Log, but don’t notify, on certain HIPS signatures

I need a solution

Hello everyone,

I’m a big fan of the SEP HIPS engine and I subscribe to the “Network and Host Exploit Mitigation and Compliance Events” notifications. But there are a couple of particular signatures that are getting rather noisy, and what I’d like to do is to stop getting notified for those signatures.  I’d like those events to still be logged so I can run reports or browse the events, but I don’t want to get emails for them (but I still want email notifications for other intrusion prevention signatures).  Is there a way to accomplish this goal?

Thanks in advance!



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Dark future of data wars inevitable unless consumers push back, author warns

The online campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election is a prelude to a dark future where data will become weaponized by hostile states, unless regulators and consumers push back, says the author of a new book on how to fix the crisis of trust in Silicon Valley.

“There will be major international crises and probably wars built around data,” Andrew Keen says. “There will be a hot data war at some point in the future.”

An internet entrepreneur turned cultural commentator, Mr. Keen was considered a heretic in 2007 when he wrote The Cult of the Amateur, which skewered the unbridled optimism fuelling the early days of Web 2.0 – the shift from static websites to platforms focused on user-generated content.

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Far from democratizing the web, Mr. Keen warned a decade ago that sites such as Facebook and YouTube were undermining traditional media outlets, cannibalizing revenues from professional content creators, and allowing anonymous trolls to post content unconstrained by professional standards that could manipulate public opinion and “reinvent” the truth.

Now as tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and PayPal confront revelations contained in U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment that they were the platforms of choice for Russian agents using stolen data to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, those early warnings have become the consensus opinion.

Today there is so much agreement about the harmful effects of technology that Mr. Keen says he’s wants to stop writing about what’s wrong with the internet and start focusing on how to fix it.

The heart of the issue, he argues in his latest book How to Fix the Future, lies in today’s big data economy, where tech companies give away their products for free in exchange for consumer information that advertisers use to create highly targeted messages. It’s a business model built on mass surveillance, with personal data becoming the economy’s most valuable commodity.

And as that data become ever-more important to state-to-state relations, Mr. Keen says we’re only one major hacking event away from a digital world war.

“We still haven’t had an Exxon Valdez or a Chernobyl on data,” he said in an interview days before a U.S. federal grand jury indicted three Russian companies and 13 of their online operatives for a wide-ranging and well-funded online campaign to sow political discord during the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump. “I think there will be some major hacking event in the not-too-distant future which may involve a foreign power that will wake people up to this.”

Yet such a dystopian a future is far from inevitable, he says. The internet’s early optimism, the belief that technology would save the world, was misguided. But so is today’s digital determinism, which says that humans are powerless against algorithms, smart machines and cyberwarfare campaigns of hostile foreign governments.

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To fix the future, Mr. Keen argues, we should look to the past. The social and economic upheaval caused by Industrial Revolution was tamed through a combination of labour strikes, government regulations that improved working conditions, the advent of a social safety net and the adoption of public schools. Mr. Keen believes the most damaging effects of today’s digital revolution can be similarly managed through a combination of regulation, innovation, consumer and worker demands and education.

History lessons are particularly crucial for Silicon Valley’s forward-looking tech titans. Mr. Keen points to the U.S. automotive industry, whose global dominance was undermined by safety and reliability issues until it eventually lost ground to innovative companies in Europe and Asia.

“It’s very important for Silicon Valley to wake up and recognize that there’s no guarantee that they’ll be dominant in 10 or 20 years,” he said.

In Mr. Keen’s vision of the war for the future, the villains are China and Russia, which are using online platforms to create surveillance states that undermine trust between citizens and their government.

The heroes are countries such as Estonia, which is creating a digital ID system for its citizens – one that alerts them each time a government agency accesses their data. The country also launched an “e-residency” program that gives foreign entrepreneurs access to the country’s financial institutions. In the Estonian model, he says, building online trust means replacing anonymity and privacy with a system of open and transparent state surveillance.

Regulation will become increasingly important to reining in big tech, he says. But the U.S., with its chaotic political system and laws that shield social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms, is ill-equipped to lead the push for reform.

