back to article Discredit a journo? Easy, that'll be $55k. Fix an election? Oh, I can do that for just $400k

Fake news has come to be associated with political intrigue but the same propaganda techniques are also abused by cybercriminals, according to a study by Trend Micro. The techniques and methods used to spread fake news and manipulate public opinion have a wide range of objectives and even a price list. Cybercriminals produce …

  1. BillG
    Facepalm

    There's One Born Every Minute

    Whether such listings are in themselves an attempt at disinformation is certainly debatable.

    During the early days of the internet, the Associated Press wrote about a website that offered revenge services. You gave them detailed information, they interacted with you, then you gave them a few thousand $$$ and you never heard from them or your money again. D'oh!

    People that offer services that are, in themselves, illegal, tell you what you need to know about the ethics of the people offering the services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's One Born Every Minute

      This has changed over time.

      Social media campaign influencing "As A Service" offerings are a big business with associated reputations, ratings, etc. If you do your research right you can get the service you want. Or a concerned private individual donates it to you.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: How difficult would it be to fix a British Election Count? i.e. Amber Rudd's Count.

        Careful there AC, those are the sort of allegations that get one sued into a hole in the ground if false, and lets just say that if they were true, one probably shouldn't mention them in public.

        On a more practical level, there's twenty polling stations in Hastings and Rye (info here), and they're counted by (paid) volunteers who are watched carefully, and the entire counting process is designed to be transparent and audit-able. You can read the recommendations and regulations here.

        Giving the instructions a quick read, I can't see any easy way to influence the count, without controlling several people, so no, it would be very tricky to rig a UK election, especially without any time for preparation.

        In advance, the easiest thing to do would be to invent false voters, and have someone go round and place their votes, but again, this would be tricky.

        It's also worth noting, that although you conflate MI5, and GCHQ and assume they could and would conspire, the employees of both are civil servants, at least some (hopefully most) of whom would fight against any attempt to subvert the democratic process, just on principal.

        TL/DR It would be more difficult than just paying someone to smear the opposition candidate ahead of time.

  2. Stevie

    Bah!

    "The techniques and methods used to spread fake news and manipulate public opinion have a wide range of objectives and even a price list."

    Well duh!

    This "news" comes about as "news" only because clever young things especially in the press must rename things that have been a fact of life forever in order to sound clever and de mode.

    Hence the Agitprop of the fifties and sixties becomes the shiny new "fake news" of the 201xs (pronounced twen-teens if you want to sound clever and de mode).

    And someone got paid to do a study to show the otherwise bleeding obvious fact that one may use fake news or, as we used to call it in the generic case, "lies" in a wide variety of unscrupulous applications.

    Never since those pro-Brexit posters promising millions of quids were bought for sticking on buses has anyone spent so much money so wisely for such good effect.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    discrediting a journalist would cost $55,000

    Weird, some of the recent news stories, it seems El Reg is doing it for free.

    1. Hollerithevo

      Re: discrediting a journalist would cost $55,000

      And a mighty fine job they are doing of it!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do we know...

    ...if this isn't fake news attempting to take heat away from this so called website and their hacks cranking out fake news?

    For all we know this digi-rag is run by none other than Julian Assange.

    You can write a report denying it if you want but the damage is already done.

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Read beyond the headlines? In this day and age? Might as well stop elections now.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A year-long campaign to influence election outcomes is available for just $400,000

    Hope they're better at it than Murdoch for that kind of money.

  7. Bruce Ordway

    people can insulate themselves

    "...cross-checking stories... beyond the headline"

    I also watch out for those stories that are "so good" I don't even care if they're true.

    And remembering I'm consuming news as entertainment can keep things in perspective.

  8. John F***ing Stepp

    I just filter everything through what Abe Lincoln said about the internet. . .

    Or maybe that was Washington, I will have to research this.

    . . .

    . . .

    No, it was Lincoln's; the quote was "Go to the theatre".

    1. Number6

      Re: I just filter everything through what Abe Lincoln said about the internet. . .

      There's always this one...

      http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6604189/lincoln-gives-fords-theater-review-on-yelp

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why you get those bogus 'friend' requests on Facebook

    Some attractive girl that lives in the area sends a friend request. If the guy accepts, they generally have access to his friends list and can friend request people he knows. The more friends in common the girl has the more likely everyone else is to accept it figuring "I must know her from somewhere and just don't remember".

    I saw one of those pop up last year with one or two mutual friends. I just left it in my request queue because she was from my home town and thought maybe I don't remember her. Over time she went up to a dozen mutual friends, but I still couldn't remember her name or face. Last summer her posts started popping up in my feed now and then because one of my friends had 'liked' them - links to sites like Sputnik News, with stories saying that Hillary is on the verge of death, or about to be indicted on "damaging new information".

    Pretty sure this is how they spread the fake news on Facebook. Are guys suddenly going to stop accepting friend requests from random cute girls? Fat chance! Maybe Facebook needs to add some detection to limit the number of outgoing friend requests you can make, or limit the ability of someone to create an account saying they're from Chicago when the incoming IP is halfway around the world. Not sure if they employ the poor to do this or use bots, but if the latter maybe Facebook can figure out a way to detect bots...

    1. Number6

      Re: This is why you get those bogus 'friend' requests on Facebook

      Maybe Facebook needs to add some detection to limit the number of outgoing friend requests you can make, or limit the ability of someone to create an account saying they're from Chicago when the incoming IP is halfway around the world.

