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13 Russians Indicted for Massive Operation to Sway US Election

Russian nationals reportedly used stolen American identities and infrastructure to influence the 2016 election outcome.

A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a massive operation intended to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has accused the defendants of posing as Americans to sway election results.

The Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, and the 13 actors reportedly began targeting the United States back in 2014. Mueller's indictment claims they "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

To do this, they launched an operation to support the Trump campaign and denigrate Hillary Clinton. In April 2014 the agency formed a department focused on the US population and operated on social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. By 2014, its strategy included fomenting distrust in US presidential candidates and the US political system.

Activity included buying political advertisements on social media with the identities of US citizens and businesses. The defendants concealed their Russian identities and affiliation with the Internet Research Agency by using stolen data like Social Security numbers and birthdates of real American people. They also recruited Americans to aid efforts to spread promotional and derogatory information.

The actors posed as US citizens and groups to create and control social media accounts. An example is the Twitter account "Tennessee GOP" under the handle @TEN_GOP, which falsely claimed to be operated by a US political party and amassed more than 100,000 followers. On other sites, particularly Facebook and Instagram, they posted content about political issues.

Around June 2016, the defendants began posing as American citizens and communicating with Americans to gather intelligence and learn where they should focus their efforts. Some traveled to the US to collect info for their operations and stage political rallies.

To further conceal their identities, the defendants and their co-conspirators bought space on servers based in the US to set up VPNs. They used these VPNs to connect from Russia to the US and access online social media accounts, open new accounts, and talk with US citizens.

The first time the United States indicted nation-state threat actors was in 2014, when the DoJ indicted five members of the Chinese military for allegedly hacking major American manufacturing companies and stealing trade secrets. In 2016 it indicted seven Iranian hackers for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against US financial companies.

It's worth noting these indictments are rare and don't usually end with an arrest. This week two Russian hackers were sent to US federal prison for payment card breaches at Heartland Payment Systems, NASDAQ, and other companies; however, these attackers were cybercriminals and not connected to a nation-state group.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2018 | 10:37:23 PM
Re: Is there a crime?
@zzx375: It's not about fake news so much as about actual campaigning activities in the manner of a PAC. The issue, as per the indictment, comes down to them being foreign nationals -- who are prohibited from various electioneering activities/expenditures in the US. There are also allegations in the indictment of bank fraud, wire fraud, and identity theft.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2018 | 12:45:14 PM
Re: Is there a crime?
It's pretty laughable really - some Ruskies cyberbullied Hillary and stole the election!? Be very careful what you wish for (making it seem way bigger than it was,) because soon the investigation will close and the first thing Trump will do is say the this is one more thing Obama screwed up because the Russian trolling happened on his watch, and The Donald will take credit for fixing Obamas failure for future elections!
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2018 | 11:12:26 PM
Re: Is there a crime?
Your bot-pal zzx375 started this and you actually defend it?  Oh, he's a nice bot, really...

Clinton won the popular vote by over 2+MM votes.  The actual 2016 election outcome was decided by less than 80K votes in 2 states.   To claim that this opinion engineering operation - highly sophisticated - covert - well funded - with known massive effect on numerous previous Euro elections - did not affect the 2016 election outcome is laughable.   

What has changed?  In past years anyone here would understand threats when they see them and defend freedom and its values.    Now we have people who cynically apologize for them.    

Yes, crime was involved.  Thirty seven pages of it.   We are facing serious threats and responsible professionals know it.   If you are feeling sick, perhaps its from too much Faustian deal in your diet. 

 sorry if all this "political" talk hurts your feelings.  Its real and we need to fix it.
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2018 | 2:08:13 PM
Re: Is there a crime?
*huge eye roll

The Clintons lost.  Stop crying about it.  Turn the page. 

I'd be willing to buy that the Russians were trying to weave dissention into gullable Americans but the insinuation that the Russians actively wanted Trump to win is so much left-wing paranoia it makes me sick.  Grow up people. 

I have been a dedicated reader of this site for many years because of its seeminly non-biased, non-political write-ups.   

Has something changed? 
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2018 | 12:23:19 AM
Re: Is there a crime?
zzx375  really?  obvious a bot
User Rank: Strategist
2/17/2018 | 9:23:53 AM
Is there a crime?
Is there a crime other than people in this country being stupid and believing everything they read online or in a social media feed?  Unless there are specific laws on the books I suspect this the special prosecutor's way of saying here's what we have, but it isn't much.  How many people post without using their own name?  Nothing to see here.
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