Beware novice encryption & FSB punditry

A Russian tragedy: Decriminalizing domestic violence

Nikki Haley

… is spineless. And Trump wants to abolish the U.N.

Presidential parallels

Greg Satell of Forbes shares the eerie parallels between the 2016 American and 2010 Ukrainian presidential elections:

The parallels don’t stop […] Both Yanukovych and Donald Trump often expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian approach. Both hired Paul Manafort to smooth out their image and hone their populist rhetoric. Once in office, Yanukovych jailed his opponent, just as Donald Trump threatened to do to Hillary Clinton.

📷 AP Photo/Olexander Prokopenko

The best hack is always undetected

Perhaps both anger and paranoia can be tools of revitalization in the political arsenal of opposition human rights. Evidence that Russia planted malware in potentially thousands of machines across swing states over a period of many months is now becoming clearer thanks to anonymous software engineering sources inside the United States Department of Justice.

Evidence shared with the DNC by software engineers hired by the U.S. DOJ to protect American systems from state-sponsored actors found malware that manipulated voting tallies in swing states in an effort requiring months of coding by Russia.

The November 2016 elections may have been manipulated and failure to detect the invading software’s code would have been essential to the hack all along.

While the Obama administration was able to build the most software and technological innovations during any presidency to date, the legacy state-sponsored actors have left behind may be the only one remembered.

Andrea shares more from the harrowing months leading up to the election for her family:

And the long-form New York Times article in Russian and English that was used to launch this blog in 2015.

The American public may have just witnessed the beginnings of Russian cyberaggression during the 2016 presidential elections and the worst acts of state-sponsored digital warfare would be yet to come.

📷 MIKHAIL SVETLOV/GETTY IMAGES

Adrian Chen on Russian Troll Farms

If you haven’t yet read Adrian Chen’s latest piece on Russian troll farms entitled “The Agency” featured in the New York Times June 2, 2015, I highly recommend it. If you read the language, be sure to check it out in Russian, too.

Troll farms in Russia have a rich history previously little documented. Trolls by their very definition are meant to “spoil” the Internet. Social media are just a few of their tools of digital warfare.

Adrian’s piece studies this phenomenon in a truly nail-biting tale of real world and online sleuthing. It ends with his own case of being set up as a Neo-Nazi supporter in a final assault meant to debase his credibility once the Russian agency became aware of his plans for the front page story. I first studied Russian trolling in my 2011 thesis on the subject for Columbia University. Trolls, at their very best, “get into the head” of their abuse victims.

A few days later, Soshnikov chatted with me on Skype. “Did you see an article about you on FAN?” he asked. “They know you are going to publish a loud article, so they are trying to make you look stupid in front of the Russian audience.”

I explained the setup, and as I did I began to feel a nagging paranoia. The more I explained, the more absurd my own words seemed — the more they seemed like exactly the sort of elaborate alibi a C.I.A. agent might concoct once his cover was blown. The trolls had done the only thing they knew how to do, but this time they had done it well. They had gotten into my head

Thankfully, there are some tell-tale signs of Russian trolling, which are covered in the article that can help most discerning readers separate fact from fiction, especially in the English language.

These techniques of modern warfare aren’t only limited to Russia, either:

As the Internet has grown, the problem posed by trolls has grown more salient even as their tactics have remained remarkably constant. Today an ISIS supporter might adopt a pseudonym to harass a critical journalist on Twitter, or a right-wing agitator in the United States might smear demonstrations against police brutality by posing as a thieving, violent protester. Any major conflict is accompanied by a raging online battle between trolls on both sides.

This June 10, 2015 piece, “Russian Propaganda Kills” at RFE/RL also provides a well-rounded picture of the current state of warfare caused by Russian trolls.

Fighting back

Today digital publications such as RFE/RLStopFake.org and many others have started to document the very real acts of deceit and abuse that Russian trolls carry out on an hourly basis and whose targets reach far around the globe.

As groups like ISIS and other inherently troll driven organizations like Russia’s Internet Agency continue to wage warfare on Twitter and beyond, the best solution is awareness building and careful understanding of one’s digital “surroundings.” A strong culture of technological security is what we need to ensure our future safety and sanity online.