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Canadian regulators have likewise taken a largely hands-off approach to social media companies, though earlier this month Bank of Canada deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins called for tougher regulation of tech firms, given their growing power and control over vast troves of personal data.

“Access to and control of user data could make some firms virtually unassailable,” she said.

Facebook also launched a “Canadian Election Integrity” project last year to head off concerns over how its platform could be used to undermine the 2019 Canadian federal election.

But Mr. Keen expects European regulators to carry the fight, particularly European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. “She’s the only one willing to take on Apple and force them to pay their taxes,” he says. “She’s the only one who is really looking critically [at] Google.”

Just as the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s loosened the company’s stranglehold on desktop computing and paved the way for startups such as Google and Facebook, Mr. Keen believes the multibillion-dollar fines Ms. Vestager has slapped on Silicon Valley giants are intended to foster innovation by preventing the big tech companies from using their global dominance to squash smaller competitors.

The most significant reforms will come this May, when the European Union launches the General Data Protection Regulation. The aggressive internet-privacy reforms will, among other things, give users the “right to be forgotten” by allowing consumers to delete the personal data that private companies hold about them.

While critics, including Mr. Keen, say the rules unintentionally favour companies large enough to afford to comply, he still sees the regulations as a good start. “The important thing is that they are beginning to pass some laws around data and the protection of consumer data,” he said.

Mr. Keen won’t predict how long it will be before Silicon Valley is forced to make meaningful changes to adapt to consumer and government pressure. But just as technology changes quickly, so can society’s attitude toward it. Or as one venture capitalist in the book describes the process of social and economic disruption: “it’s nothing, nothing, nothing – and then something dramatic.”​


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The GOP Is Conducting Cyber Warfare Against Political Opponents

Photo Credit: dailykos.com

As speculation builds over the extent of Russian meddling in 2018’s elections, the deceptive and influential tactics revealed in last week’s indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller—and newer ones—are already in use by U.S. politicos with pro-corporate, pro-GOP agendas.

The examples run the gamut from the seemingly trite—a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona touts an endorsement from a new website impersonating local newspapers—to more overtly serious: a tweet storm calling for Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken to resign, which he did last year after escalating accusations of sexual harassment; or tens of thousands of faked emails calling for the repeal of net neutrality, which the GOP-led Federal Communications Commission recently repealed.

In these examples and others, a new hall of mirrors is emerging that threatens American elections and governance—and it is coming from shadowy domestic operatives, not Russians. Websites mimicking news organizations are endorsing candidates. Online identities are being stolen and use to send partisan messages, with people unaware they are being impersonated for partisan gain. Targets are slow to detect or acknowledge the high-tech ruses used against them. The media is catching on, but it’s typically after the fact—not before crucial decisions are made.

While many progressives were split on whether Franken should have left the Senate, the Republican right was unambiguous in seizing the moment to force the Democrats to lose a popular senator.    

Twitter War

“White nationalist provocateurs, a pair of fake news sites, an army of Twitter bots and other cyber tricks helped derail Democratic Senator Al Franken last year, new research shows,” a report by Newsweek’s Nina Burleigh began, describing new details about how he was targeted. “Analysts have now mapped out how Hooters pinup girl and lad-mag model Leeann Tweeden’s initial accusation against Franken became effective propaganda after right-wing black ops master Roger Stone first hinted at the allegation.”

“A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral and then weaponized a liberal writer’s criticism of Franken,” Burleigh explained. “The bot army—in tandem with prominent real, live members of the far right who have Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich—spewed thousands of posts, helping the #FrankenFondles hashtag and the “Franken is a groper” meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year.”

This evidence trail tracing how right-wingers used software to amplify the attacks on Franken was discovered by Mike Farb at UnhackTheVote, an election transparency group. He noted this tactic was also one tool used by Russian propagandists during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  

What’s new now is not that technologies like bots are being created, but that domestic political operatives are using them in much the same way they have used robo-calls, negative campaign mailers and other attacks to undermine political opponents—before the internet and its social media platforms amplified the speed, intensity and impact of such attacks. 

