Twitter begins emailing the 677,775 Americans who took Russian election bait

On Friday, Twitter took an end-of-the-week opportunity to dump some better-late-than-never news onto its userbase. For anybody who followed or engaged with a Twitter account that faked like an American during the 2016 election season but was actually linked to a major Russian propaganda campaign, you’re about to get an email.

Twitter announced that it would contact a massive number of users with that news: 677,775 users to be exact. This count includes those who interacted with the 3,814 accounts that Twitter has directly linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm whose election-related meddling was exposed in 2017.

That number of accounts, Twitter noted, is a jump from Twitter’s prior count of 2,812 IRA-linked trolls, which it had disclosed as part of an October 2017 hearing in Congress. Twitter says that this specific pool of troll accounts generated 175,993 posts during the 2016 period of activity that Twitter has been analyzing, and the service noted that 8.4 percent of those posts were “election-related.” In its Friday disclosure, Twitter did not take the opportunity to acknowledge how the remaining percentage of these posts, which included anything from “I’m a real person” idle banter to indirect and divisive messaging, may have ultimately contributed to the troll farm’s impact. (For example: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey bit, and bit hard, on a known IRA account by retweeting two of its 2016 posts.)

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Twitter updates total of Russia-linked election bots to 50,000

 Twitter has provided updated details on its investigation into Russian election interference on its platform in 2016. Its identification of more than 13,000 more Russian-linked bots that made election-related tweets puts the total over 50,000. In addition, about 3,800 (up 1,000 from Twitter’s data in the fall) were associated with the now-notorious Internet Research Agency. Read More

Russia now looking to sell its prized rocket engines to China

Ever since the Crimean crisis in 2014—precipitated by Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian-held peninsula—Congress has increased pressure on the US aerospace industry to end its use of Russian-made rocket engines. In particular, legislators want United Launch Alliance to stop using the RD-180 engine in its Atlas V launch vehicle. This booster, with a 100 percent mission success rate, launches many of America’s national security payloads.

As United Launch Alliance plans to transition to US-made engines early next decade, and with other US rockets already flying or soon coming online, the Russian RD-180 manufacturers are looking to other markets. In doing so, they’ve found willing buyers in China, although this has come with some concerns.

Even though the rocket engine technology behind the RD-180 is 40 years old, it remains one of the highest performing engines in the world, with a near-perfect service record. With 860,000 pounds of thrust (about 3.8MN), the RD-180 also happens to be three times more powerful than any Chinese rocket engine.

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Russian hackers are targeting U.S. Senate email accounts

 According to a new report, the same group that hacked the Democratic National Committee actively targeted the U.S. Senate through the latter half of 2017. The revelation comes out of a new report from Trend Micro, a Japanese firm that has revealed similar phishing schemes taking aim at foreign governments in the past. Read More

Russia pushing to partner with NASA on lunar gateway

Russia is assembling a new group of engineers who will be responsible for crafting the nation’s lunar exploration strategy. It’s another sign that a highly ambitious human space program is gaining steam in Moscow.

The new department was created inside RKK Energia space corporation, Russia’s premier developer of human spacecraft that is responsible for the venerable Soyuz.

Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.

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Russian space agency denies programming error bungled rocket launch

 A failed rocket launch from Russia’s new spaceport at Vostochny last month was not in fact caused by an elementary programming error, as recent reports have indicated — or at least that’s what Roscosmos, the country’s space agency, has claimed, contradicting earlier statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Read More

Check now to see if you liked any Russian troll accounts on Facebook

 This fall saw ever-rising estimates of the number of people reached by Russian-backed troll accounts — just shy of 150 million at last count . Now the social network has at last released the tool it promised last month allowing users to see if they liked or followed one of the many pages or pieces of content put online during the sketchy attempt at mass manipulation. Read More

Kaspersky Lab challenges the U.S. government ban on its products in court

 On Monday, Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab announced its intention to push back against the U.S. government’s ban on its software. The ban, which the Department of Homeland Security announced in September, has resulted in a lengthy back-and-forth between Kaspersky and the U.S. government over allegations that the software maker’s products are an asset for Russian… Read More