Hacked: Facebook, Voting Machines, and a Chem Lab

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted August 2, 2018 at 8:00PM

Earlier this week (amid a drastic stock drop), Facebook alerted Congress to a new disinformation campaign ahead of November's elections.

The company found dozens of fraudulent pages, 9,500 inauthentic posts, and 290,000 accounts — all of them Fake News.

This marks an escalation from Russia’s 2016 effort, in which Facebook discovered 2,700 fake accounts and more than 80,000 fraudulent posts.

Similarly, Google found two accounts linked to Russian hackers that bought $5,000 worth of ads during the 2016 election, as well as 18 YouTube channels likely backed by Russian agents.

In addition to being more widespread, the approach was more sophisticated.

“Whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past," Facebook said in a statement.

That’s pretty disturbing when you consider the lengths Russia went to last time around.

Indeed, in 2016, Russia’s military intelligence agency set up an entire company that employed hundreds of people and had a budget of $1.25 million per month. It used information (Social Security numbers and birth dates) stolen from U.S. citizens to create fake online personas to stoke political animosity online.

This “cyberarmy” also infiltrated computer networks at the DCCC and DNC, where it secretly monitored the activity of dozens of employees, and planted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code to steal passwords and data.

Now, it’s doing even more.

And the United States still isn’t prepared.

In July, the top maker of electronic voting machines in the country admitted that it installed backdoor remote-access software on many of its products (and then lied about it).

These were the machines that are located in county offices where elections are monitored. They add up the votes and are used to program each voting machine throughout the county. They aren’t supposed to be connected to the Internet, but in many cases they were.

As such, they are extremely vulnerable to hackers.

It’s akin to “leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

And yet, Congress has rejected additional funding to combat election threats. The Senate on Wednesday shot down a $250 million appropriation for state election security, just as the House rejected a $380 million measure in July.

Meanwhile, Russia has already spent $200 million on efforts to destabilize American democracy.

And that’s not all.

Russian hackers also recently penetrated the Swiss Spiez Laboratory, which specializes in the prevention of chemical, biological, and atomic warfare.

This is the laboratory that’s investigating the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The former Russian double agent and his daughter were living in the U.K. when they were poisoned with Novichok nerve agent — a chemical made exclusively in Russia.

The Spiez Laboratory had been analyzing the nerve agent involved in that attack, thus attracting Moscow's attention. The hackers posed as the laboratory's organizing committee and used fake email addresses to target its chemical weapons experts.

A similar attack was carried out on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — the body that barred Russia from the last Olympics — earlier this year, as well.

Make no mistake, this is the world we live in now.

It’s one populated by hackers, cyberterrorists, and Fake News. Hardly anyone or anything is safe anymore.

That’s why I recently recommended a stock that’s battling these very threats.

It’s poised to cash in as cybersecurity spending climbs to a record $93 billion and $108 billion by 2020.

It could soar as much as 1,500% as we approach the November election.

And you can find out all about it right here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of The Wealth Warrior, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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