Russian disinformation group – known to Microsoft as Storm-1679 – uses fake Tom Cruise Netflix documentary to disrupt the Paris Olympics

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A pro-Russian propaganda effort is using artificial intelligence as part of a massive operation to suggest violence is likely to occur at the upcoming Paris Olympics, Microsoft Corp. findings show. released on Sunday.

One disinformation group used fake AI-generated audio to make it appear as if actor Tom Cruise had narrated a video titled Olympic Games have fallenmodeled after the 2013 action film Olympus has fallen, researchers found. The video, which spread in the fall of 2023, presented itself as a Netflix Inc. documentary, including using Netflix’s signature introduction that the company uses on all its streaming videos.

The video also contained forged messages of support from major media outlets, including the New York Times and the BBC.

In fact, the influence campaign was the work of a pro-Russian propaganda group that Microsoft calls Storm-1679, the company said. The video was an example of a rapidly growing pool of suspected Russian operators who are now working to denigrate the image of the Olympics and France, the host country of the Games, after the International Olympic Committee banned Russian athletes from flying under the flag of the country to compete.

In addition to disinformation, hackers also likely began probing IT systems related to the Games about a year ago, and then began ramping up actual attacks four months before the Games in an attempt to disrupt them, he says .

The aim of the Russia-affiliated groups appears to be to deter people from attending the games, according to the report. Microsoft researchers said they expect activity to intensify before the July kickoff, with the Russian groups adding additional languages ​​and using generative artificial intelligence to expand their reach.

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“We believe this is the biggest security threat to the Games,” said Dale Buckner, a 24-year U.S. Army veteran and CEO of Global Guardian. The potential impact of disinformation and hacking on the Olympics could lead to disruptions and unrest at the event, said Bruckner, whose company provides security to Fortune 1000 executives and will also do so in Paris.

“With AI you now get a level of disinformation that we haven’t seen before.”

The IOC and Paris 2024 organizers did not immediately return a request for comment. A Kremlin representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Researchers found that pro-Russian groups also imitated France24, a French media outlet, in a video that falsely claimed that 24% of Olympic ticket buyers had requested refunds amid fears of terrorism in Paris. Terrorism has haunted Paris in recent years, including a murder in 2023 and Islamic State attacks in 2015 that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more.

Security concerns have arisen during the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said in May. He added that the IOC has “full confidence” in France’s ability to hold the Games safely. The authorities are setting up special anti-terrorism measuresenforcing more background checks and cut off the number spectators who were allowed to attend the opening ceremony along the River Seine.

The promotion of such disinformation comes amid increasing scrutiny of Russian propaganda in Europe, where European Union officials have criticized the way propaganda groups use the messaging app Telegram to broadcast their messages.

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Such posts typically do not generate much attention on social media. The extent to which such disinformation operations influence public perception remains an open question. Instead, national security officials and Internet researchers have pointed out that propaganda efforts are indicators of a country’s geopolitical interests.

Fake local news channels are currently a major focus of digital agents. One disinformation campaign, known as Doppelganger, recently portrayed itself as German media to stoke anti-immigration sentiment in that country, and sought to undermine support for Ukraine through English-language reporting. according to cyber company Recorded Future Inc. Doppelganger also posed as an outlet called Reliable News Network to warn of possible violence at the Olympics, Microsoft discovered.

Russia-based hackers have been involved in an attack on the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and a 2016 hack on the World Anti-Doping Agency that exposed the personal medical information of several athletes.

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