Putin threatening ‘high-risk cyber attacks’ says expert
Government-funded research has unveiled the new tactics, which form part of the Kremlin’s mass-scale disinformation campaign. Russian agents target politicians as well as baiting audiences across a range of countries. The British Government says the campaign has suspected links to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, founder of infamous bot-farm the Internet Research Agency.
So-called “cyber soldiers” have been exposed across platforms in the UK, South Africa and India.
The tactics are not uncommon in Russian propaganda warfare and have been designed to influence public opinion of the war on Ukraine.
Part of the plan also aims to recruit potential Putin sympathisers to assist in the operation, using well-established websites and social media pages to spread news and information in favour of Moscow.
According to Government-funded intelligence, the cyber-masterminds are based out of an old abandoned factory in St Petersburg.
The set-up consists of paid employees made up of large internal working teams.
Putin has an army of trolls operating out of St Petersburg
Trolls aim to influence politicians and media outlets
A release on the Government’s website says: “The research exposes how the Kremlin’s large-scale disinformation campaign is designed to manipulate international public opinion of Russia’s illegitimate war in Ukraine, trying to grow support for their abhorrent war, and recruiting new Putin sympathisers.
“Sick masterminds of the operation are believed to be working overtly from an old factory in St Petersburg, with paid employees, and internal working teams.”
Condemning the findings, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has stated the discovery has been shared with partners.
She said: “We cannot allow the Kremlin and its shady troll farms to invade our online spaces with their lies about Putin’s illegal war.
“The UK Government has alerted international partners and will continue to work closely with allies and media platforms to undermine Russian information operations.”
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Liz Truss has reacted to the findings
Nadine Dorries has called the group “Putin’s Propaganda Machine”
Adding to the condemnation, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries stated the discovery was part of Putin’s tactics of deception.
She said: “These are insidious attempts by Putin and his propaganda machine to deceive the world about the brutality he’s inflicting on the people of Ukraine.
“This evidence will help us to more effectively identify and remove Russian disinformation and follows our decisive action to block anyone from doing business with Kremlin-controlled outlets RT and Sputnik.”
According to the report, the popular social media chat group app Telegram is being used by Russian trolls to recruit and coordinate new supporters.
From here, they are tasked with targeting the social media profiles of Kremlin critics from around the world, using mass spamming techniques and pro-war comments to flood the internet.
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Russia is also seeking for pro-Kremlin sympathisers
The UK has in the past sanctioned the so-called “bot farm” run by Mr Prigozhin.
Government officials will now share the findings with partner nations and social media companies in an effort to curb the use of such tactics.
The UK has also created a Government Information Cell (GIC) to counter Russian disinformation.
Made up of experts from across the UK Government, the Cell is focused on identifying and assessing Russian disinformation and both advising on and delivering output to expose and challenge the Kremlin’s lies.
Many of Russia’s key mouthpieces have already been subjected to punitive measures by the UK and Western allies alike.
Some of Putin’s political allies such as Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova have already been slapped with sanctions.
Aside from individuals, the Government has also hit various Russian organisations.
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Rossiya Segondnya is one of several entities sanctioned over propaganda techniques
The Kremlin-funded TV-Novosti which owns RT, formerly Russia Today, and Rossiya Segodnya, which control the news agency Sputnik, have all seen restrictive measures placed upon them.
Russia has attempted to use a host of counter tactics to avoid detection.
These include tactical innovations of the operational methodology, including the use of commenting behaviours, use of VPNs and deliberate amplification of “organic” content supporting the Kremlin’s position.
All of these methods help to avoid detection and interception by social media platforms.