A Hacker Explains How Russia Hacked Our Democracies

This is “Russian Hacking” explained by someone who knows how the Russians would do it.

I was chatting to a Data Scientist at work, and – inevitably – the subject of politics made an appearance. I asked him about the possibility of hacking an election, and how it would have been done. I was given an example (he couldn’t think of another when I pressed him further) of how it could have happened – and it didn’t seem much to me like any kind of “hacking” I knew of. Nor did it conjurer imagery of green digits falling down a black screen like in The Matrix. I wasn’t reminded of the 80’s movie War Games, and I certainly didn’t think of any Data Scientist performing the kinds of mundane and labour intensive stunt he was proposing.

It looked a little something – ironically – like democracy. Let me explain to you how my friend at work explained it to me. Bear in mind, this guy is a trained PhD in Data Science, Computer Science, and all the geekery that goes with it, that I will never understand.

“Oh sure, they hacked it,” he started sincerely, “and it is very simple to do.” English may be his second language, after German, but he has a command of it that would put many native Brits to shame. He was born in Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union, shortly before moving to Germany (I can only assume the East). He speaks Russian and Kazakh to an average standard.

“Basically it is just people surfing a number of chat-rooms and arguing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton.”

That’s it. That’s “Russian Hacking” explained by someone who knows how the Russians would do it – if they did. You “election hackers” are just trolls in their basements, participating in democracy, just like any other spectator – watching the slow car crash of the Presidential race unfold. You may say that these people had no business in arguing one side or the other – and that’s fair…if you never want to talk about the politics outside of your country. You must have had an opinion on Trump, or Clinton, or Geert Wilders. You’re reading this, aren’t you?

Russian Basement Junkies.jpg

As for the Brexit referendum (which happened before the US Presidential Election, remember), no one mentioned Russia until after the US decided that they were pursuing the “foreign meddling” narrative, which is when bitter Remainers decided “hey, they clearly hacked our democracy too!” However, Ian Bremmer – the President of the Eurasia Group – explains that a total of $0.98 was spent in influencing the Brexit vote in favour of Leave.

So yes, I admit: there was what many would call “Russian Hacking”…

Ian Bremmer.png

 

Germany’s election in September was marred by “collusion” with Russia – the far-Right Alternativ für Deutschland and far-Left Die Linke parties both express unashamed pro-Russian policies. Or at least, that is how the liberal media claimed it – both in Germany and in Britain – when in actual fact, it is well-known that both parties deplore Putin’s stances on LGBT rights, democratic practice, and the annexation of Crimea. However, a willingness to work with Russia is tantamount to illegal electioneering.

Of course, France was less bothered by the idea of Russian Hacking – well, once Macron had won (or, more accurately, since Le Pen lost). In the run-up to the second round of voting,  however, the BBC decided to stoke the fears by producing a Panorama documentary about the links between Le Pen and Putin.

Since I’ve mentioned the BBC, I think it is worth noting the striking similarities between the iconic British institution, and RT – formally Russia Today. See if you can guess which I am describing:

  • Funded by the state
  • Operates in foreign countries as well as at home
  • Reports the news how it wants/is told it to be portrayed
  • Glorifies a single person at the top of society

Yes, that’s right: either! The last one being Putin or the Queen.

BBC-v-RT News Logos.png

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