Bruce Schneier’s blog entry: Towards an Information Operations Kill Chain led me down a rabbit hole of reading during the past couple of days. The concept of a kill chain is not new to me, as it’s a great model for understanding the steps between discovering a goal and then achieving it. However, the application of it to a disinformation campaign was something new to me.

His piece focuses on the USSR’s Operation INFEKTION, which was a 1980’s disinformation campaign against the USA, spreading the rumor that the USA engineered and spread the HIV virus. I have heard the rumor that this happened as a deliberate attempt to eradicate black people in this country, but I had no idea that this conspiracy theory was born in the USSR’s government.

Schneier’s piece does focus on the “kill chain” that was used by the architects of KGB disinformation:

  1. Look for cracks in target societies.
  2. Create a big lie.
  3. Wrap that lie around a kernel of truth.
  4. Conceal your hand.
  5. Find yourself a ‘useful idiot’.
  6. When truth is uncovered – deny everything.
  7. Play the long game.

Using this intellectual framework for understanding misinformation campaigns, it is much easier to conceptualize how Russian interference in the 2016 USA elections were executed, and how they continue.

Because the cost of enacting disinformation campaigns online is so low, the ROI on them is enormous. Russia destabilizing democratic countries can only benefit Russia. It is par for the course for government and our democracy must increase its ability to discern external attempts to divide us with lies. And the corporate entities, namely Facebook and Twitter in addition to others, must have legal requirements imposed on them to ensure that they do not keep the cost of using their platform for disinformation as low as it is.