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From Russia with Hate: Online Campaign Working to Foment Israeli Division

February 23, 2024

by: Raphael Kahan ~ Ynetnews

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Russia has launched cyber campaigns spreading anti-Israel propaganda (illustrative).

Friday, 23 February 2024 | According to a study unveiled Thursday by Israeli firms Sentinel One and ClearSky, cyber investigators have uncovered a campaign of disinformation and propaganda orchestrated by Russia. This campaign is linked to a Russian entity known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, which is believed to be under the control of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, similar to Israel’s Intelligence Directorate. The operation, named Doppelgänger NG, serves as an extension of a campaign with a similar moniker that targeted Western nations like the UK, France and the US two years ago.

The essence of this campaign lies in messages designed to foster division, incite and propagate messages favoring Russia or aligning with Moscow’s objectives. While the earlier campaign was detected and neutralized, the Russians have now resurrected it with fresh objectives. This campaign is distinct from the one revealed in November that was utilized to malign Israel and Jews on social platforms, as reported by Ynet.

The campaign’s key narratives revolve around harsh criticism of Western nations and endorsing Russia’s stance on the Ukraine conflict, assertions about Israel’s escalating international isolation, portraying left-wing advocates as more perilous than terrorists and leveling accusations of collaboration between Ukraine and Hamas. However, there’s also an effort to sway Israeli public sentiment by depicting Israel as facing economic decline due to military skirmishes, as articulated to Ynet by Migo Kedem, the senior vice president of Research at SentinelLabs.

Are Israeli Authorities Aware Of The Campaign?

“It’s not entirely clear if the authorities have been alerted to this activity. Nonetheless, the fight against such campaigns necessitates a joint effort from governing bodies, social media corporations, and an alert public capable of spotting manipulative tactics.”

The campaign has been under surveillance by researchers since November 2023. It has been found to primarily target audiences in Israel and the US, as well as certain European nations, notably Germany and France, which are seen as Russia’s principal opponents in the context of the Ukraine conflict. The Russians employ a variety of deceptive or fictitious websites in conjunction with social media bots, with the sole aim of spreading links to these sites. The list of fake sites includes one that masquerades as the Walla website and another posing as a liberal site. Moreover, fabricated websites have been created specifically for the purpose of circulating false news under the moniker “Omnam”.

Some of the headlines discovered in the fabricated articles include statements like, “CIA agents disguise themselves as terrorists…Could they possibly empathize with them?” or “The US once again stirs division within the Israeli government and society.”  A headline from the site posing as liberal dramatically reads: “Hostage swapping—a trap devoid of hope.” The made-up site Omnam features headlines like: “The perils of waging war against the Houthis” or “South Africa’s legal action—a disgrace to the memory of the Holocaust.”

This strategy of Russia is characterized by an amalgamation of traditional military power, cyber onslaughts, information warfare, propaganda, exertion of economic stress, political sabotage and the use of proxies to fulfill geopolitical aims. It involves obfuscating Russia’s involvement and consistently denying it. Non-state factions, militants, hackers and bots are employed. The weapons used cause disruption, creating chaos and fostering confusion and mistrust, all aimed at undermining the social unity of adversaries, as described in the reports.

These firms assert that the Kremlin earmarks the targets of the campaign, which are then subjected to information warfare maneuvers. These maneuvers include, but are not limited to, efforts to sway US elections, undermine the unity of the EU, and curtail Western backing for Ukraine. Moreover, Russia leverages societal chaos to further the objectives of its allies, with Syria and Iran being prime examples in this scenario.

Russia has executed campaigns of this type across the globe, with varying degrees of success.

Posted on February 23, 2024

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 23, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

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