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.Full Article: The Russian attempt to swing 2020 for Trump | Spectator USA.
Articles about voting issues in the Russian Federation.
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.”Full Article: How Russian operatives also used Google to influence Americans in 2016.
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.Full Article: CIA source pulled from Russia had confirmed Putin ordered 2016 meddling: NY Times | TheHill.
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.Full Article: Masked man tasers Russian election chief before regional vote - Reuters.
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.Full Article: Anger over alleged Moscow election tampering spurs protest - The Boston Globe.
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.Full Article: Moscow’s blockchain-based internet voting system uses an encryption scheme that can be easily broken - Security Boulevard.
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.Full Article: Prominent journalist Alexey Venediktov has accused ‘Meduza’ of cheating to prove Moscow's online voting system is hackable. He's wrong. — Meduza.
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 are known, any encrypted data can be decrypted as quickly as they are created,” he added.Full Article: Moscow's blockchain voting system cracked a month before election | ZDNet.
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.Full Article: Blockchain Voting System in Moscow Municipal Elections Vulnerable to Hacking: Research Report - CryptoNewsZ.
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.Full Article: More than 1,000 people detained in Moscow amid clashes over city council election, monitor says - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: Protests return to Moscow as opposition candidates are banned from a crucial election - The Washington Post.
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!”Full Article: Moscow Protesters Call Local Elections Rigged.
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.Full Article: Russia's trolling tactics are getting more elaborate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday reaffirmed his staunch denial that his government meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election despite the extensive evidence to the contrary, and insisted Moscow has no intention of interfering in any future votes, either. Speaking in response to a question from The Associated Press during a meeting with chief executives of international news agencies in St. Petersburg, the Russian leader said that “we didn’t meddle, we aren’t meddling and we will not meddle in any elections.” Putin and other Russian officials have hotly denied any interference with the U.S. vote to help Donald Trump win the presidency, even though U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered evidence of a Kremlin operation to interfere with the 2016 vote. He charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party emails, and also indicted other Russians who used phony social media accounts to spread divisive rhetoric and to undermine the U.S. political system.Full Article: Putin says Russia didn’t meddle in US vote, despite evidence - The Washington Post.
The State Duma will consider a bill envisaging a test remote voting via electronic communications during the elections to the Moscow parliament in the second reading on May 16, the Moscow City Duma Chairman Alexey Shaposhnikov has told journalists. Under the draft law, the test voting is to be conducted in only one city district. The remote voting would require changes and development of public control over the elections, Alexander Brod, a member of the Presidential Council of Human Rights, said earlier. Previously, the Central Election Commission (CEC) proposed to ease the procedure governing the elections of municipal deputies.Full Article: E-voting bill faces second reading in Russia’s lower house of parliament | RAPSI.
Russia’s lower house of parliament has passed a law allowing electronic voting in public elections – despite complaints that MPs’ own electronic voting system was being abused. Communist Aleksei Kurinny said fewer than half the MPs who backed the bill were actually present to vote. Earlier, his colleague Sergei Ivanov said some MPs were abusing the system by voting on behalf of colleagues. Deputy Speaker Alexander Zhukov ignored the complaints. Mr Ivanov, an MP for the Liberal Democratic Party, appeared to cast doubt on the reliability of any electronic voting, based on his colleagues’ behaviour in the State Duma. “I will not vote for this bill… There are 140 of you in this chamber, give or take one or two. If you are honest and decent people and don’t vote for your colleague who is not occupying their seat next to you, the bill won’t pass.” Media reports say Mr Zhukov tried to make a joke of the plea, calling on MPs not in the chamber to take their seats.Full Article: Russian MPs cry foul in row over electronic voting - BBC News.
The world’s internet infrastructure has no central authority. To keep it working, everyone needs to rely on everyone else. As a result, the global patchwork of undersea cables, satellites, and other technologies that connect the world often ignores the national borders on a map. To stay online, many countries must rely on equipment outside their own confines and control. Nation-states periodically attempt to exert greater authority over their own portions of the internet, which can lead to shutdowns. Last month, for example, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo turned off its internet during a highly contested presidential election. Now Russia, too, wants to test whether it can disconnect itself from the rest of the world, local media reported last week. But Russia is much larger than the DRC, and it has significantly more sophisticated infrastructure. Cutting itself off would be an onerous task that could have myriad unintended consequences. If anything, the whole project illustrates just how entangled—and strong—the global internet has become. “What we have seen so far is that it tends to be much harder to turn off the internet, once you built a resilient internet infrastructure, than you’d think,” says Andrew Sullivan, CEO of Internet Society, a nonprofit that promotes the open development of the internet.Full Article: What Happens If Russia Cuts Itself Off From the Internet | WIRED.
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week. The reason for the experiment is to gather insight and provide feedback and modifications to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018. A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet.Full Article: Russia to disconnect from the internet as part of a planned test | ZDNet.
Russians living in the far eastern region of Primorsky Krai elected a Kremlin-backed candidate for governor Sunday after the results from a previous election were thrown out due to alleged voting fraud. Local election officials said the acting governor of the region, Oleg Kozhemyako, won 61.8 percent of the votes after more than 99 percent of the ballots had been counted in the Russian region on the Sea of Japan. The election commission said Andrei Andreichenko of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party came in second with 25.2 percent of the vote. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called Kozhemyako to congratulate him on the victory. President Vladimir Putin tapped Kozhemyako to stand in as governor of Primorsky Krai and run in the election in place of the former acting governor, Andrei Tarasenko.Full Article: Kremlin candidate wins Far East governorship in repeat vote - The Washington Post.
Russia: In a first for Russia, Moscow agrees with locals that their election was rigged | CS Monitor
It is fairly common to hear public complaints that fraud is boosting pro-Kremlin candidates in Russian elections. But it is exceedingly rare to see Moscow authorities lend solid support to such complaints. That’s just what occurred in the far eastern province of Primorsky Krai, or Primorye, last week, after a “miraculous” last-minute voting surge in favor of the Kremlin-backed incumbent governor, Andrei Tarasenko, handed him a narrow victory over his Communist opponent, Andrei Ishchenko. The Communists, who say this sort of thing happens to them all the time in distant regions, took their usual course of staging some street protests and filing a lawsuit in the local court. Even they were surprised when the Central Electoral Commission in Moscow declared that the election was marred by violations and the results must be annulled. It’s the first time in post-Soviet history that a local election has been overturned.Full Article: In a first for Russia, Moscow agrees with locals that their election was rigged - CSMonitor.com.