Russian hackers spread disinformation about the Olympics in Paris

Russia is increasing malign disinformation campaigns against France, French President Emmanuel Macron, the International Olympic Committee, and the Olympic Games in Paris, Microsoft wrote.

These Russian disinformation operations have two principal goals: 1) denigrate the reputation of the IOC; and 2) create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris at the Olympics, Microsoft reported.

Using AI, the hacker group Storm-1679 has created a full-length movie, “The Fall of the Olympics,” featuring a Tom Cruise dipfake. The film demonstrates a dismissive attitude toward the leadership of the International Olympic Committee.

Spreading fear of violence

The hackers also released fake videos about expectations of violence during the games, according to a new report by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center.

The study concludes that Storm-1679 aims not only to defame the IOC, but also to spread public fear to deter spectators from attending the Olympic Games. It has consistently produced deceptive videos about the expectation of violence at events.

A video purporting to be from the European multilingual channel Euronews claimed that Paris residents were buying property insurance awaiting terrorist acts at the Games. A fake video purporting to originate from French TV channel France24 asserted that terrorism fears had led to the return of 24% of Olympic tickets.

“The use of computer-generated special effects and an extensive marketing campaign, including fake endorsements from Western media and celebrities, indicates a significant increase in sophistication and effort compared to most previous disinformation campaigns.”

Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center

The goal is to spread fear among the public to reduce the number of visitors and viewers to the Summer Olympics.

On the ground, Russian actors may attempt to exploit the emphasis on strict security by generating the appearance of protests or real-world provocations, weakening trust in the IOC and French security forces. 

Microsoft wrote that people may use in-person staging of events, whether real or staged, near or around Olympic sites to sway public opinion and foster fear and doubt.

As the opening ceremony of the Olympics of the Olympics approaches, such disinformation attacks may become more intense, the authors warned.

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