Austin cyber security company helped US Senate track Russian trolls

Austin cyber security company helped US Senate track Russian trolls

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin-based company is behind a report released by U-S senators from both parties.

It reveals new information about the depth of Moscow’s election meddling on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

A group of Russians created the Facebook group “Heart of Texas” and spurred on a protest outside a Houston mosque in 2016. The day of, actual Americans showed up to protest and to counter protest.

“They try and get two groups showing up in the same physical location to protest against each other only to see if they could do it. Only to kind of sow social discord,” said  CEO of Austin-based New Knowledge, Jonathon Morgan.

He tells KXAN its an example of how Russian actors online created real-world results.

A handful of their employees analyzed massive datasets for the United States Senate. The final product was this report. It describes how the Russian government targeted specific communities like African-Americans and Texas Secessionists. 

“There were websites that looked like they were publications for that community. There were Facebook pages. There were Instagram accounts. It looked like a large-scale media organizations,” said Morgan.

He says we’re not out of the woods yet, despite Facebook, Twitter, and other companies’ efforts. So be wary when you see overly partisan or controversial posts.

“That’s the content that bad actors like this are going to try and use and provoke you into sharing that content with others,” said Morgan.

In short, know the source. If you don’t know the person or group in the real world, it might have sinister intent.
There were also two other prongs of the Russian cyber attack on the U.S: Attempts to hack online voting systems and then the hack into the Democratic National Committee which led to a leak to Wikileaks about the Clinton campaign for President. 

New Knowledge, the tech company in Austin tapped to help the US Senate, is a cybersecurity company specializing in defending companies against online disinformation campaigns. According to their website, workers there use artificial intelligence to detect threats and come up with a plan before brand damage is done.

This content was originally published here.

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