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Europe: Hackers spread fake news on news sites

In recent years, online misinformation has grown rapidly, with the Internet Research Agency showing its anger on social media and hackers to leak news - both true and fabricated - to achieve their goals. More recently, Eastern Europe has faced a widespread campaign that takes fake news to the next level: breaking news sites to publish fake news and then hastily sharing it on social media before being abolished.

On Wednesday, security company FireEye released a report on a group focusing on misinformation in Europe, which it calls Ghostwriter. Propagandists have been creating and disseminating misinformation since at least March 2017, with an emphasis on undermining NATO and NATO forces. USA. in Poland and the wider Baltic States. They have published fake news on all social media up to pro-Russian news sites. In some cases, says FireEye, the Ghostwriter team has developed a bolder tactic: hacking the content management systems of news sites to publish their own stories. Then they spread their fake news through e-mail, SOCIAL MEDIA and even act as propagandists by writing to other sites that publish user-generated content.

This hacking campaign in Europe, targeting news sites from Poland to Lithuania, has spread fake news about US military aggression, NATO soldiers broadcasting coronavirus, NATO plans for a full-scale invasion of Belarus and more. "They spread stories that NATO is a danger, that the locals are upset, that they are infected, that they are car thieves," said John Hultquist, director of intelligence at FireEye. "And they promote these stories in different ways, with the most imaginative being the violation in websites local media and the spread of fake news. "

FireEye itself has not analyzed these incidents and admits that it does not know exactly how hackers steal credentials that give them access to content management systems that allow news to be posted and exchanged.

However, company analysts have found that the hacking of news sites and online accounts used to spread links to these fake young people in Europe are linked to a set of individuals, indicating a unified misinformation effort. Hultquist points out that the campaign does not seem to be financially motivated, indicating a political or state supporter, and notes that the focus is on achieving confrontation between the ΝΑΤΟ and the citizens of Eastern Europe suggests possible Russian involvement.

Recently, fake news has tried to exploit the fear of Covid-19. A story published in both Kas Vyksta Kaune and the English Baltic Times in January claimed that the first Covid-19 case in Lithuania was an American soldier who was hospitalized in critical condition, but only after "visiting public places and participating in cultural events with children and young people ", according to the Baltic Times version of the story.

In April and May, attention turned to Poland: A fake story was published on several Polish news sites in which an American official referred to local Polish forces as disorganized and incompetent. This time the campaign became even more popular with news sites. A fake letter from a Polish military official was posted on the website of the Polish Military Academy, calling on the Polish army to stop military exercises with the US, condemning the "occupation" of Poland by the America and described the exercises as an "unprecedented challenge" for Russia. The Polish government quickly labeled the letter a forgery.

FireEye's finding that all these fake news operations in Europe were carried out by a single group comes to the fore in a report by The New York Times that the Russian military intelligence service GRU, coordinates the publication of fake news on sites such as InfoRos, OneWorld.press and GlobalResearch.ca. U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to the Times reported that the misinformation campaign, which included false reports that the Covid-19 came from the USA, was specifically the work of the GRU "psychological warfare unit", known as Unit 54777.

Given GRU's role in intervening in the 2016 presidential election, including hack-and-leak operations against the Democratic National Committee and the campaign Clinton, any GRU role in the latest misinformation raises fears that it could target the 2020 elections as well. States should be treated as a warning.

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