Russia Hacking and Meddling in US political affairs

Discussion in 'Letting Off Steam' started by TheBigShort, 21 Aug 2018.

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  1. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Last edited: 21 Aug 2018
    The Russians are at it again, apparently.

    The US is imposing fresh sanctions against Russia in connection with 'aggressive cyber attacks'.
    Russia denies any involvement and claims Microsoft reports, upon which the sanctions are based on, ring hollow.

    The NY Times has plenty of reporting on Russian meddling

    Two conservative think-tanks came under attack from the hackers, including the International Republican Institute (IRI).
    The IRI qualifies itself as organisation that 'brings people together', 'links political parties' and 'makes elections count' amongst other things, and apparently operates across continents (a tad ironic I would have thought?).

    It has also embarked on, since April 2016 what it calls the 'Beacon Project'.
    A program aimed at countering the increasing Russian threat of propaganda and 'soft power'.

    The Beacon Project is quite explicit.

    "Although terrorism and the migrant crisis
    have, until recently, attracted most of the
    headlines, in Europe today one of the most
    serious threats to the democratic order
    comes from Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. Across
    the continent, Russia is in the process of
    expanding its military and political options
    by polarizing attitudes among the public in
    target states. It spreads false information
    regarding United States and European
    Union (EU) policies and intentions in order
    to corrode trust in democratic institutions
    and support for closer ties with the Euro-Atlantic community".

    "Moscow’s propaganda takes at least five common forms, including:

      • Support for far right political parties, like the Front National in France
      • Support for anti-NATO and anti-EU political leaders and organizations
      • Manufacturing false incidents to “weaponized” migration
      • Exporting kleptocratic economic models
      • Propping up dubious democracy and election monitoring groups
    I would have assumed that espionage and information gathering, disinformation was par the course across the intelligence communities of all nations?
    No shrinking violet when it comes to interference in the political affairs of foreign nations, the US is surely the biggest gatherer of information with its vastly resourced intelligence agencies and its vast military expanded across the globe in some 80 countries.

    Its not so much that Russia is engaged in cyber attacks or disinformation that is odd, but rather that the vast US security apparatus is apparently unable to cope with it.
    To such an extent that it is claimed that the Russians have 'meddled' in the US election, are apparently targeting the mid-terms, and if we are to believe the Beacon Project above, is behind the Front National in France.
    It is also behind anti-EU political leaders and organizations (whoever could they be talking about, I wonder?)

    The evidence for all this is scant in my opinion.
    The prominent feature of Russian interference in elections is apparently Facebook ads!
    Apparently there are lots of Facebook Ads supporting the views of Donald Trump, some of which obviously came from Trump campaign and are legitimate.
    But others came from Russian sources, apparently.
    So the entire US security apparatus, despite apparently being aware of increased Russian interference since before April 2016, has been trumped (sorry!) by a series of FB ads!
    And this is leading to political upheaval across America and even Europe?

    I dont know about anyone else but the Emperor New Clothes springs to mind.
    Last edited: 21 Aug 2018
  2. Ceist Beag

    Ceist Beag Frequent Poster

    Is it too early to call this the Third Red Scare?
  3. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Russia are widely acknowledged (way beyond American shores) to be the most active nation state in political hacking and activity designed to foment unrest and internal conflict in other states. Iran have taken to this tactic to, but are not nearly on the same scale yet.

    There's no doubting all other major powers have their own cyber activity, but this particular area is Russia's specialty.
  4. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Widely acknowledged by whom?

    Dont forget China and N Korea, the other baddies.

    Including the sophisticated tatic of using Facebook Ads!!
  5. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Pretty much every cyber security authority across the globe.

    China have one of the most developed cyber warfare setups of any nation, it's no real secret as they've acknowledged their existence. They and the US just disagree who has the better capabilities. But China's focus is IP theft, and they have been very successful in that regard. Their J20 program was largely based on data stolen from Raytheon.

