Russia's internet disinformation efforts extend well beyond election interference. State Department officials talking to the Wall Street Journal say Russia is running a disinformation campaign using at least four online publications and a host of social media accounts to shake confidence in COVID-19 vaccines competing with Sputnik-V. The outlets New Eastern Outlook, News Front, Oriental Review and Rebel Inside all cast unfounded doubts on vaccines like Pfizer's, falsely calling mRNA delivery a "radical experimental technology" that was dangerous and less effective. All four sites are "directly" tied to Russian agencies like the FSB security service and SVR foreign intelligence, according to one US official. Social accounts linked to those publications have mostly been pulled, although some of their non-English accounts were active as recently as early 2021. The State Department acknowledged the conclusions in a statement to the WSJ, but didn't supply direct evidence linking the sites to the Russian government. This was a "joint interagency" finding that Russia bore "direct responsibility" for spreading falsehoods, the representative said. Russia denied the allegations in its own response, but it also has a long history of denying misinformation and hacking campaigns despite strong evidence. Russian leaders have a strong incentive to attack rival vaccines. The country is clearly hoping to boost sales of Sputnik-V, but it's also believed to be using the vaccine to exert influence worldwide. A country willing to buy these shots might be receptive to other Russian deals, for example. There's not much the US can do to shut down the sites themselves when they're foreign-owned and operated. Nonetheless, the findings could easily increase pressure on the US government and social networks to crack down on vaccine misinformation. Much like conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, the bogus vaccine claims could be genuinely dangerous, leading people to skip life-saving shots or even attack agencies distributing and promoting vaccinations.
Andrei Stanescu via Getty Images The group behind the SolarWinds hack also tried to compromise a top security firm. CrowdStrike now says that it too was targeted by the group. According to CrowdStrike, the attempt happened “during a 17-hour period several months ago,” when hackers tried to access the company’s email. Though CrowdStrike says the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, it offers further insight into the scale of the hacking operation, which US government officials have attributed to Russia. As Reuters points out, SolarWinds is so far the only company known to have been successfully targeted by the group. The company’s Orion software, widely used among major companies and US government agencies, was compromised giving hackers potential access to email and other sensitive data. The fact that CrowdStrike was also targeted suggests the hackers could have cast a wider net than investigators previously realized. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is still unraveling just how big an impact the SolarWinds hack has had. The agency said earlier this week that state and local governments were also affected, “as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.” In this article: SolarWinds, cybersecurity, CrowdStrike, Russia, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Sponsored Links Elijah Nouvelage / reuters Facebook has uncovered yet another network of fake accounts with ties to Russia’s intelligence services. As with another recent investigation, Facebook says the fake accounts posed as editors and other media entities in order to trick actual journalists into writing articles for them. The social network disclosed the takedowns, saying that the fake accounts had gained around 59,000 followers on Facebook and 2,000 on Instagram. Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the accounts in question could have also been used in the same kinds of “hack-and-leak operations” Russia used in 2016. “While we have not seen the networks we removed today engage in these efforts, or directly target the US 2020 election, they are linked to actors associated with election interference in the US in the past, including those involved in ‘DC leaks’ in 2016,” Gleicher wrote. “These fake personas posed as editors and researchers to solicit articles for these websites. This network posted primarily in Russian and English about news and current events, including protests and elections in Belarus, Russian and Ukrainian politics, geopolitical conspiracies, Russia-NATO relations, Russia’s relations with neighboring countries, and criticism of US foreign policy, socio-economic issues in the US, and US political candidates on both sides of the political spectrum.” This isn't the first time Facebook says it found fake accounts linked to Russian state actors. Earlier this month the company took down a handful of accounts tied to Russia’s Internet Research Agency that successfully tricked US journalists into writing articles for a website called PeaceData. Facebook’s latest takedowns also caught networks of Russia-linked accounts that had targeted Turkey, Syria, Ukraine and other European countries. In this article: Facebook, Social media, cybersecurity, 2020 Elections, Russia, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 133 Shares Share Tweet Share