Russia tried to take over Pentagon Twitter accounts: report


Russia tried to gain access to the Twitter accounts of Defense Department officials using messages carrying malware, according to Time magazine.

Russia is said to have sent messages to over 10,000 Pentagon Twitter users, tailored to their interests, baiting them to click on links to stories. Clicking on the link would enable Russian hackers to gain control of the target’s mobile device or computer and, as a result, his or her Twitter account.

According to Time, Russia’s attempts were disclosed in a March report to U.S. counterintelligence officials investigating Russian interference efforts in the 2016 presidential election. 

{mosads}It is unclear whether any devices or Twitter accounts were compromised in the hacking efforts. The report indicates that the attempts were made after the election.

If infiltrated, Twitter accounts could be used to send out false information, much like how the intelligence community concluded Moscow leveraged social media “trolls” in its disinformation campaign during the presidential race. 

Experts and officials widely describe Russian disinformation efforts as nothing new, but Moscow has become more brazen in its influence efforts against Western democracies and elections.

The campaign against the U.S. election involved hacking emails of high-level Democratic officials and releasing them, with the aim of damaging Hillary Clinton, according to the intelligence community. Russian state-run media outlets and quasi-government trolls were used to spread negative news about Clinton and positive coverage of President Trump, for whom Moscow had established a preference, intelligence officials have said.

Experts also widely see Russia’s hand in disinformation efforts against elections in Europe, including the recent French presidential election in which Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Macron saw his campaign emails leaked onto the web days before the election, a hack that some researchers have tied to the same group behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The U.S. election interference campaign is currently under investigation by the FBI, which is exploring any links or coordination between Trump associates and Moscow. Congressional committees are also probing the interference efforts.

Lawmakers have acknowledged the challenge posed by Russia’s cyber-enabled disinformation operations.

“Today, cyber and other disinformation-related tools have enabled Russia to achieve operational capabilities unimaginable to its Soviet forbear,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who chairs a subcommittee overseeing the Pentagon’s cybersecurity efforts, said at a hearing in April. 

“Ultimately, we will continue to struggle with cyber-enhanced information operation campaigns until we address the policy and strategy deficiencies that undermine our overall cyber posture,” Rounds said. 

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