department held intrusion tests on GitHub in late July to verify the integrity of the system: Officials gave programmers several opportunities to attempt to decrypt mock voting data, and each round of data was subsequently published so that it could be compared to the results of those hacking attempts. On August 16, Meduza reported on French cryptographer Pierrick Gaudry’s successful attempt to break through the system’s encryption. To confirm that the encryption keys used in the system are too weak, we also implemented Gaudry’s program ourselves. City Hall officials responded to the successful hackings by refusing to post its private keys and data, thereby preventing outsiders from confirming that the system had indeed been hacked. Instead, Ekho Moskvy Editor-in-Chief Alexey Venediktov, who is also leading the citizens’ board responsible for the elections, accused Meduza of abusing the testing process. Here’s why he’s wrong.

Russia: Moscow’s blockchain voting system cracked a month before election | Catalin Cimpanu/ZDNet

A French security researcher has found a critical vulnerability in the blockchain-based voting system Russian officials plan to use next month for the 2019 Moscow City Duma election. Pierrick Gaudry, an academic at Lorraine University and a researcher for INRIA, the French research institute for digital sciences, found that he could compute the voting system’s private keys based on its public keys. This private keys are used together with the public keys to encrypt user votes cast in the election. Gaudry blamed the issue on Russian officials using a variant of the ElGamal encryption scheme that used encryption key sizes that were too small to be secure. This meant that modern computers could break the encryption scheme within minutes. “It can be broken in about 20 minutes using a standard personal computer, and using only free software that is publicly available,” Gaudry said in a report published earlier this month. “Once these [private keys] are known, any encrypted data can be decrypted as quickly as they are created,” he added.

Russia: Blockchain Voting System in Moscow Municipal Elections Vulnerable to Hacking: Research Report | Trevor Holman/CryptoNewsZ

A recent research report by a French cryptographer demonstrates that a blockchain voting framework utilized in Moscow’s municipal elections is susceptible to hacking. The researcher at the French government research establishment CNRS, Pierrick Gaudry, have examined the open code of the e-voting platform dependent on Ethereum in his paper. Gaudry inferred that the encryption plan utilized by a portion of the code is “totally insecure.” The research report titled, “Breaking the encryption scheme of the Moscow internet voting system” by Pierrick Gaudry, a researcher from CNRS, French governmental scientific institution had examined the encryption plan used to verify the open code of the Moscow city government’s Ethereum-based platform for e-voting. Gaudry concluded that the encryption scheme utilized by a portion of the code is entirely insecure by clarifying –

We will show in this note that the encryption scheme used in this part of the code is completely insecure. It can be broken in about 20 minutes using a standard personal computer and using only free software that is publicly available. More precisely, it is possible to compute the private keys from the public keys. Once these are known, any encrypted data can be decrypted as quickly as they are created.

Russia: More than 1,000 people detained in Moscow amid clashes over city council election, monitor says | Anton Troianovski and Siobhán O’Grady/The Washington Post

Russian police in riot gear detained more than 1,000 protesters Saturday at a demonstration against the exclusion of opposition politicians from the ballot for an upcoming city council election, a monitoring group said, marking another flare of anti-government defiance a week after Moscow’s largest opposition rally in years. Police said around 3,500 people gathered near City Hall for the unauthorized protest organized by prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Earlier this week, a Russian court sentenced Navalny to 30 days in jail for calling for the demonstration. A handful of other prominent opposition politicians also were arrested before the rally took place. OVD-Info, a monitoring group that tracks political arrests in Russia, said more than 1,000 people were detained during police sweeps Saturday. State-run news agencies, including Tass, also reported more than 1,000 detentions, citing police. In previous mass detentions, many people were released after being held for several hours. The Moscow police had earlier said they had made 295 arrests, the Associated Press reported, but did not offer a final number. Police also stormed a TV studio belonging to Navalny that was live-streaming the protests on YouTube, and arrested Vladimir Milono, who was in charge of the program. Navalny previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow in 2013.

Russia: Protests return to Moscow as opposition candidates are banned from a crucial election | Vladimir Kara-Murza/The Washington Post

More than 20,000 Muscovites gathered Saturday on Andrei Sakharov Avenue — the site of the mass anti-Putin protests in 2011 — to demand that the authorities rescind their ban on opposition candidates participating in a crucial Moscow election. “We do not exist for them, they only notice us when it’s time to pay taxes,” Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent anticorruption activist, told the rally. “From now on, there will be no taxation without representation. … I am proposing a peaceful public compromise: either you register every candidate, or next Saturday we will gather for a rally at Moscow City Hall!” The election for the Moscow City Duma — the legislative body that passes laws and adopts the budget for Russia’s 12-million-strong capital and its most important political center — will be held on Sept. 8. But the most consequential fraud has already been committed. Last week, Moscow’s electoral commissions — bodies that are supposed to act as impartial arbiters in administering elections but are in reality the first line of defense for the incumbent government — disqualified nearly all viable opposition candidates from the ballot. For weeks, some of Moscow’s (and Russia’s) best-known democracy activists — including Dmitri Gudkov, once the lone opposition voice in the country’s parliament; Ilya Yashin, a colleague of the late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was recently elected to lead one of the city’s municipal districts; and Lyubov Sobol, the lead lawyer at Navalny’s Anticorruption Foundation — raced to meet an impossible threshold: collect some 5,000 signatures each to get on the ballot. The task was made more formidable not only by logistical challenges in the midst of the vacation season, but also because each signature on the petition means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters.

Russia: Moscow Protesters Call Local Elections Rigged | Associated Press

Russian opposition leaders led a rally in Moscow of about 1,000 people Sunday to protest the city election commission’s decision that will keep several opposition candidates off the ballot in a local election. The unsanctioned rally was billed as a meeting between opposition leaders and voters after the Moscow election commission rejected signatures needed to qualify the candidates for the September city parliament election. Demonstrators chanted “We are the authority here!” and “Putin is a thief.” Police made no effort to intervene until later in the evening, after the protest crowd had largely dispersed and opposition leaders called for the remaining participants to stage an overnight sit-in at the election commission. Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was not seen at the protest. The demonstration was led, in various stages, by opposition figures Dmitry Gudkov, Ilya Yashin and Lyubov Sobol. “We were collecting the signatures under rain and in the heat,” Gudkov said. “And you know what (the election commission) told us yesterday? They told us that our signatures are fake. Many of the people who gave me their signatures are here today. Friends, do you agree?” The crowd responded: “No!”

Russia: Russia’s trolling tactics are getting more elaborate | Shannon Vavra/CyberScoop

Facebook’s early May takedown of a Russian political disinformation operation was much larger than previously thought, according to research published this weekend by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. The Russian-linked actors behind the campaign went well beyond just amplifying political narratives on Facebook, and in fact began much earlier by planting false stories and then later amplifying these fake stories using fake accounts. In one case, these Russian-linked actors impersonated Sen. Marco Rubio’s Twitter account in a tweet that made it look like he was disparaging Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters. Then-Defense Secretary of the UK Gavin Williams was also victim to a similar photoshop effort. One of the false stories that the Russian trolls created and amplified through fake accounts includes a storyline that a Spanish intelligence agency rooted out an anti-Brexit pilot to assassinate Boris Johnson. Johnson is now in the running to serve as the UK’s next prime minister.