“Like targeted Facebook ads that Russian troll farms used in the 2016 election, Twitter bots have been around for years and were originally created for sales purposes,” Burleigh wrote. “But since the 2016 election, arguably lost due to the right’s superior utilization of darker online strategies, the left is not known to have created or mobilized its own fake cyber army to amplify its viewpoint.”

Burleigh’s observation may be the most chilling. The evidence that is out there so far does suggest that pro-GOP and pro-corporate forces are bet g quicker to embrace the latest version of political dark arts—as seen in the growing list of examples of deceptive and influential online campaigns.

Endorsements That Weren’t

Last week, Politico reported on what, at first, seemed like a silly story—a Republican senatorial candidate from Arizona fell for a fake endorsement that seemed to boost her chances in an upcoming primary.

“It looked as if Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward had scored a big endorsement: On Oct. 28, she posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor,” Politico reported. “There was just one problem: Despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site… The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner. On its Facebook page, it is classified as a news site, but scant other information is offered.”

The general public doesn’t pay much attention to endorsements early in campaigns. So Ward falling for a faked one might be a typical mistake that inexperienced candidates make—and thus easily forgotten. But Politico’s report said her endorsement was part of a larger and far more disturbing trend: the mass-production of fabricated endorsements by anonymous political operatives clearly pushing a far-right agenda.

“The Arizona Monitor seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists,” wrote Politico. “It’s a phenomenon that spans the country from northern New England, where the anonymous Maine Examiner wreaked havoc on a recent mayoral election, all the way out to California, where Rep. Devin Nunes launched — as reported by POLITICO— his own so-called news outlet, the California Republican.”

“This basically is an appropriation of credibility,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told Politco. “As the credibility of reputable news outlets is appropriated for partisan purposes, we are going to undermine the capacity of legitimate outlets to signal their trustworthiness.” 

Political Identity Theft

Cyber deception also is appearing across the government in the nooks and crannies where White House directives or Congress’ laws are turned into the rules Americans must abide by—or in the Trump era, are repealed.

Here, political identity theft is increasingly becoming a tactic used to push federal agencies to end to consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits. Hundreds of thousands of public comments, purportedly made by real Americans, have come in over the electronic transom at five different agencies in recent months, a series of investigative reports found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.

A recent example concerns the “Fiduciary Rule,” which originated in the Labor Department and was to talk effect in July 2019, to try to prevent conflicts of investment from investment advisers targeting retirees.

“The [Wall Street] Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission,” it noted.

The highest-profile example concerned the FCC’s so-called net neutrality ruled, which previously had regulated telecom giants from overcharging the public and smaller businesses for access to online data. a day before the FCC voted in November to gut net neutrality, the Verge reported, “A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.”

In other words, a bot-like program was hijacking online identities and impersonating those people to file pro-corporate comments at the FCC. When public officials like New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, sought more information from the FCC, he received no response.

While one can speculate about who specifically coordinated these efforts, there is only one category of special interest has the means and motives to thwart government regulators: that’s the targeted industries, professional trade association and lobbyists and the biggest corporate players.

No Accountability Coming

These are people and interests that are represented by Republicans in Washington more so than Democrats. But, as Schneiderman learned, the GOP and it’s political appointees have no inclination to even acknowledge that cyber deception is becoming a new coin of the political realm—while they rule that roost.

Progressives and Democrats might point out that the GOP is the party that obsesses over voter fraud—one person voting many times, which almost never occurs in real life—while Republican-friendly operatives appear to be embracing cyber political identity theft on an unprecedented scale.

What this means for 2018’s elections is uncertain, but it doesn’t bode well. No matter where partisan cyber warfare is coming from—domestically or abroad—its occurrence will undermine public confidence in the results.

The congressional midterms and governors’ races in many states are occurring against a backdrop of a rising blue voter turnout wave. It’s in the GOP’s interests in preserving their power to do anything that undermines the credibility of electoral outcomes that should favor Democrats.

Cyber political warfare is the latest means for doing so. It’s already begun. 


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections, including Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election, to be published in March 2018 from Hot Books.


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UN secretary-general wants global regulations to combat cyberwars

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday called for the creation of a regulatory body charged with fighting electronic warfare campaigns that target civilians

While speaking at his alma mater, the University of Lisbon, the UN chief said a global set of rules that would help protect civilians from disinformation campaigns – many of which have revolutionized the way interested parties weaponise information through the use of the internet and social media networks.