    There's nothing sophisticated in using Facebook ads, but it is remarkably effective.
  6. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    A bit a slap in the face for their own cyber security capabilities so?
    Could be just a pitch for increased budgets!

    I know, thats why I said not to forget them.

    For sure, the next election will undoubtedly see increased spending from the candidates using this forum.
  7. TarfHead

    TarfHead Frequent Poster

    What is known about Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential elections.

    He appointed Michael Flynn who was in receipt of payments from a Russian State media outlet.
    Trump called out for Russia to hack the 33K e-mails missing from Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server.
    Don Junior agreed to meet with a Russian lawyer, with links to the Kremlin, promising dirt on Hillary. The next day, Don Senior promised he would have salacious details on Clinton. As with most of his promises, he never delivered.
    As President, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak in the Oval Office, without advisors, and is alleged to have disclosed military intel given in confidence to the US by Israel.
    What Trump said after the Helsinki summit with Putin.

    Emperors New Clothes ? I think you need to lower your intake of whatever Sean Hannity drinks
  8. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    They're all testing each other, it's a much more palatable battlefield than boots on the ground. Activity like online advertising and signing up agents to play both sides in online forums isn't a reflection on anyone's cyber capabilities.

    China being China have been open enough in trying to influence US politics via the press, threatening soybean tarrifs and the like. They're haven't been as active under the radar, but look to be building a capability based on the success others have had.

    Yep, and the platforms will continue to take their money and play dumb for as long as they can get away with it.
  9. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Thanks for that.
    I don't think there is any doubt that the various intelligence agencies of major economies are not engaged in intereference in each others affairs.
    It is the extent to which the US is ramping up this 'interference' that is curious. Despite it having the most resources, the best technology etc it, apparently cannot stop an election being swayed, in part, by Facebook ads!
    As for your list of "What is known about Russian involvement....2016 elections", it actually reads as a list of what is not known.

    - Michael Flynn. This guy served under Obama for 4 yrs. Under Trump for 24 days. He was charged with making a false statement to FBI. This was done under a plea deal. Which to me means, there were more offences in which he could spend more time in prison, but the offences were of such insignificance that to pursue them would be timely and costly for no real gain to the prosecutor.
    If there were significant charges, in particular relating to the prime investigation of Russian interference, then the prosecutor would have no doubt pursued those charges.

    Trump calling out to hack emails.
    I dont have the quotes to hand, but its a sad day for secret intelligence if the instructions to operations are being called out over the public airwaves.
    Im no fan of Trump, I think he is a buffoon. And as far as I recall these comments were typical of his blurting and buffoonery. How anyone could read anything else into them, let alone as a formal instruction or request to his foreign handlers, is quite frankly, bizarre.

    Don Jnr and the Russians.

    Like you said nothing came of it. It was supposed to be something, but it wasn't. So its nothing. It may have been Russian intelligence, but if it was then they didn't deliver and as such this event could not plausibly be considered as interference.
    On the other hand, it could have been a hoax?
    My guess "the Russians" were attempting to drip-feed Don Jnr the 'dirt' on HC, to pass onto Don Snr, only then to expose the 'dirt' as false and kill Trumps campaign.
    Only Trump, the buffoon that he is, blurted out his promise of dirt. The "Russians" smelt a rat and backed of with their plan.

    Lavrov and Oval office.

    For sure, meeting officials of foreign agents without advisors smacks of something untoward and suspicious.
    I can understand Trump not being capable of understanding this. I can understand that Trump has self-interest in business deals in Russia that may require Russian government approval or assistance, but in no way does that equate to meddling in US political affairs or elections.
    But if the meeting was behind closed doors how can anyone know what was said, unless its secretly recorded, or leaked by either Trump, Lavrov or NSA?

    Im not sure about what was apparently said after Helsinki and its implications.
    I know who Sean Hannity is, but ive never watched his show so cant comment.
  10. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Thats the point, they are all at it. But its the US, with all of its resources that cant seem to get a handle on it and is in a complete tizzy.

