June 24, 2021


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‘Ghostwriter’ Influence Campaign: Unknown Actors Leverage Website Compromises and Fabricated Content to Push Narratives Aligned With Russian Security Interests

Mandiant Threat Intelligence has tied together several information
operations that we assess with moderate confidence comprise part of a
broader influence campaign—ongoing since at least March 2017—aligned
with Russian security interests. The operations have primarily
targeted audiences in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland with narratives
critical of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) presence
in Eastern Europe, occasionally leveraging other themes such as
anti-U.S. and COVID-19-related narratives as part of this broader
anti-NATO agenda. We have dubbed this campaign “Ghostwriter.”

Many, though not all of the incidents we suspect to be part of the
Ghostwriter campaign, appear to have leveraged website compromises or
spoofed email accounts to disseminate fabricated content, including
falsified news articles, quotes, correspondence and other documents
designed to appear as coming from military officials and political
figures in the target countries.

This falsified content has been referenced as source material in
articles and op-eds authored by at least 14 inauthentic personas
posing as locals, journalists and analysts within those countries.
These articles and op-eds, primarily written in English, have been
consistently published to a core set of third-party websites that
appear to accept user-submitted content, most notably OpEdNews.com,
BalticWord.com, and the pro-Russian site TheDuran.com, among others,
as well as to suspected Ghostwriter-affiliated blogs.

Some of these incidents and personas have received public attention
from researchers, foreign news outlets, or government entities in
Lithuania and Poland, but have not been tied to a broader activity
set. Others have received little attention and remain relatively
obscure. Mandiant Threat Intelligence has independently discovered
several Ghostwriter personas and identified additional incidents
involving some of those personas previously exposed.

We believe the assets and operations discussed in this report
are for the first time being collectively tied together and assessed
to comprise part of a larger, concerted and ongoing influence campaign.

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