Here is a slightly rearranged version of this defense one article. I’ve emphasized the main lines of Russian disinformation and how Lithuania deals with them.
As always the interesting thing is the techniques that are used to make false information appear legitimate. Here the Russians use a one-two-three approach:
Jewish New Year Spoiler
On Sept. 25, Russian operatives posted online a fake news story that claimed that German soldiers, operating as part of NATO, had desecrated Jewish gravestones with swastikas in Kaunas. The publication was timed to a meeting between Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and members of the U.S. Jewish community, as well as a meeting between the Lithuanian foreign minister and members of the Lithuanian Jewish community (in anticipation of the Sept. 29 Jewish New Year).
The following day, the operatives emailed the fake story several English-language news sources, including The Jewish Press, Jewish National News, andInfos Israel News;and even contacted Nausėda’s office, pretending to be Lithuanian journalists*.*The former removed the material after it was contacted by the Lithuanian government but the damage was already done.
Finally, the operatives hacked into a genuine news organization, kasvyksta.lt , and posted about the fake story on Sept. 26 and 27, according to Eugenijus Lastauskas, who runs the Lithuanian military’s Strategic Communication Department.
Fear of nuclear retaliation
On Oct. 17, Russian operators again broke into kasvyksta.lt and posted a new story about purported U.S. plans to move nuclear weapons to Lithuania. They also sent fake emails purporting to be from known journalists to Nausėda’s office and other officials, looking for official comment on the fake story. Back in Russia, the story was circulated widely across social media channels. The next day, hackers again targeted legitimate media outlets to deface them in order to carry false news. Journalists well outside of Russia were targeted with emails made to look like they were from members of the Lithuanian government.
The attackers even drew up a fake tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pomepo “congratulating” the Lithuanian president on the news of the move of the nuclear weapons, despite U.S. policy not to disclose the location of nuclear weapons outside of the United States.
The objective, said Lastauskas, was the convince Lithuanians that they would be targets for Russian nuclear retaliation if hostilities break out.
Notes on Attacks
Notice how every attack is conducted across multiple fronts on concert. Directly emailing major stakeholders, under a variety of pretexts: “I’m a major journalist, do you have any comments on this story?”; “have you seen this story?”.
Posting false stories beforehand provided a reference version. It was not expected to stand alone though.
Legitimate news websites were hacked and defaced with false news articles that corroborated the original fake news release.
Line: State is failing
The Russian government pursues disinformation campaigns along several lines of effort. “The first line is basically… to show that the state is failing, not delivering as the people would expect,” he said.
In terms of politics, “that gets inflated to an enormous level,” he said. It “goes as proof of state ineffectiveness…Your past is criminal, your present is miserable, no future.” The ultimate objective is “to show the state is not worth it.”
Line: nato is a threat
another line of effort is far more targeted directly at NATO. It “portrays NATO forces as a threat to society, a threat to civilians,” he said.
NATO itself is more limited in its ability to respond to Russian disinformation aimed at the alliance as a whole or at a single country such as Lithuania.
The Lithuanian government uses a variety of tools to spot Russian disinformation campaigns, Lastauskas said. “There are certain attacks where they are provoking a reaction,” he said, declining to go into detail out of operational concerns.
Once we’ve identified that there is fake information… that could potentially harm our interests, we deconstruct it. We try to kind of identify, is it really fake? How was it created? What is the target audience it is trying to connect [to], and then there is a discussion between the different ministries where we identify what needs to be done next,”
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