    How do you know they are not 'as active under the radar'?
    Isnt the purpose of cyber intelligence gathering to gather intelligence without being detected?

    Whats different from TV ads? Every election, tv ads promoting one candidate or another are typically sponsored or financed by funds from private individuals or corporations. Some of those corporations are foreign owned, or owned by shareholders from anywhere in the world.
    And more to boot, those same TV ads will offer false promises, false policies and false hope to the electorate in order to influence their views.
    What was it Hillary Clinton said, "I have both a public and private position".
  11. TarfHead

    TarfHead Frequent Poster

    Your apparent disdain for the power of Facebook ads stands in stark contrast to the market valuation of Facebook, USD 500 billion.

    Facebook is currently the most sophisticated ad delivery system yet developed.
  12. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Im not sure who that comment is directed at, but for clarification

    I dont have any 'disdain' for FB ads. I do however laugh at the notion that the US election was influenced by fake news through social media platforms operated by foreign agents, anymore than it was influenced by fake news through false election promises, shiny TV ads, and duplicitous politicians - as they have always been.
    Social media is just a relatively newer layer on the corrupt corporatised cake that is the American political system.
    The 'wrong guy' got elected, plain and simple. Hence the hysteria.
  13. TarfHead

    TarfHead Frequent Poster

  14. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster


    Eh, my comment would suggest that any disdain that I have for anything, if any, is reserved for US intelligence agencies - not FB ads!

    In fact I don't have any disdain for US intelligence services either. I would consider they are the most advanced, most resourced intelligence agencies the world has ever seen. Hence my skepticism that the US presidential election could be unduly influenced by foreign agents through social media ads, anymore that they are already unduly influenced by TV, radio, newspaper, corporate donations etc.
  15. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    While every major power has some form of cyber presence, they're not at all in the same league as Russia is in applying those resources to meddle in the electoral process of other states. The US have a pretty decent handle on it, but it would take implementing Chinese style control and oversight of the internet and entire media to stop it. I presume you wouldn't be an advocate for that approach?

    Seeking to interfere in an election process and intelligence gathering are two very different things. One leaves a much bigger footprint than the other.

    TV advertising doesn't have anything approaching the audience targeting abilities that social media platforms provide. With some of the social media platforms, it is possible to target an ad at an individual user. Know your audience well enough and you can manipulate how they think over time.
    Purple likes this.
  16. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Either you have something concrete to back this up or its just your opinion. In my opinion, the US is light years ahead of the rest when it comes to meddling in other countries election, with and without cyber technology.

    Of course not, but its probably an unfortunate choice of yours that you chose a country, China, that doesn't hold elections as an example.

    I know. But the only audience that matters in this affair is the US electorate. Im guessing most have a TV, and come election time are only too aware of the TV ads?

    Thats true, social media can do that. TV can also, if not individually, certainly collectively.
    Most people above 30 will remember how after 9/11 the US government peddled the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. TV and print media were extensively used to push this message to the public in order to invade Iraq.
    On the eve of the invasion, as I recall, some 70% + US public believed Saddam Hussein had direct involvement in 9/11.

    Im wondering how many people believe Russia was directly involved in US election meddling today?
  17. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Here is the International Republican Institute recent poll in Bosnia Herzegovina on attitudes to Understanding Perceptions of Violent Extremism and Outside Influence.

    The IRI, which receives 99% of its funding from the US State Department and purports to be non-partisan, states that Bosnia Herzegovina are pessimistic about the future and "vulnerable to outside influence".
    48% believe that Russia should be considered as a partner in European security, while only 22% think the US should.
    It concludes therefore that Bosnia could be "vulnerable to manipulation from the Kremlin".

    As well as carrying out polls, the IRI also 'Build Citizen Centred Governments', with more than 30yrs experience advancing democracies worldwide - with specific examples in Latin America, Kosovo, Tunisia and elsewhere.
    Its influence can range from anything from improving street-lighting in El Salvador to combating ISIS in Tunisia to being a bulwark against violent extremism in Kosovo.

