Google announced Thursday that it had disabled dozens of YouTube channels and other accounts linked to a state Iranian broadcaster for a political relocation campaign.
The security company FireEye, who advised technical companies for some of the suspicious activity, said in a report this week that the total operation originates from Iran and promotes Iranian interests to the public in the United States and elsewhere.
Google said its own forensic research shows that the accounts were created by persons associated with the state's current Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB.
The sender did not respond immediately to a sent request for comment Thursday. FourEye said that it is a sign that it is no longer just Russia carrying out disguised political impact campaigns.
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Tuesday, Facebook – which also works with FireEye – revealed that it had removed 652 suspicious pages, groups and accounts related to Russia and Iran. Twitter has launched a similar announcement shortly thereafter.
Technical companies have become much more proactive in the sleuthing and handling of political impact campaigns since last year, when Facebook, Google and Twitter acknowledged that Russian agents could spread propaganda on their networks in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Several go ahead and provide special help to protect US political candidates from Russian hackers and other bad actors before the 2018 mid-term election. That way, they confront another question: Can the free help be considered an illegal campaign contribution?
For example, Microsoft has gone as far as asking for an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission to ensure that the new Free Online Security Protection for "Sensitive" Customers does not count as an invalid promotional contribution. Companies are generally forbidden to contribute to federal candidates and political committees under federal law.
Microsoft said this week that it offers its AccountGuard service on a non-partisan basis to federal, state and local candidates, party committees and some ideal groups. The company told FEC that it could also work with other technology companies like Facebook and Twitter on coordinated election security efforts, even though no agreements have been entered into.
Google last year also released what is called the Advanced Protection Program, which uses security keys to protect high-risk potential hacking targets as politicians, as well as journalists and business executives.
At least one prominent security expert believes it may be too late to protect the midweights of November against further disturbances. Alex Stamos, who went down as Facebook's security head last week, said in an online essay that US officials have not taken the threats seriously.
He said Microsoft's revelation early in the week that it discovered efforts from a hacking group linked to the Russian government to fake websites belonging to the US Senate and two conservative institutions. Such fake websites have previously been used by the group known as Fancy Bear to trick targeted victims to let the computers be infiltrated.
Stamos said that "In some ways, the United States has sent to the world that it does not take these issues seriously, and that someone who has committed a war of information to the west will get the most of a blow on his wrist."
He said that "this error has left the United States unprepared to protect the 2018 election," although it is still "a chance to defend American democracy by 2020."
Getting the FEC's opinion could take Microsoft a few months, but the company said that it will not stop it from continuing with the service immediately. Microsoft said that it is the pretext for charging political and non-political customers different prices.
Midterm elections are November 6, although many states have already had their primates.
Company lawyers told the FEC to try it In order to help democracy, Microsoft has a "convincing business interest in maintaining its brand", including a continued public focus on Russian efforts to influence the year's choice. They said that Microsoft's reputation would suffer if hackers violated Microsoft accounts that belonged to demanding customers.