Facebook says it has removed more than 200 “inauthentic” accounts targeting people in Moldova, some of which were linked to government employees. Moldovans go to the polls on 24 February under a new electoral system. One of Europe’s poorest countries, it is politically split between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions. Facebook said the accounts posted about divisive political issues, shared manipulated photos, and impersonated a local fact checking-organisation.Full Article: Moldovan election prompts Facebook to remove accounts - BusinessGhana.
National: Manafort Found to Have Lied to Prosecutors While Under a Cooperation Agreement | The New York Times
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, had breached his plea agreement by lying multiple times to prosecutors after pledging to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court in Washington may affect the severity of punishment that awaits Mr. Manafort. Judge Jackson is scheduled to sentence him next month on two conspiracy counts, and he is also awaiting sentencing for eight other counts in a related fraud case. After Mr. Manafort agreed in September to cooperate with the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the judge found, he lied about his contacts with a Russian associate during the campaign and after the election. Prosecutors claim that the associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, has ties to Russian intelligence, and have been investigating whether he was involved in Russia’s covert campaign to influence the election results.Full Article: Manafort Found to Have Lied to Prosecutors While Under a Cooperation Agreement - The New York Times.
The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday began a broad inquiry into whether Russia and other foreign powers may be exercising influence over President Trump, acting only hours after a defiant Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the House would not be cowed by the president’s “all-out threat” to drop its investigations of his administration. Other committees were zeroing in on similarly sensitive oversight targets. On Thursday, Democrats will begin their quest to secure the president’s long-suppressed tax returns. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee readied a subpoena for the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, in case he tried to avoid Democratic questioning. And a House Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman began an inquiry into administration rule-bending during the 35-day partial government shutdown.Full Article: Asked to Stop Investigations, House Digs In - The New York Times.
National: The U.S. military is quietly launching efforts to deter Russian meddling | The Washington Post
With little public fanfare, U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s new center for combating electronic attacks against the United States, has launched operations to deter and disrupt Russians who have been interfering with the U.S. political system. Like other U.S. cyberwar activities, the disruption effort against Russia is cloaked in secrecy. But it appears to involve, in part, a warning to suspected Russian hackers that echoes a menacing phrase that’s a staple of many fictional crime and spy thrillers: “We know where you live.” Beginning last fall, before the midterm elections, Cyber Command began directly contacting Russians who were linked to operations, such the Internet Research Agency, that allegedly helped coordinate Moscow’s campaign to subvert the 2016 presidential election. The apparent aim was to put people on notice that their covers had been blown, and that their ability to work and travel freely might be affected.Full Article: The U.S. military is quietly launching efforts to deter Russian meddling - The Washington Post.
Ukraine’s parliament has barred Russian citizens from serving as election monitors during an upcoming presidential election. The Supreme Rada voted to exclude Russians from international observers’ missions that will be monitoring the voting in Ukraine next month. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe submitted a list of candidates for the Ukrainian monitoring missing and it included two Russians. The organization’s observers are considered one of the most credible voices on elections in the region.
Israel: Facebook Introduces Election Protection Features to Israel’s Central Elections Committee | CTech
Two months ahead of Israel’s general election, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath met Sunday with Israel’s Central Elections Committee, the committee announced Monday. The meeting took place following correspondence between the committee and Facebook concerning the ways in which the social media company is planning to increase transparency ahead of the Israeli election process. In the meeting, Facebook representatives reiterated the company’s plans to launch special features in Israel in March, including the association of political ads with the advertising page, and the launch of a political ad archive. Facebook will also prevent users from posting political ads from outside the country.Full Article: Facebook Introduces Election Protection Features to Israel’s Central Elections Committee - CTech.
Lithuania’s intelligence agencies fear Russia will interfere in its forthcoming elections, including one in May to find a successor to the staunchly anti-Kremlin president, Dalia Grybauskaite. The Baltic state, ruled from Moscow for much of the 20th century but now a member of both the European Union and NATO, was rattled by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and hosts a German-led multinational battalion to deter any Russian invasion. It holds presidential, municipal and European Parliament elections this year and a parliamentary election in 2020. “Russian intelligence will step up its activity during the 2019-2020 election cycle,” the agencies wrote in a joint annual assessment published Tuesday. “It is possible that Russia will seek to sway the course of the elections by information and cyber means.” Moscow could “disseminate propaganda and disinformation in Lithuanian social media,” it said.Full Article: Lithuania Fears Russia Will Attempt to Sway Its Elections.
