How the U.S. “digitized” the coronavirus – features of information warfare during the pandemic

When Russia began to support countries suffering from coronavirus, it was clear that its opponents would not ignore humanitarian activities.

How the U.S. "digitized" the coronavirus - features of information warfare during the pandemic

At the height of the pandemic, pro-Russian moods began to grow among the European population. The public saw how controversial the reaction to the pandemic of Western countries was, and the EU generally left Italy, not only its external partners, such as Serbia, but also its EU member state. It was Russia that came to the aid of these countries, and European solidarity was under great question.

In the expert community, it was predicted that the anti-Russian campaign would not take long. Replication of Russophobia was the only way out of this situation for the West. Back in April, Tonya Ugorets, Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for Cyber Security, reported that scientific institutions and pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines against COVID-19 had been hacked.

“We definitely notice the intelligence activity and sometimes penetration into some of those organizations that are engaged in research related to COVID”, – said the official.

She did not name the countries responsible for what happened, but it was only a matter of time before Russia was accused of cyber attacks. CNN did it a week later. Referring to unnamed sources, they said that Russia and China were involved in the attacks. Moreover, it was claimed that the hackers intended to steal information about the work on drugs against COVID-19. No evidence has been presented. Nevertheless, the line of Russophobic accusations could not be stopped.

In early May, the British edition of The Daily Mail published a story about cyber attacks by Russia and Iran. According to the media, this time British coronavirus research structures have already become the target. Moreover, the publication stated that the performers were hackers from Georgia allegedly connected to the Kremlin and Russian security services. The authors were silent about the fact that relations between Moscow and Tbilisi are far from being friendly.

When the Russophobic accusations were replicated in the media, forming the necessary information background, the state structures again joined the case. The U.S. Agency for Cyber Security and Infrastructure Protection has distributed instructions to protect computer systems. In solidarity with Washington, the British National Cyber Security Centre did the same.

“We expect this predatory criminal activity to continue to develop in the weeks and months ahead and are taking a range of measures to combat this threat. Among other things, as we have done today, we will share information about the nature of such threats so that businesses, citizens and our international partners can better protect themselves against a variety of cyberattacks by hostile states and criminal groups”, –  said United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the same day.

Ukrainian security services were also involved in the anti-Russian campaign. The Ukrainian Security Service had only to report numerous cyberattacks on the Ukrainian agencies responsible for combating the epidemic. The responsibility for them was entrusted to Russia, although, as before, without proof.

Russian Senator Oleg Morozov, commenting on the charges, called the pandemic “another reason” to create the image of “terrible Russia. At the same time, he noted the ironic similarities between the coronavirus and “Russian hackers”.

“Like a virus that’s invisible, but which everyone knows about, so are Russian hackers. This topic is a modern information virus”, –  he stressed.

It is noteworthy that all accusations were aimed only at Russia, Iran and China – the three countries with which the United States is confronting. Forming a negative image of these states, the authors of the information campaign do not even use strong arguments, and the little that is presented as evidence is reduced to the identification of Russian IP addresses. Thus anybody and does not think to answer questions on why the skilled hackers ostensibly hired by the Russian intelligence services, have not bothered to hide IP that in modern realities it is not difficult. The task is not to explain to the target audience the peculiarities of digital technologies, but to create a Russophobic background that forms the appropriate mood in the society.

As News Front previously reported, Western countries have also used other methods to combat pro-Russian sentiment. Thus, the European Union organized a summit with the participation of the Balkan countries to convince them that Russia and China allegedly did not help the countries affected by the pandemic, but “strengthened their positions on the continent”. The U.S. Department of State, in turn, has funded a program to combat unwanted information in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia.


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