Russian bots spread fake Tom Cruise to discredit the Olympics

Microsoft Corp. released findings on June 2 that suggest a pro-Russian propaganda campaign is using artificial intelligence to suggest violence will likely occur at the Olympic Games in Paris.

Researchers found that one disinformation group created fake AI audio to make it seem as though actor Tom Cruise narrated the video Olympics Has Fallen. The video was based on the 2013 action film Olympus Has Fallen. Researchers found that the video was spread in 2023 and presented as a Netflix Inc document. It even used Netflix’s trademark introduction, which is seen on all streaming videos.

The video included false endorsements by well-known media outlets, including the New York Times (and the BBC).

Microsoft said that the influence campaign in fact was the work by a pro Russian propaganda group called Storm-1679. The video was one of many examples of a growing group of suspected Russian operators working to tarnish the image of France, the Games host country, and the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee banned Russian athletes from competing in the Games under their country’s flag.

Hackers, in addition to spreading disinformation, probably began probing IT systems related to the Games about a year before and began launching actual attacks around four months prior to the Games, to disrupt them.

According to the report, the Russian groups’ aim appears to be deterring people from attending games. Microsoft researchers expect that the activity will increase ahead of the kickoff in July, as the Russian groups add additional languages and use generative artificial intelligence (GI) to expand their reach.

Dale Buckner is a 24 year US Army veteran, and the chief executive officer of Global Guardian. He said: “We believe this to be the number one threat for the Games.” Bruckner said that the potential impact of hacking and disinformation at the Olympics may lead to disruptions at the event. His company, which provides security for Fortune 1000 executives, will be doing so in Paris.

“With AI, you’re now going to see a level of misinformation that we’ve never seen before.”

IOC and Paris 2020 organisers did not immediately respond to a comment request. A representative from the Kremlin did not immediately reply to a comment request.

Researchers found that pro-Russian group also impersonated France24 in a video that falsely claimed 24% of Olympic ticket buyers had requested refunds due to fears of terrorist attacks in Paris. Paris has been plagued by terrorism in recent years. This includes a murder that occurred in 2023, and terrorist attacks that took place in 2015 in which over 130 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, said that safety concerns arose due to the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. He added that the IOC had “full faith” in France’s abilities to ensure the security of the Games. The authorities are taking special anti-terrorism steps, increasing background checks and reducing the number of spectators who can watch the opening ceremonies along the Seine River.

This misinformation is being spread amid a growing concern about Russian propaganda in Europe. European Union officials are concerned with the way propaganda groups use Telegram as a messaging app to spread their messages.

Social media rarely generates much interest for such posts. It is unclear how much misinformation campaigns affect public perception. National security officials and Internet analysts have instead pointed out that propaganda is a good indicator of a nation’s geopolitical goals.

Digital operatives are currently focusing on falsified local media outlets. Digital operatives are focusing on false local news outlets.

Hackers based in Russia have been linked to an attack against the 2018 Winter Olympics held in South Korea, as well as a hack in 2016 that exposed the medical records of several athletes.

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