The influential and damaging effects of disinformation are widely covered from cultural and geopolitical angles today. But what about the risks for organizations when influence operations and deep fakes target them? On April 13, Flashpoint will host a live webinar to explore the business threats of disinformation and deep fakes with special guest, Matthew F. Ferraro, former US intelligence officer and current attorney at WilmerHale.
Please join us for our webinar, “Disinformation and Deepfakes: Identifying News to Fight Business Threats,” on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at 1:00 PM EST!
What Is “DWhat Is “Disinformation”?isinformation”?
Disinformation is the intentional spreading of demonstrably false information. Often used interchangeably with “misinformation,” the key distinguishing factor between the two is the underlying intent of the actors disseminating the disinformation.
When leveraged in influence operations, disinformation can take a number of forms, with either short-term, laser-focused campaigns or slow-moving, long-term campaigns to achieve broad, strategic objectives, such as to sow public distrust. In some cases, disinformation can include real information or news, though typically exaggerated or otherwise misrepresented before or during dissemination.
Figure 1: Categorizing Four Types of Influence Operations
The Power of Disinformation: Minimal Resources, Major Impact
From an attacker’s standpoint, the real value of disinformation campaigns lies with the nominal resources and little technical sophistication required to launch them. While some more elaborate influence operations include intricate arrays of botnets coordinated across different social network platforms, these are far from necessary to make an impact. Many successfully-damaging disinformation campaigns are perpetrated by threat actors leveraging only the publicly available tools, social platforms, and internet services at their disposal.
The trusted circles of family, friends, colleagues, and others that we all develop over time have been fundamental survival tools that humans have relied on for survival throughout history. Now with these communal networks more easily revealed online and on social networks, threat actors are able to easily exploit these trusted circles. Disinformation coupled with easy access to large swaths of the population via social platforms provides easy and cheap means to run influence operations from afar.
Figure 2: Data Clustering Shows Dissemination of Fake News on Twitter About COVID Originating in US Military Labs
Businesses Are Exposed to Disinformation Too
While the impact of effective disinformation campaigns on public sentiment and national elections is well-documented, influence operations also increasingly target businesses and other organizational entities and industry sectors.
Flashpoint regularly observes cybercriminal influence operations holding other, often financial, motivations as the primary objective driving their disinformation campaigns. In all cases, threat actors have a range of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) at their disposal, including:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): The manipulation of internet search engines to promote certain content over others for a large number of users. SEO is known as a legitimate marketing tactic, but threat actors can deploy similar techniques to achieve their own illicit goals, such as promotion of backlinks and legitimization of weaponized content or sites.
- Social media manipulation (SMM): The practice of artificially augmenting the reach or reputation of social media content through coordinated SMM panels or botnets.
- Account hijacking: The takeover of legitimate social media accounts enables threat actors to boost the amplification of their disinformation campaigns or to further compromise the now vulnerable account holders or their networks via spearphishing and similar techniques.
- Stock price distortion: With massive and influential botnets at their disposal, threat actors launch coordinated, cross-platform amplification campaigns to artificially lower or inflate a company’s stock price based on shifts in customer sentiment.
- Deepfake extortion and scams: Deepfakes are manipulated videos, images, or audio files created through sophisticated deep learning technology. Threat actors leverage deepfakes to extort targeted individuals for ransom, as well as to run financial fraud scams that impersonate wealthy individuals or executives to dupe their unsuspecting colleagues or financial institutions into executing large money transfers. Our guest speaker, Matthew Ferraro, outlines five practical steps to counter the atomic deception of deepfakes in a recent article, and will expand on these methods during our webinar as well.
Join Us for Our Upcoming Webinar on Tuesday, April 13th!
For more on the latest in deepfakes, disinformation, and influence operations, join us on Tuesday, April 13th at 1:00 PM EST. Hear from special guest, Matthew F. Ferraro, former US intelligence officer and current attorney at WilmerHale, as we discuss the emerging business threats of disinformation and deep fakes.