State-sponsored computer hackers, including “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear” – both controlled by Russia’s intelligence services, have disrupted multinational firms and public services, as well as political campaigns, and most recently the opening ceremonies of the ongoing Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

“Episodes of cyber warfare between states already exist. What is worse is that there is no regulatory scheme for that type of warfare. It is not clear how the Geneva Convention or international humanitarian law applies in these cases,” Guterres said while speaking at the University of Lisbon. “I am absolutely convinced that unlike the great battles of the past, which opened with a barrage of artillery or aerial bombardment, the next major war will begin with a massive cyber attack to destroy military capacity and to paralyse basic infrastructure, including electric networks.”

Cyber-warfare has moved to the forefront of military planning over the last decade. Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit successfully tested its ability to disrupt public services in Estonia and Georgia more than a decade ago, Western military planners have scrambled to counter the advances that Moscow has made in developing advanced cyber-warfare strategies.

NATO is in the process of cyberwar principles that will act as a strategic framework for guiding the alliance’s force reaction in the event of a crippling cyber attack to its command structure or the deployment of cyberweapons against one of the alliance allies. NATO command hopes to have a broad plan in place by 2019, but questions remain as the US administration under Donald Trump had continued with its lukewarm embrace of the 68-year-old North Atlantic Alliance.

During his speech in Lisbon, Gutteres offered to use the UN as a platform for scientists, programmers, and government representatives to develop rules that would help minimise the amount of access certain agents of war would have when trying to make contact with unwitting civilians.

Guterres said he believed it possible for leading computer specialists and like-minded lawmakers to created a set of rules that would “guarantee the more humane character” of a conflict involving information technology and help preserve cyberspace as “an instrument in the service of good”, but warned that time was not on their side as technological advances far outpace the traditional methods of working out universally accepted rules that include the Geneva Conventions of 1864-1949.

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The Russians operated the election interference like a professional corporation

· Competitive Intelligence – relevant information collected on target consumers and competitive rivals attempting to sell similar products or services

o Starting at least in or around 2014, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to track and study groups on U.S. social media sites dedicated to U.S. politics and social issues. In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites the organization tracked certain metrics like the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post. (Page 12, Sec. 29.)

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also traveled, and attempted to travel, to the United States under false pretenses in order to collect intelligence for their interference operations. (Page 12, Sec. 30.) Only [Aleksandra] Krylova and [Anna] Bogacheva received visas, and from approximately June 4, 2104 through June 26, 2014, Krylova and Bogacheva traveled in and around the United States including stops in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas and New York to gather intelligence… Another co-conspirator who worked for the organization traveled to Atlanta… (Page 13, Sec. 30, part c & d.)

o Defendants and their co-conspirators posed as U.S. persons and contacted U.S. political and social activists. For example, starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grass roots organization. During the exchange, the Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida”. After that exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting “purple states” in directing their efforts. (Page 13, Sec. 31.)

· Budget/Resources – money and other organizational resources dedicated to achieving strategic goals

Financing for the agency came from a billionaire Russian oligarch who provides catering for the Kremlin and food for the Russian military. The oligarch, Yevegeniy Prigozhin , is a member of Vladimir Putin’s closest inner circle and is often referred to as “Putin’s Chef.”

o By in or around September of 2016, the organization’s monthly budget for Project Lakhta [code name for broader interference in multiple countries, including the U.S.] submitted to Concord [one of three Russian companies named in the indictment] exceeded 73 million Russian rubles (over $1.25 million U.S. Dollars), including approximately one million rubles in bonus payments. (Page 7, Sec. 11, part b). [The average monthly wage in Russia is currently $675].

o To hide their Russian identities and organization affiliation, defendants and their co-conspirators – particularly [Sergey] Polozov and the organization’s IT department – purchased space on computer servers located inside the United States in order to set up virtual private networks (VPNs). Defendants and their co-conspirators connected from Russia to the U.S.-based infrastructure by way of these VPNs and conducted activity inside the United States – including accessing online social media accounts, opening new accounts, and communicating with real U.S. persons – while masking the Russian origin and control of the activity. (Page 15, Sec.39)

o In or around 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also used, possessed, and transferred without lawful authority the social security numbers and dates of birth of real U.S. persons without those persons’ knowledge or consent. Using these means of identification, Defendants and their co-conspirators opened accounts at PayPal, a digital provider; created false means of identification, including fake driver’s licenses; and posted on organization-controlled social media accounts using the identities of these U.S. victims. (Page 16, Sec. 41)

· Operational Initiatives/Actions – coordinated actions at the operational level of the firm to ensure achievement of strategic goals. These are some examples, but not an exhaustive list.