National: House Intelligence poised to send Mueller lingering Russia investigation transcripts | Washington Examiner
The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a vote this week on sending more transcripts to the Justice Department. The panel’s website says members will vote on Wednesday regarding the “transmission of Certain Committee Transcripts to the Department of Justice.” Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said last week the first thing his panel would do in the new term would be to release all remaining transcripts from their Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller. “Neither we nor the Special Counsel will tolerate efforts by any person to impede any investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, nor to pressure a witness to withhold testimony from or mislead Congress,” Schiff said in a statement released after longtime associate Roger Stone was indicted as part of Mueller’s investigation.Full Article: House Intelligence poised to send Mueller lingering Russia investigation transcripts.
National: Russians reportedly “altered” Mueller documents and leaked them online to discredit probe | Salon
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused Russian operatives of stealing materials obtained from his prosecutors, altering the documents, and posting them online in a disinformation effort to discredit the Russia investigation, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Mueller’s team made the filing in its case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a sanctioned Russian company indicted in the probe for allegedly funding a Russian troll farm that waged a disinformation campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to prosecutors, a Twitter account with the handle @HackingRedstone was created last October. The user bragged that he had hacked evidence in the Mueller probe. “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” the account tweeted, according to the court filing. “Enjoy the reading!”Full Article: Russians reportedly "altered" Mueller documents and leaked them online to discredit probe | Salon.com.
A new court filing submitted on Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Russian troll farm currently locked in a legal battle over its alleged interference in the 2016 election appeared to wage yet another disinformation campaign late last year—this time targeting Mueller himself. According to the filing, the special counsel’s office turned over 1 million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated the documents and leaked them to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller’s evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn’t seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad.Full Article: A New Mueller Filing Shows How Russia Misuses U.S. Courts - The Atlantic.
Ireland: Government fortifying IT systems for ‘fear of Russian interference’ in European elections | The Journal
The Irish government is in the process of upgrading its IT security across various departments ahead of the local and European elections for fear that they could be subject to outside interference. TheJournal.ie understands that sophisticated cyber security features were added to the internal infrastructure of many Government department’s systems in recent weeks. Late last year, the Government issued a report which identified the cyber related risks to the electoral process and made a number of recommendations to mitigate them. While the Government has not explicitly said that the upgrade is to protect elections, there is a serious fear that Russia may attempt to influence European elections, meaning Ireland could be compromised despite the small number of MEPs we have.Full Article: Government fortifying IT systems for 'fear of Russian interference' in European elections.
Amy Spiro is one of many Israeli journalists who recently received a direct message on her Twitter account linking to a sensational news story. The sender, using the Jewish-sounding name “Bina Melamed”, directed her to a fake story falsely alleging former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman was a Russian spy. “I just ignored it until I saw a lot of other people were talking about it,” said Spiro, who works for the Jerusalem Post. She avoided falling victim to the ruse, but four Israeli journalists — hoodwinked by the article appearing on a rogue but convincing duplicate of Harvard University’s website — spread the story, before it was exposed.Full Article: Israel seeks to beat election cyber bots.
Russia’s military intelligence directorate, the GRU, has been caught in a new round of computer intrusion attempts, this time aimed at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington, D.C. think tank heavy with ex-government officials. The new efforts by the Kremlin hackers who notoriously breached the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign to support Donald Trump suggests that indictments, international sanctions, a botched assassination and an unprecedented global spotlight have done little to deter Vladimir Putin from continuing to target the West with his hacker army, even as American intelligence agencies warn that Russia is gearing up to interfere in the 2020 election. “We’ve about exhausted our ability to achieve some kind of deterrent model that works,” said Robert Johnston, the security expert who investigated the 2016 DNC breach, and now heads the financial cybersecurity firm Adlumin. “You have indictments. You have Cyber Command releasing Russian malware. We ran psyops inside of Russia saying, ‘We know what you’re up to, stop it.’ Sanctions and diplomatic measures. The combination of all those isn’t enough to make it come to a complete halt.”Full Article: Russian DNC Hackers Launch Fresh Wave of Cyberattacks on U.S..
Israel: Coalition of diplomats, programmers working to beat election cyber bots | The Times of Israel
Numerous Israeli journalists recently received direct messages on their Twitter accounts linking to a sensational news story. The sender, using the Jewish-sounding name “Bina Melamed,” directed them to a fake story falsely alleging former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman was a Russian spy. Four Israeli journalists — hoodwinked by the article appearing on a rogue but convincing duplicate of Harvard University’s website — spread the story, before it was exposed. Bina Melamed, which turned out to be a fake account operating from Turkey, has become a cause celebre of attempts to propagate fake news in Israel through bots. And cases of cyber sabotage are rising, ahead of April elections.Full Article: Coalition of Israeli diplomats, programmers working to beat election cyber bots | The Times of Israel.
