According to the researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a Russian disinformation campaign targeted 39 countries.
The cyber attacks against the DNC were part of a larger campaign orchestrated by a nation state actor against government, military and industry targets, journalists, academics, opposition figures, and activists.
“Our report uncovers a major disinformation and cyber espionage campaign with hundreds of targets in government, industry, military and civil society. Those targets include a large list of high profile individuals from at least 39 countries (including members of 28 governments), as well as the United Nations and NATO.” wrote lead researcher Ronald Deibert.” Although there are many government, military, and industry targets, our report provides further evidence of the often-overlooked targeting of civil society in cyber espionage campaigns. Civil society — including journalists, academics, opposition figures, and activists — comprise the second largest group (21%) of targets, after government.”
Below a list of notable targets shared by the researchers:
According to Deibert, Russian threat actors launched a large-scale campaign aimed to obtain credentials and sensitive files from the victims. The state-sponsored hackers used stolen data in carefully tainted leaks created by mixing real and false information to influence the sentiment of a portion of individuals on specific facts.
“Fake information scattered amongst genuine materials — “falsehoods in a forest of facts” as Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton referred to them — is very difficult to distinguish and counter, especially when it is presented as a salacious “leak” integrated with what otherwise would be private information.” Deibert said.
“Russia has a long history of experience with what is known as ‘dezinformatsiya,’ going back even to Soviet times,”
“Tainted leaks, such as those analyzed in our report, present complex challenges to the public. Fake information scattered amongst genuine materials — ‘falsehoods in a forest of facts’… is very difficult to distinguish and counter, especially when it is presented as a salacious ‘leak’ integrated with what otherwise would be private information.”
Among the victims, there is also the US journalist David Satter, who has written a lot on the corruption of politicians and entrepreneurs in Russia.
Once hackers have stolen the Satter’s e-mails they have “selectively modified” them and then “leaked” to support the thesis that he was part of a CIA-backed plot to discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Following the compromise of his account, Satter’s stolen e-mails were selectively modified, and then “leaked” on the blog of CyberBerkut, a self-described pro-Russian hacktivist group. This report introduces the term “tainted leaks” to describe the deliberate seeding of false information within a larger set of authentically stolen data.” reads the report.
According to Citizen Lab tainted leaks were used also to target officials from Afghanistan, Armenia, Austria, Cambodia, Egypt, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Peru, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, according to the report.
Below key findings of the report:
(Security Affairs – Tainted Leaks, State sponsored hacking)
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