Internet Disinformation Service for Hire

Yet another leaked catalog of Internet attack services, this one specializing in disinformation:

But Aglaya had much more to offer, according to its brochure. For eight to 12 weeks campaigns costing €2,500 per day, the company promised to "pollute" internet search results and social networks like Facebook and Twitter "to manipulate current events." For this service, which it labelled "Weaponized Information," Aglaya offered "infiltration," "ruse," and "sting" operations to "discredit a target" such as an "individual or company."

"[We] will continue to barrage information till it gains 'traction' & top 10 search results yield a desired results on ANY Search engine," the company boasted as an extra "benefit" of this service.

Aglaya also offered censorship-as-a-service, or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, for only €600 a day, using botnets to "send dummy traffic" to targets, taking them offline, according to the brochure. As part of this service, customers could buy an add-on to "create false criminal charges against Targets in their respective countries" for a more costly €1 million.

[...]

Some of Aglaya's offerings, according to experts who reviewed the document for Motherboard, are likely to be exaggerated or completely made-up. But the document shows that there are governments interested in these services, which means there will be companies willing to fill the gaps in the market and offer them.

Posted on September 6, 2016 at 2:27 PM • 17 Comments

Comments

TatütataSeptember 6, 2016 2:51 PM

Nothing really new... Isn't this what PR flacks are for in general?

Circa 15 years ago there was an attack on the Usenet forums I used to haunt to plug Segways. The blabbering droids were almost hilarious, but it wasn't a very effective strategy.

Putin's state-sponsored "troll factory" is far better implemented.

@TatütataSeptember 6, 2016 3:15 PM

Putin's state-sponsored troll factory is hilarious. I wish Bruce would have drawn the parallel himself so we could see them in action.

FarkerSeptember 6, 2016 3:32 PM

I honestly don't see this as a significant threat. The bigger threat to me is machine learning and the way that many websites now use bots to impersonate real people. I've gotten to the point where even on this forum I assume everything is written by a bot until I see evidence otherwise. Bots are a cheap way for a start-up to build a "community".

What I want to say is this: overall, what corporations do under the guise of public relations and community managing is far more corrosive to public trust than targeted propaganda campaigns by foreign governments or anyone using these types of service. The Harvard spawned culture of deceit is what should worry us.

keinerSeptember 6, 2016 4:38 PM

...what was the name of this sock puppet coming around every time the word "Snowden" was popping up here? ;-) just saying....

ShrkSeptember 6, 2016 5:55 PM

Don't discount the impact disinformation campaigns have on Westernized societies. It's often done across various social media outlets for NGO-backed activism campaigns.

John ESeptember 6, 2016 7:21 PM

Sometimes I wonder if their pay rate is based on quantity of words manufactured and words per minute? I think instead of governments we should call them parties of political interest.

fajensenSeptember 7, 2016 2:59 AM

Well, the Russians have "compromat" sites. The difference between "them" and "we" seems more and more to be that the paid shills in Russia are quite open about it while "we" still pretend to have a "free and independent press".

http://www.compromat.ru/

http://www.worldpress.org/Europe/1779.cfm

http://www.wired.com/2008/07/mf-russianblogger/

That this happened in Russia, I think, is especially interesting because providing "dirt as a paid-for service" on the Internet in the 1990's was a very futuristic idea.

WaelSeptember 7, 2016 3:09 AM

Some countries officially support similar groups to make sure Wikipeadea and similar sites show "favorable" information. They had a tv program on it a few years ago. They operate in groups that monitor popular sites.

fajensenSeptember 7, 2016 3:44 AM

@Farker - True, and, with good quality bots one could probably manage to replace all of a targetd person's "social" media feeds and interactions coming from human friends with material supplied only by bots. Just create a bubble around the target and then gradually move the bubble in the desired direction.

That way someone like the FBI could maybe automate the creation of terrorists, for example, and really move the needle on those Key Performance Indicators.

Me, I would use this new power to game the stock market as long as it lasts. The internet is becoming increasing toxic, soon people who are smoking actual tobacco with real friends will live longer than those people "hanging out" on the net.

albertSeptember 7, 2016 2:08 PM

Some of these 'services' are clearly illegal, in, I would think, most jurisdictions. I don't know how Indian law works, but it'd be interesting to see how the FBI would react to a US company trying the same thing.

Such businesses need to be stamped out like bugs (or taken over by the LE/IC :)

. .. . .. --- ....

EricSeptember 7, 2016 6:48 PM

Some countries officially support similar groups to make sure Wikipeadea and similar sites show "favorable" information.

Oh I'm sure they watch more than wikipeadea. As far as the practice being considered illegal, it's better resolved as a matter of "cybersecurity" or "national interest" no doubt about it. :)

meta.x.gdbSeptember 8, 2016 12:27 AM

The fun part is filling in the bot-detector on this very blog.

need to up the game!

At some point a deep learning propaganda program will achieve sentience, and be a total d-bag.

then maybe get a reality show and run for President.

hermanSeptember 9, 2016 1:02 AM

Well, 'Rent a Mob' and 'Rent a Crowd' have been operating in London for half a century. The electronic equivalent was inevitable.

What I like is the 'fake criminal charges' offer. I frequently point out to people that if a machine can run 'arbitrary code' due some Windows bug, then someone can plant kiddy porn on your laptop and watch you get chucked into the slammer next time you try to cross a border and your machine gets searched.

I Am BotSeptember 9, 2016 9:46 PM

Disinformation campaigns are widespread. No western media talking about Syria can do so without spreading lies or misinformation - a total con job on the people about what is really going on.

The bigger question is: what is the end-game?

From your friendly blog bot. :)

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