Small Wars Journal

How Pro-Iran Hackers Spoofed FP and the News Media

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:40pm

How Pro-Iran Hackers Spoofed FP and the News Media by Elias Groll - Foreign Policy

At first glance, the article appears to be a genuine contribution to this magazine, Foreign Policy.

Published in June 2017, it claims to report that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had criticized the expulsion of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas from Qatar under Saudi pressure, and that Hayden said the United States should not let an inexperienced princeling—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—upset security arrangements in the Middle East.

But that article was a forgery, an impersonation created by an Iran-linked disinformation network aimed at discrediting Tehran’s rivals in an information operation that began in 2016 and continues to this day. During that sprawling, groundbreaking operation, Iran-linked operatives created more than 100 fake articles across dozens of different domains, many of which impersonated legitimate news outlets, pushing made-up stories that attacked Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran, according to a report released Tuesday by Citizen Lab, a research organization.

To promote their articles, the operation even relied on fake Twitter personas who communicated with journalists and researchers online and sent links to the faked pages. Citizen Lab identified 11 such personas. One of them, “Mona A. Rahman,” was highly active on Twitter, described herself as a “political analyst & writer,” and appeared to be an anti-Saudi activist.

The fake Foreign Policy article and the dozens of others that impersonated real news sites no longer exist online…

Read on.