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Polish cyber defense experts warn of fake social media posts amid Russian disinformation campaign

08.03.2024 18:00
Authorities in Poland have identified a deceptive social media account on platform X, formerly known as Twitter, masquerading as the Polish Cyber Defense Command, the specialist news portal CyberDefence24 has reported.
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay Pixabay licence

The discovery exhibits all the signs of an apparent early stage in a targeted operation against the military, according to experts.

The suspicious account, established in February, featured a link to a counterfeit government site and initially bore a "silver bird" icon, suggesting verification or official status.

Observations revealed that the account, along with its followers, which appeared almost identical, were most likely bots – software programs designed to disseminate posts quickly, according to pre-set parameters.

The first post from this fake account coincided with the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, mirroring an original message from the authentic account of Poland's cyber forces, CyberDefence24 reported.

Since its inception, the fraudulent profile disseminated a total of three posts, including one about the Dragon-24 exercises.

This does not seem like a lot, but it does emphasize the nuanced timing and thematic focus designed to blend seamlessly with genuine military communications.

Upon notification of this incident, the Polish Cyber Defense Command (Dowództwo Komponentu Wojsk Obrony Cyberprzestrzeni, DKWOC) promptly initiated countermeasures to neutralize the harmful activity, leading to the removal of the account's verification icon and its eventual deletion on the evening of March 6, according to CyberDefence24.

Cognitive warfare

Col. Przemysław Lipczyński, a spokesman for the DKWOC, highlighted the prevalence of creating fake profiles of real institutions on social media as a well-known tactic for spreading disinformation.

He emphasized the ongoing "cognitive war" — a battle for minds — and an increasing need for public awareness and adoption of security principles against emotionally charged or anonymously posted content.

This case illustrates efforts by disinformation agents in seeking more effective methods to lend credibility to false statements.

Many similar past incidents have been identified, such as the fabricated report of a 13-year-old student's death in an accident during military exercises, which was spread using a fake account.

It seems clear that this recent attempt is part of a broader pattern of disinformation efforts, ranging from spreading misinformation to executing more complex manipulative campaigns, such as operations designed to deceive, CyberDefence24 said.

Fake social media reports and fabricated accounts are frequently used to sow discontent and mislead people – from individuals to entire populations.

The rapid response to this latest threat underscores the importance of vigilance against disinformation, especially as hostile actors continue to target civilians, government representatives, and the military, seeking to sow chaos and undermine morale, experts say.

Reputable news sources are not immune from attack. Rather, using their identity as cover is a favorite tactic. In two recent cases, fake BBC Twitter content was used to promote untrue "reports" of the Polish military allegedly preparing to "invade Ukraine" and fake Facebook video suggested that "NATO attacked Russian forces in Ukraine."

Some favorite fake content tactics include using real material with fake captions, adding subtitles which contain lies to videos that appear real, or impersonating real public figures, all in an effort to appear real enough to sow doubt or foment discontent.

Russia stepping up disinformation efforts against NATO

In response to these challenges, and with Russia stepping up its apparent disinformation efforts against NATO members, there is a call for the Polish government and military leadership to consider establishing a specialized unit within the armed forces dedicated to information warfare, potentially under the aegis of the DKWOC, leveraging its expertise and resources to enhance Poland's informational security capabilities.

The increasing availability of online tools which, using artificial intelligence, can be used to produce content that mimics real people with ease, means that the public can expect rapid growth of video and audio content so-called deep fakes that is entirely untrue and made for the single purpose of manipulating peoples' understanding of, and opinion on, surrounding events, experts warn.

In the context of growing international unrest, they urge ever greater vigilance on the part of both individuals and governments.


Source: cyberdefence24.pl