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also registered and controlled hundreds of web-based email accounts hosted by U.S. email providers under false names so as to appear to be U.S. persons and groups. From these accounts, Defendants and their co-conspirators registered or linked to online social media accounts in order to monitor them; posed as U.S. persons when requesting assistance from real U.S. persons; contacted media outlets in order to promote activities inside the United States; and conducted other operations… (Page 16, Sec. 40)

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if U.S. persons or groups controlled them. For example, the organization created and controlled the Twitter account, Tennessee GOP, which used the handle @TENGOP. The @TENGOP account falsely claimed to be controlled by a U.S. state political party. Over time, the @TENGOP account attracted more than 100,000 online followers_. (Page 15, Sec. 36)

o In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their organization-controlled personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate. (Page 18, Sec. 46)

o Starting in or around the summer of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also began to promote allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic Party through their fictitious U.S. personas and groups on social media.” Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased advertisements on Facebook to further promote the allegations. [For example] On or about August 4, 2016 Defendants and their co-conspirators began purchasing advertisements that promoted a post on the organization-controlled Facebook account “Stop A.I.” The post alleged that “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucus”. On or about November 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used [Twitter account@TENGOP] _to post allegations of #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida. (Page 18, Sec. 47)

o In or around late July 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used Facebook group “Being Patriotic” the Twitter account @MarchforTrump, and other false U.S. personas to organize a series of coordinated rallies in Florida. The rallies were collectively referred to as “Florida Goes Trump” and held on August 20, 2016. (Page 22, Sec. 55) After the rallies in Florida, Defendants and their co-conspirators used false personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies supporting then-candidate Trump in New York and Pennsylvania. Defendants and their co-conspirators used the same techniques to build and promote these rallies as they had in Florida, included: buying Facebook advertisements; paying U.S. persons to participate in, or perform certain tasks at, the rallies; and communicating with real U.S. persons and grassroots organizations supporting then-candidate Trump. (page 23, Sec. 56)

· Employee Job Descriptions – What organizational employees do on a tactical/daily basis to ensure that operational initiatives are a success

o The organization employed hundreds of individuals for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support. The organization was headed by a management group and organized into departments, including: a graphics department, a data analysis department; a search-engine optimization (SEO) department; an information-technology (IT) department to maintain the digital infrastructure used in the organization’s operations; and a finance department to budget and allocate funding. (Page 5, Sec. 10, part a & b) By approximately July 2016, more than eighty organization employees were assigned to the “translator project.” (Page 6, Sec. 10, part d)

o Organization employees, referred to as “specialists,” were tasked to create social media accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons. The specialists were divided into day-shift and night-shift hours and instructed to make posts in accordance with the appropriate U.S. time zone. The organization also circulated lists of U.S. holidays so that specialists could develop and post appropriate account activity. (Page 14, Sec. 33) (Page 17, Sec. 43, part a)

o Specialists were directed to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with the social and economic situation and oppositional social movements.” (Page 14, Sec. 33)

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also created thematic group pages on social media sites, particularly on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. Organization-controlled pages addressed a wide range of issues, including immigration (with group names including “Secured Borders”); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including “Blacktivist”); religion (with group names including “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”); and certain geographic regions with the United States (with group names including “South United” and “Heart of Texas”). (Page 14, Sec. 34)

o On or about September 14, 2016, in an internal review of an organization-created and controlled Facebook group called “secured Borders,” the account specialist was criticized for having “a low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and was told “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts. (Page 17, Sec. 43, part b)

