Over the past few years, online disinformation has taken evolutionary leaps forward, with the Internet Research Agency pumping out artificial outrage on social media and hackers leaking documents—both real and fabricated—to suit their narrative. 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.
On Wednesday, security firm FireEye released a report on a disinformation-focused group it’s calling Ghostwriter. 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. They then disseminate their literal fake news with spoofed emails, social media, and even op-eds the propagandists write on other sites that accept user-generated content.