The Internet Research Agency is infamous for flooding mainstream social media platforms with compelling disinformation campaigns. The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, deploys strategic data leaks and destabilizing cyberattacks. But in the recent history of Russia’s online meddling, a third, distinct entity may have been at work on many of the same objectives—indicating that Russia’s disinformation operations went deeper than was publicly known until now.
Dubbed Secondary Infektion, the campaign came on the radar of researchers last year. Today, the social media analysis firm Graphika is publishing the first comprehensive review of the group’s activity, which seems to have begun all the way back in January 2014. The analysis reveals an entity that prioritizes covering its tracks; virtually all Secondary Infektion campaigns incorporate robust operational security, including a hallmark use of burner accounts that only stay live long enough to publish one post or comment.
Roll Call reports:
As midterm elections grew near, a Twitter account in the name of Senator Marco Rubio shared an inflammatory message. “British GCHQ that spied on @realDonaldTrump in 2016 is back in the game,” the tweet attributed to Rubio, complete with a blue checkmark, said in July 2018.
“Now they intend to use #DeepFakes to support Democrats during the midterm elections.” Only the tweet was not Rubio’s, and there was no such espionage plot from U.S. allies in the United Kingdom.
There was, however, a six-year Russian misinformation campaign titled “Secondary Infektion” that flooded countries across Europe and North America with fake stories and forged documents to provoke tensions between perceived enemies.
The content focused mostly on discrediting Ukraine and bolstering Russia. Some posts attempted to link Hillary Clinton to murder or tried to disparage German Chancellor Angela Merkel as an alcoholic. The campaign also worked to spread other baseless rumors, like that the U.S. was attempting to stoke a revolution in Azerbaijan.
“Secondary Infektion,” is a nod to the Soviet-era “Operation Infektion” that accused the U.S. of creating the virus that causes AIDS.
Secondary Infektion appears to have paid tribute to the past by falsely accusing the U.S. of creating a wide range of deadly diseases, including the bogus theory that the novel coronavirus was manufactured in a Kazakhstan lab by American authorities.