August 27, 2018 | The Hill

Iran’s Facebook operation shows that it never restrained its hackers

An excerpt from the op-ed follows:

Facebook on Tuesday dismantled an expansive, covert Iranian influence operation aimed at American, British, Latin American, and Middle Eastern audiences. Posing as independent news and civil society organizations, state-sponsored actors created hundreds of fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, which were also suspended on Tuesday, and Iranian state media created dozens of counterfeit YouTube channels.

The operation, dating back to as early as 2011, tricked hundreds of thousands of people into following bogus accounts. Deploying the expertise in social engineering they have developed through their many spear phishing campaigns, Iranian cyber operators manipulated Americans and others into possibly sharing content and attending real-world events hosted by fake personas. The influence campaign is one of the first reported cases of Iranian operatives exploiting U.S. social media to target audiences outside Iran, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye which tipped off the tech giants to the suspicious activity.

The exposure of this multi-year cyber campaign should dispel the myth that Tehran put a tight leash on its hackers during and after negotiating the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Yet even the Trump administration has downplayed the Iranian cyber threat, despite pulling out of the JCPOA in response to Iranian provocations ranging from missile launches to ongoing support for terrorists.

Read the complete op-ed in The Hill here.

Annie Fixler is the senior project manager of the Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a policy analyst at FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. She can be found on Twitter @afixlerFollow FDD on Twitter @FDD and follow FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance @FDD_CSIF. FDD is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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