· Performance Measures – Metrics used to measure success of organizational strategy

o To measure the impact of their online social media operations,Defendants and their co-conspirators tracked the performance of content they posted over social media. They tracked the size of the online U.S. audiences reached through posts, different types of engagement with the posts (such as likes, comments, and reposts), changes in audience size, and other metrics. Defendants and their co-conspirators received and maintained metrics reports on certain group pages and individualized posts. (Page 15, Sec. 37)

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also used false U.S. personas to communicate with unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local level community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump. These individuals and entities at times distributed the organization’s materials through their own accounts via retweets, reposts, and similar means. Defendants and their co-conspirators then monitored the propagation of content through such participants. (Page 17, Sec. 45)

While not specifically identified by IRA as performance metrics, the following excerpts from the indictment show the Russian operation to be a stunning success in duping Americans.

Americans joined their online groups:

o By 2016, the size of many organization-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers. (Page 14, Sec. 34)

Americans attended their rallies:

o On or about August 4, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators created and purchased Facebook advertisements for the “Florida Goes Trump” rally. The advertisements reached over 59,000 Facebook users in Florida, and over 8,3000 Facebook users responded to the advertisements by clicking on it, which routed users to the organization’s “Being Patriotic” page. (Page 27, Sec. 71).

Americans amplified their posts:

o On or about August 19, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account to write to the real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization who previously had advised the false persona to focus on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” Defendants and their co-conspirators told that U.S. person, “We were thinking about your recommendation to focus on purple states and this is what we’re organizing in FL.” Defendants and their co-conspirators then sent a link to the Facebook event page for the Florida rallies and asked that person to send the information to Tea Party members in Florida. The real U.S. person stated that he/she would share among his/her own social media contacts, who would pass on the information. (Page 29, Sec. 80)

Americans took their money:

o For example, defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform. Defendants and their co-conspirators paid these individuals to complete the requests. (Page 23, Sec. 55) On or about September 9, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through a false U.S. persona, contacted the real U.S. person who had impersonated Clinton at the West Palm Beach rally. Defendants and their co-conspirators sent that U.S. person money via interstate wire as an inducement to travel from Florida to New York and to dress in costume at another rally they organized. (Page 30, Sec. 84)

Americans paid them money:

o Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the [bank and PayPal] accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the organization-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between $25 and $50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist. (Page 34, Sec. 95)

Most troubling lines

Outside the framework of organizational strategy, there were three things in the indictment that stood out to me.

1. The term co-conspirator was used a total of 121 times in the document. While most or all of these references may pertain to unnamed Russians, some may not. The document states: “Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States.”

2. President Trump has tweeted repeatedly that the indictment vindicates him and his associates and proves there was no collusion. Yet, the indictment specifically notes that “defendants and their co-conspirators also used false U.S. personas to communicate with unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local level community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump.” Could this imply that the only Trump campaign officials who conspired unwittingly with the Russians were officials at the local level, not national?

3. Perhaps most troubling, where Mueller begins to introduce the detailed nature of the Russian interference, the sentence opens with: “From in or around 2014 to the present.” We are still under attack by Russian trolls.

Last November the Federal Communications Commission voted to gut Obama-era rules protecting net-neutrality of the Internet. We now know that 7.75 million of the 23 million email comments submitted on Chairman Ajit Patel’s proposal ahead of the vote came from FakeMailGenerator.com, Bloomberg reported, and 444,938 messages were from Russian email addresses. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit with 22 states attorneys general to block the rollback of net neutrality laws after concluding that, ahead of the vote, 2 million comments were made using stolen identities of Americans. You can search


to see if your identity was among those stolen and used to submit fraudulent messages of support to end net neutrality.

Perhaps most sickening is that there have already been news reports of Russian bots inundating Twitter with tweets related to guns the day after the school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida. They have no place in our national discourse, our politics, or our grief.


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World View: Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller Issues Farcical Indictment of Russian Trolls

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Special prosecutor Robert Mueller issues farcical indictment of Russian trolls
  • How the Russian trolls do their jobs
  • Russian trolls on Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons
  • Comparing Russian trolls to Chinese hackers

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller issues farcical indictment of Russian trolls

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Reuters)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Reuters)

On Friday, the Justice Department’s Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, after a year of investigation, brought an indictment against a Russian “troll factory,” the St. Petersburg based Internet Research Agency, along with various trolls and other officials connected to the agency.

