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.
National: Moscow Skyscraper Talks Continued Through ‘the Day I Won,’ Trump Is Said to Acknowledge | The New York Times
President Trump was involved in discussions to build a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign, his personal lawyer said on Sunday, a longer and more significant role for Mr. Trump than he had previously acknowledged. The comments by his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani indicated that Mr. Trump’s efforts to complete a business deal in Russia waned only after Americans cast ballots in the presidential election. The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen. The Trump Tower Moscow discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won,” Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times. It was one of a flurry of interviews Mr. Giuliani did on Sunday amid fallout from a disputed report by BuzzFeed News that President Trump had personally directed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, to lie to Congress about the negotiations over the skyscraper.Full Article: Moscow Skyscraper Talks Continued Through ‘the Day I Won,’ Trump Is Said to Acknowledge - The New York Times.
In 2016, an Instagram account called @army_of_jesus_ posted an image of the son of God, imploring viewers to “like if you believe” or “keep scrolling if you don’t”. It received almost 88,000 likes. The account, as revealed later by security researchers, was run by Russian internet trolls. While much attention has been paid to attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election on Facebook and Twitter, the role of the image-based social media platform has been largely overlooked. In fact, according to two recent reports, Instagram became the platform of choice for Russia’s infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA).Full Article: Instagram spreads political misinformation and Australian elections are vulnerable - Science News - ABC News.
Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company will work with the German ministry for information security in a broad effort to guide policy here and throughout Europe on election interference. The collaboration will build upon previous work between the social network and the regulator during the 2017 federal elections in Germany, Ms. Sandberg said. The effort is part of continued work by Facebook to strengthen its platform against interference. The Integrity & Security Initiative will be a cooperation between Facebook, the German office and other companies and research partners, Ms. Sandberg said, ahead of European Union parliamentary elections this spring. The German cybersecurity watchdog will spearhead the initiative, a person familiar with the matter said. A spokesman for the German Federal Office for Information Security didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. It wasn’t immediately clear which other companies or researchers may be participating in the initiative.Full Article: Facebook, Germany to Collaborate Against Election Interference - WSJ.
Two years on from the U.S. presidential election, Facebook continues to have a major problem with Russian disinformation being megaphoned via its social tools. In a blog post today the company reveals another tranche of Kremlin-linked fake activity — saying it’s removed a total of 471 Facebook pages and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts, which were being used to spread propaganda in regions where Putin’s regime has sharp geopolitical interests. In its latest reveal of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — aka the euphemism Facebook uses for disinformation campaigns that rely on its tools to generate a veneer of authenticity and plausibility in order to pump out masses of sharable political propaganda — the company says it identified two operations, both originating in Russia, and both using similar tactics without any apparent direct links between the two networks.Full Article: Facebook finds and kills another 512 Kremlin-linked fake accounts | TechCrunch.
National: Giuliani now says he has ‘no knowledge’ of Trump campaign colluding with Russia | The Hill
President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Thursday sought to clarify widely publicized comments he made about possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, saying that he had “no knowledge” of it taking place. “There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form,” Giuliani said in a statement to The New York Times. “Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.” He also argued that “the only knowledge I have in this regard is the collusion of the [Hillary] Clinton campaign with Russia, which has so far been ignored.”Full Article: Giuliani now says he has 'no knowledge' of Trump campaign colluding with Russia | TheHill.
Israel: Likud refuses to back rules to block online voter manipulation in elections | The Times of Israel
Days after it was revealed that the Shin Bet security agency has intelligence proving that a foreign country intends to influence the April election via online meddling, the Likud party said on Tuesday that it would block proposed measures to prevent such voter manipulation and similar attempts by Israeli internet operatives. Responding to a plea from the Central Elections Committee chairman, Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, Likud party pushed back against all efforts to apply at least basic transparency standards on online campaigning. That rejection, charged an Israeli expert on internet legislation and election manipulation, appears to signal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party plans to make use of dubious methods that gained prominence in the 2016 US presidential elections.Full Article: Likud refuses to back rules to block online voter manipulation in elections | The Times of Israel.