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Russia’s Interference in US Elections Targets Support for Ukraine

The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Election Report presents insights and analysis on the foreign malign interference in the US presidential elections, including Russia’s efforts to undermine the support for Ukraine.

According to the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center’s recent report, Russian influence operations are intensifying as the 2024 US presidential election approaches, with a particular focus on Ukraine. This heightened activity stems from the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia, providing the Kremlin with an opportunity to exploit divisions and further its own agenda. The aim is multifaceted: influencing American policies regarding the Ukraine conflict, undermining support for NATO, and sowing discord within the US to distract from global issues.

Over the past 2 months, Russian-backed actors have ramped up efforts to shape narratives about Ukraine through various channels, including traditional media and social platforms. At least 70 groups affiliated with Russia have been identified, each employing a mix of covert and overt campaigns. Among these actors, Storm-1516 and Storm-1099 stand out, utilizing sophisticated tactics to disseminate disinformation portraying Ukraine and its leadership negatively.

These foreign disinformation actors are known to push anti-Ukrainian narratives for the US audience, using a consistent pattern across multiple languages. Typically, the Russian narrative influencers work according to the following scheme:

  1. A narrative is seeded via a citizen journalist on a purpose-built video channel;

  2. Next, the video is covered by a seemingly unaffiliated global network of covertly managed websites;

  3. Russian expats and officials then share this coverage.

  4. Eventually, US audiences repeat and repost the disinformation, often unaware of the original source.

Storm-1516’s process for laundering disinformation into US audience spaces via Microsoft
Storm-1516’s process for laundering disinformation into US audience spaces via Microsoft

Moreover, Russia is revisiting tactics employed in previous elections, such as the “NABU Leaks” campaign, which targets US political figures to erode support for Ukraine. One notable figure in this campaign is Andrei Derkach, a former Ukrainian parliamentarian and US-sanctioned Russian agent, who has resurfaced on social media to propagate both old and new claims about American political figures.

In response to these threats, Microsoft Threat Intelligence is closely monitoring the activities of Russian state-sponsored hacking groups, aiming to detect and thwart any attempts to influence the election through cyber attacks. As the election draws nearer, vigilance against these influence operations becomes increasingly crucial.

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