It is hard to overestimate the farcical nature of the indictment. I wrote about the Internet Research Agency in 2014, and I have written about Russian trolls several times since then. Any journalist or analyst writes about a variety of political or international subjects is attacked by Russian trolls. I have been attacked by dozens, perhaps hundreds of Russian trolls since 2014.

Here are some excerpts from the indictment:

2. Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC (“ORGANIZATION”) is a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes. Defendants MIKHAIL IVANOVICI1 BYSTROV, MIKHAIL LEONIDOVICH BURCHIK … and VLADIMIR VENKOV worked in various capacities to carry out Defendant ORGANIZATION’s interference operations targeting the United States. From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other … to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.

3. Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. … Defendants CONCORD and PRIGOZHIN spent significant funds to further the ORGANIZATION’s operations and to pay the remaining Defendants, along with other uncharged ORGANIZATION employees, salaries and bonuses for their work at the ORGANIZATION.

4. Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants’ means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.

I’m sorry, I can’t stop laughing. The CIA and Special Prosecutor’s office has spent hundreds of millions of dollars sleuthing out these criminals and discovered that Russian trolls hired by Russia’s “troll factory,” the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, are on blogs and social media sites posting misleading comments. This was something that was well known to me and many other people.

Here’s what I wrote in August 2014:

While Russia’s president Vladimir Putin maintains an iron grip on the state-run media, the internet remains a big problem for Putin, as he’s had little ability to control Twitter and other social media.

Putin has responded to this problem in a bizarre way. According to documents examined by an analyst firm, since April a Russian firm called the Internet Research Agency, with a 2014 budget of $10 million, has been hiring hundreds of “internet trolls” to challenge any online article critical of Russia.

Each troll is expected to post comments on blogs and news sites 50 times per day. The comments range from lies and disinformation to abuse and profanity. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts, posting three times a day in each. On Twitter, they’re expected to manage 10 accounts and tweet 50 times a day. [Emphasis added]

I get attacked by American trolls as well, but apparently, the reason that Russian trolls were indicted is that they didn’t register with the U.S. government. US Department of Justice and Russia Today

How the Russian trolls do their jobs

Let’s take some example of attacks by Russian trolls, so we can see what the Special Prosecutor might be talking about. I was never attacked by trolls over the election because I never wrote about the election. However, I am always attacked by Russian trolls whenever I write about any of the following subjects:

  • Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine
  • Russia’s shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane with a Buk missile
  • Russia invading and annexing Crimea
  • Vladimir Putin bragging about how he fooled the West by lying about his plans to invade and annex Crimea
  • Syria’s Bashar al-Assad using Sarin gas on innocent civilians
  • Syria’s Bashar al-Assad using chlorine gas to force women and children into the open so he can slaughter them en masse with missiles

Let’s take an example: Shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 passenger plane by the Russians in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. We actually knew within minutes that the Russians had shot it down with a missile, because Igor Strelkov, the commander of the Russian forces in east Ukraine, immediately tweeted the following:

We shot down AN-26 [military transport] near the city Torez, Donetsk People’s Republic … We warned, don’t fly in our sky.

Strelkov’s militias had shot down at least two Ukrainian AN-26s in the previous week and was bragging that he had shot down a third. The tweet was taken down a few minutes later when he learned that he had shot down a passenger plane.

Russian media and trolls went into full-on troll mode, making one ridiculous claim after another: Strelkov’s tweet had never occurred; the U.S. had shot down MH17 to embarrass Russia; the airplane was struck by a meteor; no living people were aboard the plane as it flew on autopilot from Amsterdam, where it had been pre-loaded with “rotting corpses.”

Russian trolls will say that no evidence exists that Russians shot down MH17. Actually, there are literally thousands of pieces of evidence, including intercepted phone calls, photos, analyzed and authenticated, videos, forensic examinations, witness statements, satellite images, and radar data. There was a major Dutch investigation that proved with no doubt that Russians shot down MH17 with a Russian-made Buk missile. But trolls will constantly say, “there’s no evidence.”

