Messages were spread to seed dissent over US influence in the Middle East.
A new campaign geared towards promoting Iranian interests and spreading fake information by impersonating US political figures has been discovered by researchers.
Cybersecurity firm FireEye said on Tuesday that the campaign, believed to be an “Iranian influence operation,” connected a vast web of fake social media accounts and news websites to spread a Pro-Iran, anti-Trump message.
“Dozens” of websites and “hundreds” of social media accounts are involved.
According to FireEye’s Alice Revelli and Lee Foster, accounts within the network were created between April 2018 and March 2019. These fake accounts pilfered profile images from online sources and pretended to be political figures, activists, journalists, and correspondents.
The latest campaign is believed to be connected to an Iranian scheme uncovered by FireEye in August 2018, in which audiences in the US, UK, Latin America, and the Middle East were targeted. Fake news from sources such as Liberty Front Press (LFP), US Journal, and Real Progressive Front was promoted throughout.
However, some accounts once affiliate themselves with LFP have distanced themselves in favor of promoting political shifts and movements in the United States.
“In addition to utilizing fake American personas that espoused both progressive and conservative political stances, some accounts impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018,” the researchers say.
Political candidate photos were stolen and, in some cases, tweets were copied from their legitimate Twitter profiles and published on the fake accounts, likely to try and improve their appearance of authenticity.
In one case, Marla Livengood, a candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District, was impersonated. The fake account plagiarized tweets from Livengood’s true account and also published news relating to “safe” subjects, such as the UK Princess Eugenie’s marriage, before pivoting to pro-Iran content.
Some of the accounts have been convincing enough that journalists in the US and Israel have published material created and promoted by them. FireEye says that the topics covered generally align with Iranian political interests — and should mainstream media ignore particular pro-Iran topics, the accounts were then used to criticize journalists and media outlets.