Russian military cites game screenshot as “evidence” of US ISIS support

Eliot Higgins / Twitter

In now-deleted social media images, the Russian Ministry of Defense used what is almost certainly a screenshot from a mobile game as part of its supposed evidence that the United States military was supporting ISIS troops in Syria.

The posts, which went up on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday morning, included pictures that the text described as “irrefutable evidence” of “direct cooperation and support provided by the US-led coalition to the ISIS terrorists.” But as Kings College research associate Elliot Higgins noted on Twitter one of those pictures matches precisely with images found in an online trailer for AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron, a little-known mobile game from Byte Conveyor Studios. A warning from that trailer that the video was “Development footage / This is a work in progress / All content subject to change” was only partially cropped out of the Ministry of Defense posts, helping highlight the original source.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Crunch Report | Facebook admits Russian meddling in Brexit

 Today’s Stories  Facebook admits Russian meddling in Brexit The Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea and hypertension Youtube partners with Ticketmaster Youtube also cracks down on extremists  Credits Written by: Sarah Buhr Hosted by: Sarah Buhr Filmed by: Joe Zolnoski Edited by: John Murillo Notes: Tito’s continues his journey out in the Outback this week so you’re… Read More

For nearly a year, WikiLeaks was DMing with Donald Trump Jr.

As part of its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Congress received a cache of Twitter direct messages between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks—at least some of those messages have now been leaked to The Atlantic.

When Ars asked Twitter whether some users’ DMs had been turned over to Congressional investigators or the Office of Special Counsel, which is also investigating possible Russian government efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Emily Horne, a Twitter spokeswoman, declined comment.

In July 2016, WikiLeaks published 20,000 internal e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, a hack that likely originated from Russia.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

These are the US startups that Russian investors are backing

 A taxi-hailing app. A transplant device developer. An online mortgage provider. Those businesses may have little in common, but one shared thread is that U.S. startups in these sectors have all secured large funding rounds led by Russia-based investors. They’re not alone. Over the past seven years, Russia-based e investors have participated in more than 300 funding rounds for… Read More

Estonia arrests suspected FSB agent accused of “computer-related crime”

Estonian authorities announced this week that they had recently arrested a Russian man, suspected of being an agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB) who was allegedly preparing “computer-related crime.”

The 20-year-old man, whose identity was not made public, was arrested last weekend in the city of Narva, on Estonia’s eastern border, as he was trying to return to Russia.

On Thursday, Patrik Maldre, an Estonian analyst at FireEye, gave a brief translation of an account of the man’s arrest in the Estonian newspaper, Postimees.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DST Global letter to LPs denies impropriety in Facebook, Twitter investments

 DST Global, the investment firm led by Yuri Milner, has sent a letter to its limited partners blasting media outlets for “insinuations” that it used its holdings in Twitter and Facebook as anything other than financial investments, after it was revealed that the Russian government was indirectly an investor in DST Global. The letter, provided to TechCrunch by a source, comes in… Read More

Four years later, Yahoo still doesn’t know how Russia hacked 3 billion accounts

 On Wednesday, in a security hearing that called both Equifax and Yahoo’s past and present executives to Washington D.C., we’re learning a bit more about what Yahoo didn’t know about the biggest hack in history. When pressed about how Yahoo failed to recognize that 3 billion accounts — and not 500 million as first reported — were compromised in what was later… Read More

Trump Official Wilbur Ross Involved With Business Tied to Vladimir Putin

(NEW YORK) — Newly leaked documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration’s point man on trade and manufacturing policy, has a stake in a company that does business with a gas producer partly owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to records obtained by the International Consortium of Journalists, Ross is an investor in Navigator Holdings, a shipping giant that counts Russian gas and petrochemical producer Sibur among its major customers. Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov once owned more than 20 percent of the company, but now holds a much smaller stake.

Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas said Ross “never met” Shamalov and has generally supported the Trump administration’s sanctions against Russia, according to the ICIJ report. Rockas added that Ross has withdrawn from matters related to transoceanic shipping vessels and has met the “highest ethical standards.”

The details are likely to add to the questions about ties between Russia and the Trump administration, connections that for months have shadowed the White House and are a focus of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Yet it wasn’t immediately clear how many partners Ross might have or what the profit-sharing agreement might be.

ICIJ disclosed the Ross holding as part of reporting on 13.4 million records of offshore entities in tax havens leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper then shared the records with ICIJ and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries. The New York Times is its U.S. partner in this inquiry.

The Times earlier reported on the Ross holding.

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how much of Navigator, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Ross personally owns. ICIJ reported that Ross and other investors own four Cayman Island entities that in turn own 31.5 percent of Navigator, a stake worth $176 million at Friday’s closing stock price.

Ross’ stake in Navigator is likely a small fraction of that. In financial disclosure forms he filed with the government this year, Ross valued his holdings in the Cayman Island entities, which include other companies besides Navigator, at no more than $10.1 million.

Sibur contributed 8 percent to Navigator’s revenue last year, according to reports filed with securities regulators. Russia’s energy sector is largely controlled by individuals with ties to state actors, including Putin.

Much of the new trove of files includes bank statements, emails and loan agreements from Appleby, a law firm that helps set up offshore dummy companies and trusts. Appleby told the ICIJ that there is “no evidence” that it has done anything wrong.

Other records came from Asiaciti Trust, a family-run offshore specialist based In Singapore, and from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that draw the wealthy seeking privacy.

Big investments in two U.S. tech companies from a Russian government bank and Russian energy giant have also come to light.

The ICIJ reported that Silicon Valley investor and Russian citizen Yuri Milner got $191 million from VTB Bank, and invested that money in Twitter. The leaked records also show that a financial subsidiary of Russian energy company Gazprom funded a shell company that invested in a Milner-affiliated company that held roughly $1 billion in Facebook shares shortly before its 2012 initial public offering.

Milner told the ICIJ that he was unaware of any involvement by the Gazprom subsidiary in any of his deals and that none of his investments has been related to politics.

Milner has also invested in a tech-savvy real estate fund that was co-founded by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner called Cadre. Milner told the ICIJ that he used his own money for the investment.

Sunday’s revelations follow last year’s release of records from a Panama-based firm involved in setting up offshore accounts. That disclosure triggered investigations in several countries, the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and ouster of the leader of Pakistan. The Panama Papers also revealed that close associates of Russia’s leader Putin had been using the dummy accounts abroad to store their wealth, including a close Putin friend who had $2 billion of offshore assets.

There are legitimate reasons for setting up offshore accounts, but lax regulation and anonymity in some jurisdictions make it easy to launder money, evade taxes and avoid regulatory scrutiny. Critics of the widening gap between the super-wealthy and the rest have seized upon the use of tax havens as revealed in the Panama Papers as evidence of a crisis, and governments have promised to crack down.

In the case of Ross, the ICIJ reported Navigator’s Russian customer, Sibur, has ties to Putin in addition to his son-in-law.

A big shareholder is Gennady Timchenko, who was targeted by the U.S. and other Western nations for sanctions after Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014. A few months later, the U.S. barred banks from providing long-term financing to a gas company belonging to another large Sibur shareholder, Leonid Mikhelson. Mikhelson has also been sanctioned by the Treasury Department for propping up Putin’s rule.

Sibur itself was not targeted by the U.S. sanctions, but the Bank of America and the Royal Bank of Scotland reportedly backed away from doing business with the company.

The Russian gas producer last year contributed $23 million to Navigator’s revenue, an increase of more than 40 percent in two years