Russian Underground Sells Disinformation Services to Influence Western Media
A new report by Insikt Group and Recorded Future warns that disinformation campaigns are “alarmingly simple and inexpensive” if you take advantage of services being offered on the dark web. After establishing a fake businesses in a Western country, researchers with Insikt Group recruited two disinformation vendors on a Russian-speaking underground marketplace. The first was hired to build up the reputation of the firm, and the second was paid to launch a smear campaign.
Each of the campaigns lasted a month and cost just a few thousands dollars. The campaigns were highly customizable, with the researchers being able to make a selection out of a range of services including social medial posts ($8 each) and SEO services and articles in traditional media outlets ($1,500 each). The disinformation vendors said they worked with people in various industries, including “journalists, editors, translators, search engine optimization (SEO) specialists, and hackers.” The researchers were surprised that it took the first vendor just two weeks to get the fake company “in the ‘news’—one of the media sources was a less established media outlet, though the other was a very reputable source that had published a newspaper for nearly a century.”