Russian trolls on Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons

As another example, Russian trolls are always on the attack when you write about the use of chemical weapons, including Sarin gas and chlorine gas, by Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Once again, they say that “there’s no evidence.” But once again, there are been several thorough investigations of al-Assad’s 2013 Sarin gas attack, and there are thousands of pieces of evidence that al-Assad used Sarin gas on ordinary civilians, including forensic collections and analyses, photos, videos, eyewitness testimony, doctors’ testimony, the UNSC report, analyses of the UNSC report, and so forth, proving al-Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons, including Sarin gas and chlorine gas.

Trolls try to use highly emotional arguments to avoid facts. One troll named “Jan Fearing” told me a darling story about her trip to Damascus, where she met a mother who thought al-Assad was wonderful. One troll argument I hear frequently is that al-Assad is popular, but once again that is irrelevant, since all the worst genocidal monsters are popular, including Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. You cannot succeed as a genocidal monster if your people do not support you, and that means you have to be popular with your own people to be a genocidal monster.

Comparing Russian trolls to Chinese hackers

I find the Russian trolls to be pretty much idiots. They are usually working from prepared scripts, and they usually do not know anything about the facts except what their trollmasters have told them.

I was not writing about election campaign issues, so I did not encounter trolls bashing Hillary and boosting Bernie Sanders and Trump, but I assume that the trolls who did that were just as incompetent on those subjects as they were on the subjects that I write about. During the election campaign, there must have been millions of highly partisan messages posted by hundreds of partisan organizations. How would the average Facebook user ever be influenced by a Russian troll message when it is surrounded by hundreds of other messages competing for the user’s attention? I don’t see how it is even remotely possible that the Russian trolls had any effect at all on the election, or that they will affect future elections.

In fact, when he announced the indictments, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said:

There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

This does not surprise me in the least. I do not see even the remotest possibility that these trolls influenced the election, and despite the media hysteria, I do not any possibility that they will have any influence at all in the 2018 and 2020 elections. The current hysteria is fatuous.

I personally believe that the use of trolls has backfired for the Russians, not because of the Mueller’s indictment, but because everyone knows about Russian trolls, so that anyone who genuinely wants to support Russia in one of these discussions is automatically assumed to be a troll.

That is why Mueller’s indictments are so farcical. They target people in Russia who will never be extradited, and they reveal “crimes” that everyone has been aware of for years.

People in the mainstream media are hoping against hope that these indictments are just the first step in bringing charges against Donald Trump. We will all be watching to see whether they get their wishes.

Finally, let’s take one more quote from the indictment:

57. After the election of Donald Trump in or around November 2016, Defendants and their coconspirators used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For example, in or around November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally in New York through one ORGANIZATION-controlled group designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through another ORGANIZATION-controlled group, organized a rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President” held on or about November 12, 2016. Similarly, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally entitled “Charlotte Against Trump” in Charlotte, North Carolina, held on or about November 19, 2016.

So the trolls were holding pro-Trump rallies and anti-Trump rallies in two different places in New York on the same day. These are truly the gang that could not shoot straight. We can all feel safe now that they are no longer at large. Oh, wait. All these trolls are in St. Petersburg, Russia, so they are still at large, and they will never be caught.

As a Senior Software Engineer, I am familiar with the entire range of online attacks, whether by trolls, or for espionage, or for cyber warfare. I find this hysteria over the Russian troll “threat to democracy” to be a total joke.

By contrast, the threat from China’s use of online espionage a million times greater. There are dozens of Chinese high tech companies whose only job is to spy and steal secrets from the United States. China has stolen hundreds or thousands of terabytes of data from defense and law enforcement systems, as well as from energy, transportation, government, technology, healthcare, finance, telecommunications, media, manufacturing, and agriculture systems.

There are some real threats out there, not from Russian trolls but from Chinese hackers. We should be focusing on the real dangers to our society. US Dept. of Justice and The Conversation(5-Oct-2017)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, Robert Mueller, Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, St. Petersburg, troll factory, Internet Research Agency, Bashar al-Assad, Igor Strelkov, AN-26, China, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Russian Buk 9M38 missile

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