‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020 – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/us/politics/russia-hacking-disinformation-election.html

Excerpts:

«Facebook is looking for threats it barely knew existed in 2016, such as fake ads paid for in rubles and self-proclaimed Texas secessionists logging in from St. Petersburg.
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Most political campaigns are unwilling to spend what it takes to set up effective cyberdefenses. Millions of Americans are still primed to swallow fake news.
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The Russians were sloppy in 2016 because they could be: They caught Americans off guard. Now hackers and trolls, who have seen their tradecraft splashed across the pages of American intelligence assessments and federal indictments, are working far harder to cover their tracks. They are, as one American intelligence official put it, “refreshing” their operations.
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The trolls at the Internet Research Agency — the now-indicted outfit behind much of the Russian disinformation spread in 2016 — have ditched email accounts that were being tracked by Western intelligence agencies and moved to encrypted communication tools, like ProtonMail, that are much harder to trace. They are also trying to exploit a hole in Facebook’s ban on foreigners buying political ads, paying American users to hand over personal pages and setting up offshore bank accounts to cover their financial tracks, said an official and a security expert at a prominent tech company.
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With Americans so mistrustful of one another, and of the political process, the fear of hacking could be as dangerous as an actual cyberattack
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American officials, however, are nearly unanimous in the conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016, and that it remains the greatest threat in 2020.
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“They’ll try many tactics and can adapt,”
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“In every single case, we found ways for attackers to sabotage machines and to steal votes,”
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in about a fifth of the attacks, hackers compromised the accounts of campaign consultants and affiliates, and used those to send malicious lures to people inside the campaign. It is an extra step for hackers, but individuals are softer targets than the campaign, and people are far more likely to click on a link if they know the sender.»

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