More recently, Eastern Europe has faced a broad campaign that takes fake news ops to yet another level: hacking legitimate news sites to plant fake stories, then hurriedly amplifying them on social media before they’re taken down.
The propagandists have created and disseminated disinformation since at least March 2017, with a focus on undermining NATO and the US troops in Poland and the Baltics; they’ve posted fake content on everything from social media to pro-Russian news websites.
In some cases, FireEye says, Ghostwriter has deployed a bolder tactic: hacking the content management systems of news websites to post their own stories.
That hacking campaign, targeting media sites from Poland to Lithuania, has spread false stories about US military aggression, NATO soldiers spreading coronavirus, NATO planning a full-on invasion of Belarus, and more.
Nor would it be the first time that Russian hackers planted fake news stories; in 2017, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news story designed to embarrass the country’s leader and cause a rift with the US, though US intelligence never confirmed the Kremlin’s involvement.