Oct 26, 2022 - Technology

New pro-China disinformation campaign targets 2022 elections: Report

Illustration of a blue American flag with a red mouse with a star on it representing the Chinese flag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers at Google-owned Mandiant said in a report Wednesday that they've detected a group attempting to sow division in the U.S. and "operating in support of the political interests of the People’s Republic of China."

Why it matters: Election officials have been on high alert for foreign disinformation campaigns aimed at further dividing the country and casting doubt on the U.S. political system in the weeks before the midterms.

The big picture: Mandiant's information adds to growing reports that pro-China actors are interested in influencing and disrupting next month's elections — although there's no evidence they've been successful.

  • In September, Meta disrupted a sprawling China-based influence operation that targeted U.S. users via fake accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • The FBI warned Republican and Democratic state political party headquarters earlier this month that they could be targets of Chinese government hackers, per the Washington Post.

Details: In its report, Mandiant said a threat group known as Dragonbridge is attempting to sway Americans to not vote during the upcoming election through fake social media accounts and falsified news articles.

  • In its campaign, Dragonbridge has spread false narratives that a well-known hacking group based in China is actually a U.S. government group, and it claimed that the U.S. was responsible for the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions.
  • The group also "plagiarized, altered, and otherwise mischaracterized" reporting and research from Mandiant and other cybersecurity firms to support its claims, according to the report.
  • The report stopped short of linking Dragonbridge to the Chinese government, and Mandiant only noted that the group is using Twitter to impersonate a group known as Intrusion Truth, but did not specify where the election-specific lies are being spread.

What they're saying: "They are aggressive, well-resourced, but ultimately failing to get engagement," said John Hultquist, vice president of threat intelligence at Mandiant, in a tweet.

  • "Election interference is no longer just Russia and Iran," he added.
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