Article: Washington, we have a problem.


by Elizabeth Jensen, PhD, PE

 

     For anyone who comes across this website, it’s clear that our budget is minimal, our focus is local, and we are non-ideological/non-partisan. This is to document a sense of the scope of the Russian campaign to subvert USA democracy. While none of it directly implicates Russia, a strong pattern is present indicating it as the most likely source of these activities.

     Trouble began 18 February 2016 through my connections with the American Federation of Teachers. An email was received from one of my colleagues within the group through their compromised yahoo email account. It’s the now-familiar google drive scam in an earlier iteration apparently passing information to Serbia [1].

     Things quieted down after that, and in the meantime I ended up serving as several Houston area precincts’ voting alternate to the Texas Republican state convention. To fulfill this role, I created a twitter feed to document what my decisions were and why. On June 5th, I could tell my elbow was getting jogged in a mental sense by the interactions with other twitter users. In irritation, I started footprinting. Needless to say, those results led me to briefly survey all my connections with some paranoia.

 

 

     For almost a year everything quieted down, but then the trouble renewed and this time my PAC was under attack. Last month, June 2017, a series of concerning efforts occurred. On June 7th, an attempt at a man-in-the-middle attack to gain entry into this website occurred [2]. On June 12th, a targeted phishing attempt was made [3]; I say “targeted” because we regularly interact with lawyers. As could be seen with the AFT conversation in [1], I’m more likely to click on a suspicious link/document if the source seems legitimate. Then there was the spam, which is easier to show in a video**.

 

 

     In the meantime on facebook, I had joined a pro-Trump (I’m not supportive of the man himself) group whose founder shared many of my same views. After writing a lengthy discussion regarding how current tax policy on big business actually hurts taxpayers, I received a suspicious contact. After a few exchanges, could tell that the individual was not American and complained to FB. This was not straight-forward starting with the fact I wasn’t sure what would be the proper form for how-to-report-accounts-of-people-who-aren’t-using-their-real-names-whether-for-artistic-purposes-or-not-and-get-them-frozen. (FB has a history of freezing accounts of artists because they weren’t using their real names in favor of their stage names.) As you can see, they did nothing [4]. What are they doing relative to other Trump supporters who tend to be more trusting than me? No idea, but I’m sure it’s not good.

 

Summary
     If you look at the efforts taken over the past year relative to my tiny niche of political activity, it’s very disturbing. If the perpetrators are Russian, it means the scope of their attacks on our democracy are massive, multi-leveled, diverse, and targeted to even individuals with mediocre influence. How do you defend your population from an enemy psychologically subverting their thought processes? How do you defend your political system when its very core, the perpetually underfunded, ignored, and generally disrespected local political apparatus, is under concentrated attack?

 

References
[1] Fake google email chain:

  • Page 1
  • Page 2
  • [2] WordPress attack
    [3] Targeted phishing attack
    [4] FB interactions:

  • Screenshot of the FB user. Notice that the name in the address bar is different from the user’s name on their page.
  • Response from FB relative to filed complaint.
  • Response from FB to my reply.
  • ** FYI, cybersecurity people are going to think I’m incredibly stupid to reveal (a) the operating system of my machine (b) some of the applications that I use and (c) my anti-virus software. But that’s kind of the point: it shouldn’t matter because I’m a pissant in the overall political ocean. It takes resources far in excess of my PACs budget in order to go after me.