Canada will set up a special panel to warn voters of any attempts by foreign actors to interfere with a federal election set for October, senior government officials have said. The Democratic institutions minister, Karina Gould, said Ottawa expects social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to help safeguard the vote by promoting transparency, authenticity and integrity on their platforms. The announcement comes amid an investigation by US officials into connections between Donald Trump’s 2016 election win and Russian efforts to influence the vote. Canada’s response was also influenced by the fact that Britain, France and Germany had also experienced foreign interference in recent elections, Gould said. An impartial group of senior bureaucrats would monitor possible interference during the Canadian campaign and sound the alarm if they felt the vote could be compromised, Gould said.Full Article: Canada unveils plan to warn of potential election meddling | World news | The Guardian.
Communications expert Ilmar Raag thinks that Russian meddling in the upcoming general election on 3 March is unlikely, not least because the situation in Estonia is stable, and even a large-scale disinformation effort wouldn’t change much. In a piece for weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian), Mr Raag writes that given the current political situation and support of political parties in Estonia, Russia is unlikely to make an attempt at influencing the outcome of the 3 March general election—simply because it doesn’t stand to gain much. For a serious attempt at influencing political opinion in Estonia, the main means at the disposal of the Russian state services is the repetition of whatever story they carry. In practice, this would mean at least five major stories about Estonia on Russian state TV, which at the moment isn’t happening.Full Article: Russia unlikely to meddle with upcoming general election, expert thinks | News | ERR.
Twitter suspended 61 accounts linked to foreign fake news manipulation campaigns aimed at the Israeli public, ahead of the April 9 election. The move brings to 343 the number of accounts suspended by Twitter since election was announced last month, Elad Ratson of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted on Monday. Ratson is the ministry’s director of research and development. The new group of 61 accounts had a total of more than 28,000 followers, and most of them were in English. Meanwhile, Facebook announced in a statement on Monday that it would launch in various countries, including Israel, “additional tools to help prevent foreign interference and make political and issue advertising on Facebook more transparent.” Advertisers will need to be authorized to purchase political ads; Facebook will give people more information about ads related to politics and issues; and it will create a publicly searchable library of these ads for up to seven years, the statement said.Full Article: Twitter suspends accounts spreading fake news to Israelis ahead of election - Israel News - Haaretz.com.
National: Roger Stone was in close contact with Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, indictment shows | The Washington Post
Roger Stone, a GOP political operative and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about WikiLeaks’ efforts to release materials damaging to Democrats before the 2016 election, according to an indictment filed against him Friday. Stone was arrested Friday morning on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the election. A major focus of the probe has been whether Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, as the group published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives.Full Article: Roger Stone was in close contact with Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, indictment shows - The Washington Post.
The Nigerian government has said it will not accept “foreign interference” in February’s presidential elections after the EU, UK and US spoke out against the sudden suspension of the chief justice. The three western powers issued statements at the weekend voicing concern over how President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the judge might affect the conduct of elections in Africa’s most populous country. As Nigeria’s senior judge, Walter Onnoghen would have played a key role in deciding any legal challenges to the results of the presidential race between Mr Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. In a statement on Saturday night, Mr Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, warned that the government “will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process”.Full Article: Nigeria warns over ‘foreign interference’ ahead of election | Financial Times.
The 2020 presidential contest has already begun, with several Democratic candidates declaring their intention to challenge Donald Trump for the Oval Office and more on the way. Unlike in 2016, we now know what kinds of chaos America’s adversaries are capable of sowing, especially during campaign season. That means it’s time to contend with the threat of foreign intervention in our elections and in our democracy more broadly—before it’s too late. Many Americans have decried Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and continuing interference since as unlawful and unacceptable. The two of us have participated in efforts to develop strategies to counter this threat, especially as others, such as China, begin to learn from it. In doing so, we have frequently faced a question from skeptics: how these Russian operations, in America and globally, differ from what the United States has done when it has involved itself in foreign elections and democracy promotion abroad. It’s a fair question, but as former senior national security policymakers we’re convinced they are different in key ways. And we’ll explain what those are, in service of a larger objective: to articulate the norms to which all civilized nations should subscribe when it comes to respecting free and fair democratic processes in other countries.Full Article: How to Prevent the Next Election Disaster - POLITICO Magazine.