In an attempt to shift that blame, Dragonbridge’s influence campaign has gone so far as to create fake posts from Intrusive Truth, a mysterious Twitter account that has previously released evidence. involved in many hacking campaigns with China, including APT41. Instead, the Fake Intrusion Facts posts falsely linked APT41 to US hackers. Dragonbridge also created an altered, forged version of a Hong Kong newspaper article Sing Tao everyday pin APT41’s activity to the US government.
In a more timely example of Dragonbridge’s misinformation activities, it also sought to blame sabotage the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline—A critical piece of infrastructure connecting European countries to Russian gas sources — on the United States. Mandiant said that statement, echoing statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian disinformation sources, appeared to be part of a larger campaign designed to sow division between the United States and other countries. Allies protested and punished Russia for the unprovoked and catastrophic military invasion. of Ukraine.
None of those campaigns were particularly successful, Mandiant notes. The company says most posts have single-digit likes, retweets or comments. Some of its fake tweets impersonating Intrusive Truth show no sign of involvement at all. But Hultquist still cautions that Dragonbridge presents a renewed interest in active misinformation from pro-Chinese sources, and possibly from China itself. He worries, given China’s widespread cyber intrusion around the world, that future Chinese disinformation campaigns could include hacking and leak activities incorporating real disclosures. with disinformation campaigns, as Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency has done. “If they get some real information out of a hacking operation, that’s when they become particularly dangerous,” Hultquist said.
Despite Dragonbridge’s occasional pro-Russian messages, Hultquist said that Mandiant was a bit skeptical of the group’s pro-China focus. The company first discovered Dragonbridge engaged in a fake grassroots campaign to disparage pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019. Earlier this year, they witnessed the group. pretending to be an American protesting against US rare earth metal mining companies compete with Chinese companies.
That’s not to say that Dragonbridge’s campaigns are necessarily the work of a Chinese government agency or even a contractor like Chengdu 404. But chances are they’re at least located in China, Hultquist said. “It is hard to imagine their activity, on the whole, to be in the interest of any other country,” says Hultquist.
If Dragonbridge worked directly for the Chinese government, it could mark a new stage in China’s use of disinformation. In the past, China has largely shied away from influence operations. Director of National Intelligence report on foreign threats to the 2020 election declassified last year stated that China “considered but did not implement efforts to influence the outcome of the US Presidential election.” But just last month, Facebook also said detect and remove Chinese political disinformation campaigns posted to the platform between mid-2021 and September 2022, although it did not say whether the campaigns were linked to Dragonbridge.
Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins and author of the history of disinformation, said: Positive measures. He points to abstract phrases, as its call is to “root out this inefficient and incapable system.” That sort of dull language fails to effectively exploit real-life problems to exacerbate existing divisions in American society—often best defined by local agents on the ground. “Looks like they didn’t read the manual,” said Rid. “It seems like an amateur, far-fetched affair made from Beijing.”
But both Rid and Mandiant’s Hultquist agree that Dragonbridge’s relative lack of success shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Americans are becoming increasingly immune to influence operations. In fact, they argue that deep political divisions in American society may mean that America is less equipped than ever to distinguish fact from social media fabrication. “Authorized sources are no longer trustworthy,” says Hultquist. “I’m not sure we’re in a great place right now, as a country, to understand that some of the big information activity is due to a foreign power.”