    The Beacon Project, as mentioned earlier, is specific in countering Putin and Russia's influence on the world. Its steering committee is made up of nine people including our own Lucinda Creighton.

    Clearly, it has a long-reach. Clearly, it has influence, clearly it is funded by the US....clearly, it interferes with the political affairs of foreign states.
  18. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    It's no secret the US meddle in many jurisdictions, they just use old fashioned military intervention or behind the scenes 'bureaucracy' or financial support, but that's just diverting from the topic.

    I don't see anything unfortunate about it. You seem to think that a well developed nation state cyber capability should have the ability to prevent other states meddling in their electoral process by means of manipulating the press and social media. I think my example of China is a perfect one in demonstrating the levels of control over their population that a government would need to exert in order to prevent such interference.

    Of course the vast majority will have TVs, but that still doesn't mean TV advertising gets anywhere close to being as effective as social media. It is nigh on impossible to narrow in on a very specific subset of viewers via TV advertising, and when you're using psychological profiling to tailor the message to have maximum effect, TV is a waste of money. TV companies are also governed by much stricter rules. You also seem very focused on advertising when their activity went beyond that.

    So individually but not individually at the same time?
  19. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    How is it off topic? Certainly the topic title does not limit types of intervention.
    The opening post refers to cyber actively but then specifically refers to an attack on the IRI, an organisation that uses 'old-fashioned' (but far from redundant) methods of influence and interference in other countries political affairs.

    Eh, yes it should. If it doesn't, and if such manipulation of press and social media is true to the point that it unduly interferes with election outcomes, then all election outcomes are questionable.
    That doesn't mean that I subscribe to controls akin to that of China. But a simple register of trusted sponors, open for audit, limited financial spending and many other measures can prevent to a great deal the type of manipulation that is being alleged here.
    So be it TV, Press, Social media or whatever, unless an advertisement, that is political in nature, has a trusted sponor registered with the US State Department, then restrictions on such advertising can be enforced.

    I never said it does, I would agree social media is far more effective in targeting, but it remains to be seen if the ads themselves are any more effective in persuasion.

    Certainly social media is way ahead in that regard, but TV is adapting. I was watching Liverpool v Crystal Palace on Monday. The Betway ads are clearly targeted at the viewers who were interested in betting on that specific game.
    Not only that, the ads actually promote real-time odds for specific bets specific to the actual game.

    Im not doubting their alleged activities go beyond advertising. I understand that the activities of nation states extend beyond advertising. This is given since the dawn of nation states.
    What is at issue here is the hyperbole attached to alleged Russian interference into the US election. It kind of breaks down into three areas;

    1) Did Russian agents, acting on the instruction of the Kremlin, use social media platforms and other cyber activities to influence and/or interfere with the outcome of the US Presidential election.

    2) If the answer to 1) above is Yes, then it needs to be ascertained to what extent was this interference and what actual impact did it have on interfering with the outcome.

    3) Who benefited from this interference and were they complicit in the activities or were they unwitting beneficiaries?

    No, individually at the same time - collectively.
  20. TheBigShort

    TheBigShort Frequent Poster

    Just to elaborate further. I don't have the answers, but as far as

    1) I take it at face value, in the absence of any evidence, and despite the protestations of the Kremlin, that the possibility and/or probability of Russia trying to interfere and influence the election is a realistic possibility.

    2) The extent of such interference or manipulation etc is however highly questionable. The amounts been spent, the actual impact in persuasion are all open to interpretation. But I have seen or heard more or less absolutely no evidence that any interference (if any at all) has had any impact, significant or otherwise, on the outcome of the US Presidential election.

    3) I have seen no evidence that would point to Trump being complicit in any Russian interference, or being an unwitting beneficiary.
    All I have seen is bluster, innuendo, guilt by association, presumed guilt etc...everything you would expect to see occur in some totalitarian state that dictates to its people what is real and what is not.
    Not the first time in recent history the US public has been subjected to an onslaught of propaganda trying to dictate a particular narrative.
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