US Intelligence Tells Russian Agents in Direct Messages to Stop Seeding Discord Ahead of 2018 Midterms

Meddling in the US election system is getting so out of hand that American security and intelligence agencies are now sending direct messages to individual Russian operatives, telling them the US government knows who they are and what they are up to.

The New York Times this week reported that the US Cyber Command is targeting individuals the US government has identified as active participants in a cyberwar that began with the 2016 presidential election.

The report cites “increasingly elaborate and sophisticated efforts by Russia to use disinformation to sow dissent in the United States,” while the Cyber Command’s operations are described as “relatively measured.”

The reason?

“To keep Moscow from escalating in response by taking down the power grid or conducting some other reprisal that could trigger a bigger clash between great powers,” the Times reports.

While Russia is “unlikely” to compromise voting machines from afar, or otherwise directly manipulate voting results this year, state and local governments have reported attempts to infiltrate networks, which other reports have corroborated.

“But Russian efforts to sway public opinion by spreading false information have continued, and officials said those efforts are becoming more refined, targeting specific groups of Americans. Almost all of the Russian disinformation efforts, according to current and former officials, are aimed at sowing dissent, polarizing the political parties and setting the stage for the 2020 presidential election,” the report notes.

The Cyber Command’s campaign reportedly targets oligarch-funded hacking groups, as well as intelligence operatives in Moscow’s disinformation campaign.

The US operation is part of a bigger nationwide effort that includes purges by social media companies of fake accounts that spread propaganda.

Defense officials also confirmed to The Times that the Cyber Command’s campaign is directly aimed at Russian intrusion in democratic elections. The team expands beyond US borders, into Europe where US allies and partners share their interests.

In related news, China and Russia are reportedly eavesdropping on President Trump’s cellphone calls, pointing to a glaring security problem under the current Administration. The NY Times reported Wednesday that Trump has refused to stop making calls on his iPhones, even though intelligence officials warned him directly that Chinese and Russian spies are listening to his conversations.

Trump denied the story in a tweet, saying “I rarely use a cellphone, & when I do it’s government authorized. I like Hard Lines.”



*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Bitdefender Labs authored by Filip Truta. Read the original post at: https://labs.bitdefender.com/2018/10/us-intelligence-tells-russian-agents-in-direct-messages-to-stop-seeding-discord-ahead-of-2018-midterms/