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Microsoft's security threat division sees evidence of more Russian disinformation efforts

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Earlier this month, Microsoft's security threat division, the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC), issued a report on efforts by China and North Korea-based state-sponsored hacker groups. The MTAC stated these groups are posting misinformation on US social media outlets in order to sow division in the country.

Today, the MTAC issued another report, this time on possible efforts to influence the 2024 US presidential election, again via misinformation on social networks. In a blog post, the MTAC noted that these efforts have actually started slowly this year compared to the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections due to the fact that the primary election season did not have any major contested matches.

However, the report says that Russia-based state-sponsored hacker groups have started increasing their misinformation efforts in the last couple of months. They have tried to post false information about Russia's current war with Ukraine. The blog post stated that one group, known by the name Storm-1516, has a specific pattern for their misinformation efforts:

  1. An individual presents as a whistleblower or citizen journalist, seeding a narrative on a purpose-built video channel
  2. The video is then covered by a seemingly unaffiliated global network of covertly managed websites
  3. Russian expats, officials, and fellow travellers then amplify this coverage

The blog also mentions China again as a country sponsoring hacker efforts to increase political divides in the US, with the use of images, videos, and even memes created by generative AI tools. The blog also says Iran could try to launch its own election influence efforts closer to the main US presidential day.

Microsoft says that AI-created "deepfake" videos of world leaders and candidates have so far not created a lot of confusion and misinformation. However, simpler efforts, like putting the logo of a real news organization on a fake story, have had more of an impact. The MTAC expects this kind of activity from these nations to increase in the months leading up to the US presidential election.

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