In an exclusive interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg opened up about Russia’s hacking of the social network — and the ways he tried to warn those affected.
“What we saw, before the election, was this Russian hacking group, part of Russian military intelligence, that I guess our government calls [Advanced Persistent Threat 28],” Zuckerberg told Swisher for Recode’s Decode podcast. “They were trying to do more traditional methods of hacking: Phishing people’s accounts, just getting access to people’s accounts that way.”
The Facebook CEO said the company identified APT28’s efforts “in the middle of 2015” and subsequently alerted the FBI. The company then saw phishing attempts at both the Democratic and Republican national committees and “some of the people over there as well, [who] we thought were at risk.”
In the interview, Zuckerberg also admitted that Facebook was “too slow” to counter the fake profiles created by the Internet Research Agency, the infamous Russian “troll farm.”
After becoming aware of the problem, the CEO said Facebook “developed this whole roadmap and set of techniques to go and handle that type of security threat.” The IRA, Zuckerberg said, had created troll accounts not just in the US presidential election, but also for elections in France, Germany and Mexico, along with the Alabama special election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones.
When asked if he agrees with the US intelligence community’s assertion that the IRA was funded and controlled by the Kremlin, Zuckerberg said he has “no reason not to.”
The Facebook CEO said the company has also tracked APT28 and the IRA itself, and found that there are organizations the Russian government props up as legitimate that are “essentially the same thing as the IRA” and ran by the same people.
“These things are real, and we’ve been aggressively pursuing them for the last couple of years,” Zuckerberg said. “This is now just part of the ongoing playbook that we have for preventing these kind of disinformation campaigns.”
You can listen to the entire interview below via Recode.