ATbar Digital Terrorism in the Israeli Election Campaign?

Digital Terrorism in the Israeli Election Campaign?

11/02/2019 | by Terror and the Media  

Introduction

Approximately two years ago, following clear evidence of Russian interference in the US presidential election campaign, the US administration announced to dozens of countries around the world that their election campaigns were a target for the "Russian government’s cyber activists”. There is no doubt that the Russians used online measures to interfere in the election campaigns of most Western countries, including the US, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Montenegro and more. Evidence of this even led Putin to admit half-heartedly the possibility that, according to him, patriotic hackers from Russia had carried out cyber-attacks "against countries that had strained relations with Moscow and did so on their own initiative”. However, US intelligence authorities thought differently, and recently the US Justice Department filed indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers, all of whom were employees of the Putin administration, on suspicion of acting under its guidance to skew the US elections. A report prepared for the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence exposed the Russian disinformation campaign, which included millions of posts on social networks designed to influence the 2016 presidential election. Russian agents exploited all possible social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to influence the online discourse surrounding Donald Trump's candidacy. The goal of the Russians, according to the report, was to confuse, distract and influence voters. The Kremlin's efforts have been spearheaded by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian governmental body that has published posts on issues such as race, immigration and weapons in order to create disputes and divisions among American voters. The Russian agents, against some of whom indictments have already been filed in the US for criminal interference in the elections, divided the American electorate into key groups and conveyed specific messages to each group.[1]

In Israel, too, the fear of Russian interference in the upcoming election campaign has increased, as expressed in a statement by the head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, about a "foreign power" that interferes in the Israeli political system via the Internet.[2] Attention, of course, is focused on Russia: With a number of organized attacks, the Russians demonstrated impressive capabilities of infiltration, hacking, interference and disruption using online means. Russian hackers, on behalf of Putin, already attacked Estonia (2007) and Georgia (2009), hacked into the election headquarters of the Democratic Party in the US, planted advanced viruses within the e-mail systems of government organizations in Germany, as well as in the German parliament and in the offices of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, waged a cyber-attack against election campaigns in many countries, including the Ukraine (2014), the US (2016), France (2017), Germany (2017) and Holland (2017), and interfered  in a referendums in Britain, Holland, Italy, and Spain (2017). In these attacks, they combined "hard" measures (such as disrupting the computer systems of election administration, hacking campaign managers' computers, leaking party data, etc.) and "soft" measures, mainly including penetrating and influencing the public discourse by invading social networks.[3]



[1] "Five Takeaways From New Reports on Russia’s Social Media Operations", New York Times, December 17, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/us/politics/takeaways-russia-social-media-operations.html

[2] On July 7, 2019, the head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, appeared at a conference of the Friends of Tel Aviv University, during which he spoke of a “move that could affect the results of the upcoming election” due to be held on April 9, and warned of "interference by a foreign country”. See: https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5443404,00.html

[3] Weimann, Gabi. “Will Putin Also Interfere in the Election Campaign in Israel?”, Ha’ayin Ha’shviit, December 18, 2018,  https://www.the7eye.org.il/313117;

"Senate reports show scope of Russian election meddling", CNN Politics, December 2018, https://edition.cnn.cm/videos/politics/2018/12/17/russia-2016-report-social-media-ath-vpx.cnn

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