National Security

Russian hackers used fake accounts disguised as local news: report

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Russian operatives working out of the St. Petersberg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) used fake accounts disguised as local U.S. media outlets to exploit Americans’ trust in local news.

An NPR report found that accounts linked to the IRA operated at least 48 social media accounts disguised as U.S.-based local media organizations, including @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post.

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None of the accounts reviewed by NPR, some of which had tens of thousands of followers, had been used so far to spread disinformation, according to the report. The link to the IRA suggests that the accounts were to be used in some future operation.

“The Russians are playing a long game. They’ve developed a presence on social media. They’ve created these fictitious persons and fictitious organizations that have built up over a period of time a certain trustworthiness among people that follow them,” House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the news outlet.

The accounts, one of which was opened as early as May of 2014, were shut down by Twitter after years of posting real news stories.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NPR that the accounts represented Russia’s ongoing effort to interfere in future U.S. political events and elections.

“This effort is not over,” she said. “It continues to this very day, where the Russians are trying to sow the seeds of discontent in our society, take advantage of the polarization that exists.”

The Trump administration moved to punish the Kremlin’s domestic security bureau last month for its involvement in cyberattacks, sanctioning five Russian entities and three Russian nationals accused of aiding the Federal Security Service.

Tags Adam Schiff Adam Schiff FSB Internet Research Agency Russia Russian election interference Susan Collins Susan Collins Twitter

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