More Putin Interference


Item #1: Ten months after the election, we’re just learning that Facebook was an unwitting tool of the Putin regime.

Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that the social network has discovered that it sold ads during the U.S. presidential campaign to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.

Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.


Twitter also falls into the unwitting tool category.

On Twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on hundreds or thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated Twitter accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart — and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names, according to the FireEye researchers. On Election Day, for instance, they found that one group of Twitter bots sent out the hashtag #WarAgainstDemocrats more than 1,700 times.

All this is consistent with the Gerasimov Doctrine which Putin has actively employed. In this, I agree with Ms. McKew:

Herein lies the real power of the Gerasimov-style shadow war: It’s hard to muster resistance to an enemy you can’t see, or aren’t even sure is there. But it’s not an all-powerful approach; the shadowy puppeteering at the heart of the Gerasimov Doctrine also makes it inherently fragile. Its tactics begin to fail when light is thrown onto how they work and what they aim to achieve. This requires leadership and clarity about the threat—which we saw briefly in France, when the government rallied to warn voters about Russian info ops in advance of the presidential election. For now, though, America is still in the dark—not even on defense, let alone offense.

Item #2: Along those lines, Putin’s interference hasn’t been limited to elections.

series of sophisticated computer intrusions at electric companies and nuclear-plant operators this year has been traced back to a hacking group called “Dragonfly” and “Energetic Bear” that’s been previously linked to Russia, according to a new report from the computer-security company Symantec, which has seen about 100 such breaches since the start of the year, half of them in the U.S.

The finding is potentially worrisome, because Dragonfly is one of very few hacking groups to evince expertise in power-grid control networks—the computerized systems that turn off and on circuit breakers. A separate Russia-linked hacking operation has twice demonstrated the Kremlin’s ability and willingness to use that kind of expertise to cause electrical blackouts—once in December 2015, and a second time a year later, both in Ukraine. Symantec believes the U.S. breaches may be moving into similar terrain.

More here. It doesn’t appear that any damage has occurred to US systems, but the potential is there. A couple of months ago, there was a massive cyber-attack in Ukraine.

Derevianko and the rest of the country had no idea about what was coming. A cyber-attack would ripple through the region, striking Ukraine’s banks, power grid, postal service, government ministries, media organisations, the main airport in Kiev, nationwide mobile providers and even the Chernobyl power plant. “By 13:00 or 14:00, it was 100% clear that we were under an ongoing and massive attack everywhere,” says Volodymyr Omelyan, Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure. It then spread worldwide – and the fallout is still being felt.

Ukraine’s security service claimed they had proof that Putin was behind it, which his people called “unfounded”.

Item #3: Speaking of cyber-security, there are valid questions about the integrity of Moscow-based Kapersky Labs.

U.S. intelligence agencies have turned up the heat in recent days on Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity giant long suspected of ties to Russia’s spying apparatus.

Now, official Kremlin documents reviewed by McClatchy could further inflame the debate about whether the company’s relationship with Russian intelligence is more than rumor.

The documents are certifications issued to the company by the Russian Security Service, the spy agency known as the FSB.

Unlike the stamped approvals the FSB routinely issues to companies seeking to operate in Russia, Kaspersky’s include an unusual feature: a military intelligence unit number matching that of an FSB program.

An oligarch like Kapersky doesn’t get to be an oligarch and stay an oligarch in PutinLand without bending the knee to the diminutive dictator. Party affiliation aside, Ms. Shaheen makes sense.

The Kremlin hacked our presidential election, is waging a cyberwar against our NATO allies and is probing opportunities to use similar tactics against democracies worldwide. Why then are federal agencies, local and state governments and millions of Americans unwittingly inviting this threat into their cyber networks and secure spaces?

That threat is posed by antivirus and security software products created by Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based company with extensive ties to Russian intelligence. To close this alarming national security vulnerability, I am advancing bipartisan legislation to prohibit the federal government from using Kaspersky Lab software.

Kaspersky Lab insists that it has “no inappropriate ties with any government.” The company’s products, which are readily available at big-box American retailers, have more than 400 million users around the globe. And it provides security services to major government agencies, including the Department of State, the National Institutes of Health and, reportedly, the Department of Defense.

But at a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in May, six top intelligence officials, including the heads of the F.B.I., C.I.A. and National Security Agency, were asked if they would be comfortable with Kaspersky Lab software on their agencies’ computers. Each answered with an unequivocal no. I cannot disclose the classified assessments that prompted the intelligence chiefs’ response. But it is unacceptable to ignore questions about Kaspersky Lab because the answers are shielded in classified materials. Fortunately, there is ample publicly available information to help Americans understand the reasons Congress has serious doubts about the company.

If ever there’s a time and place to buy American, it’s with cyber-security.

Item #4: A 28-year CIA veteran took a second look at the so-called dossier prepared by former FBI agent Steele. The editor’s note:

In this special Just Security article, highly respected former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher examines the Steele dossier using methods that an intelligence officer would to try to validate such information. Sipher concludes that the dossier’s information on campaign collusion is generally credible when measured against standard Russian intelligence practices, events subsequent to Steele’s reporting, and information that has become available in the nine months since Steele’s final report. The dossier, in Sipher’s view, is not without fault, including factual inaccuracies. Those errors, however, do not detract from an overarching framework that has proven to be ever more reliable as new revelations about potential Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin and its affiliates has come to light in the nine months since Steele submitted his final report.

There are indeed factual inaccuracies, and I’m not going to touch anything that deals with what Trump allegedly did in a Moscow hotel room, but there’s enough other information that is relevant, particularly about Manafort and about Putin’s meddling in an American election. A key shortcoming to Sipher’s review is that he doesn’t know Steele’s sources, so there’s too much speculation for my liking. However, I’m sure Mueller does know the sources, and I expect we’ll know how true the so-called dossier is some time after he’s finished his work. Sipher gave only one political contribution, $75 to Hillary last October. It’s a paltry amount, but it still reveals his political preferences.

A general word. Anyone who’s read my commenting history will know that I’ve been harshly critical of Putin for awhile, and why not. He’s ex-KGB, he’s a murderer, he’s the first leader this side of Saddam Hussein to invade and annex the sovereign territory of another nation, and he actively works against American interests all the time, the latest example his economic support of Fat Kim. There are too many other examples to count. In his view, the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, worse apparently than Hitler, Stalin and Mao. He is on record that Ukraine is part of Russia.

Sadly, the distance between odd ideas and bloodshed is much shorter than we might wish. Ambassador Orlov was not expressing a quaint private opinion when he denied the existence of a Ukrainian nation; he was following the line of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a similar setting a few weeks ago, also speaking to western journalists, Putin made exactly the same claim: that Russians and Ukrainians “are one nation.” Thus no matter what happens in Ukraine, there can be, logically speaking, no Russian intervention.

I could go on. The Obama administration was too soft on Putin, and Trump has been little better. We need to go back to a Cold War foreign policy with Putin, starting with guarding our media–both social and news–from his propaganda and building better cyber-security, especially around our infrastructure.



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