US midterm elections 2018

US using ‘direct messages’ in fight against Russian meddling in midterm elections, report says

  • US Cyber Command said to be using direct messages to target individuals behind influence campaigns, according to The New York Times
  • The campaign by the military computer warfare division is the first known operation taken to protect American elections
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 4:38am

The United States has launched a cyber campaign aimed at Russian operatives in an effort to curb misinformation before the November 6 congressional elections, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, in what it said was the first known operation to protect American elections.

The Times, citing unnamed defence officials briefed on the operation, said that the US Cyber Command, the military’s computer warfare division, was using direct messages to target individuals believed to be behind influence campaigns to try to deter them from spreading propaganda and fake information.

While the US was not directly threatening anyone, its previous sanctions and indictments could help deter Russian operatives once they realise they have been identified, according to the newspaper.

US intelligence agencies claim that Kremlin-backed entities meddled in the 2016 presidential election campaign to try to boost Republican candidate Donald Trump, an accusation Moscow has repeatedly denied. Intelligence officials insist Moscow is a threat to US elections.

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On Friday, the US government unveiled what one official said were the first criminal charges linked to attempted interference in next month’s midterm elections. Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a 44-year-old Russian, was charged with playing a financial role in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct “information warfare” against the US, including attempts to influence voters.

The newspaper claimed that the protective operation has been limited to prevent Moscow from escalating its response beyond election-related actions that could target the US power grid or other targets.

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US Cyber Command has also sent teams to Europe to try to help its allies fight Russian intrusions, officials told the paper.

Reuters could not confirm the Times report.

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US National Security Adviser John Bolton, in Moscow for meetings this week, told Russian officials on Monday that its alleged election meddling had sown distrust.

More than a dozen Russians and three Russian entities have been indicted as part of a US investigation into the 2016 interference and possible collusion by Trump’s campaign, including 12 Russian intelligence officers and a St. Petersburg-based group known for its social media trolling.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.