      Except my IP address currently claims I'm in London because I'm using a VPN that pops out there. When I get home it'll be a different IP address located elsewhere. If I fire up Google, for some reason it gives me google.hu.

      Sites that insist on giving you a particular result based on where they think you are, and steadfastly ignore your attempt to correct them, are really annoying. It's only convenient if it's what you want to happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is why you get those bogus 'friend' requests on Facebook

        I'm talking about initially creating an account. If you feel the need to always use a VPN to hide your location, then I don't think Facebook should have any qualms about refusing to let you create an account.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the media would do it's job....

    The key thing for a journalist to do is to check their sources, verify that what you heard is true and actually possible. However, that part has been lacking in most mainstream media for years already and as a direct result you get scenarios like this.

    Mainstream media cares more about being the first to bring a story (which hopefully will affect sales and/or advertisements) than being the one to bring reliable news. And as long as you don't break that cycle then we won't be seeing the end of this any time soon.

  11. jMcPhee

    Nothing new here except...

    Marketing is frequently weaponising misinformation. Tobacco companies and 'special interest groups' got really good at it. The only real change is that different set of criminals is now getting the money to do it.

    Just think of it as another form of outsourcing.

  12. Herby
    Happy

    Whatever happened to...

    ElReg's price list. I couldn't find it. Maybe someone has "ethics"? Anyway, from what I remember, the prices were cheaper than those mentioned in the article.

    1. Number6

      Re: Whatever happened to...

      Ethics is down near the bottom right corner, just above Kent and to the right of London.

      1. Commswonk

        Re: Whatever happened to...

        Ethics Girl Jokes?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever happened to...

        I have look for Ethics just above Kent and to the right of London but did not find any. just a lot of golf courses.

  13. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    I laugh at your funds!

    A year-long campaign to influence election outcomes is available for just $400,000, the study says. Whether such listings are in themselves an attempt at disinformation is certainly debatable. US intel agencies, Western politicians and security firms are nigh-on unanimous that attempts to influence the US presidential election last year were the work of the Kremlin.

    Thank you for the daily anti-Putler inoculation, but that 400K number seems low fer sure. Lobbyists from at least two well-known Middle Eastern "US allies" implementing alternate forks of Abrahamian religions, as well as influential players like Soros G.. or Adelson S. (et al.) must think they are a bit of a sucker due to overspending?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kickstarter?

    "discrediting a journalist would cost $55,000"

    It's not a product though, is it - but where can I launch the crowdfunding campaign to raise $55,000 to arrange a very special gift for Piers Morgan?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Misleading headline

    I thought it was The Register looking to expand its services.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why pay to discredit a journo...

    when they do it themselves, and it means so much more coming from them.

  17. Christian Berger

    Why? That's already done commercially.

    It's called "Public Relation" or "Think Tank". Essentially if you manage to get yourself into talk shows and just anounce your "truth" over and over again, people will believe it.

    In Germany we have organisations that just assert that we somehow really need the US to tap our phone and Internet lines. We have organisations that assert that we need to support companies more and lower the wages even more, even though that would, at best, just increase our import export imbalance.

    It doesn't matter if someone spreads lies about a candidate operating a paedo ring out of a pizza parlour, those lies pale in comparison to the big lies that sneak through unchecked.

  18. William 3 Bronze badge

    Discredit a journalist?

    Who'd pay for that when they're doing it to themselves for free.

    There's a reason the majority of the population don't trust journalists and the media, and it's got fuck all to do with hackers, and more to do with them blaming hackers for their own incompetence.

  19. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Not So Stealthy Sub Prime Enemy within ........ working for who knows what/where/why

    Is a PM, constantly offering strong and stable government but delivering anything but strength and stability, one of those cybercriminal types or would they just be delusional and guilty of being led the fool tool?

    J'accuse.

    If the cap fits, wear it. We can all see it here perfectly on El Reg.

    And what does such a truth tell y'all about party colleagues in the thrall and in submissive tow of the abomination?

    The whole Parliamentary show is a slapstick media hosted pantomime, is it not, with no leaders starring in anything worthwhile and Great Game changing.

  20. hammarbtyp

    Won't work in the UK

    I don't see a business case in the UK, where the Daily Fail and the Diana Express have being doing that role for years

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Up to a point, Lord Copper

    'For example, UK defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon recently said the Kremlin is "weaponising misinformation"...'

    What he really meant was that Russia - among others - is getting good results by telling the truth. As this is so unusual in the West these days - and almost unheard of among politicians and the mainstream media - it provokes shock and horror. Much as Donald Trump's amateurish habits of telling the truth and trying to deliver on promises appal the US political and media establishments. I mean - if you can't rely on a politician to lie and break his promises consistently, where are you?

    It seems to be a common tactic nowadays for people who are economical with the truth themselves to impute such bad behaviour to those they wish to harm.

  22. Cynic_999

    aka "propaganda"

    The big change that has happened (and it makes a huge difference), is that it is no longer only governments and large media corporations that can mount an effective propaganda campaign.

    The flip side is that governments are no longer able to suppress the truth either. Together with the fact that so many people are now carrying devices capable of recording video, governments and their enforcers are finding it increasingly difficult to pull the wool over our eyes, while private individuals are finding it easier to do so.

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