Russian internet trolls are using offshore banks to pay Americans to hand over their Facebook pages before election: report
US President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka. (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

According to a report in the New York Times, Russia has not given up attempting to influence the 2020 election despite increasing scrutiny, but are finding new ways to fill Facebook and other social media platforms with propaganda.

The report notes intelligence officials in both the United States and the United Kingdom have been sounding the alarm that American election interference is still at the top of list of Kremlin operatives -- and that they have adapted their methods as changes in policies have been altered.

"Interviews with dozens of officials and experts make clear that many of the vulnerabilities exploited by Moscow in 2016 remain. Most political campaigns are unwilling to spend what it takes to set up effective cyberdefenses," the report states. "Millions of Americans are still primed to swallow fake news. And those charged with protecting American elections face the same central challenge they did four years ago: to spot and head off any attack before it can disrupt voting or sow doubts about the outcome."

Put simply by Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, "You don’t actually have to breach an election system in order to create the public impression that you have. Chaos is the point. You can imagine many different scenarios.”

Case in point, "The trolls at the Internet Research Agency — the now-indicted outfit behind much of the Russian disinformation spread in 2016" are still at it.

Pointing out that they have moved to "encrypted communication tools, like ProtonMail, that are much harder to trace," an expert at a prominent tech company claimed they "are also trying to exploit a hole in Facebook’s ban on foreigners buying political ads, paying American users to hand over personal pages and setting up offshore bank accounts to cover their financial tracks."

Despite warnings that the U.S. can expect election manipulation from China -and now the increased worry about Iran interference -- officials say that Russia's attempts are still the most concerning.

"American officials, however, are nearly unanimous in the conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016, and that it remains the greatest threat in 2020. Unlike other countries, which are seen as eager to influence American policy, Russia appears, above all, to be interested in undermining confidence in America’s democratic institutions, starting with the voting process," the Times reports, with Shelby Pierson from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, stating for the record. "Our adversaries, including Russia, China, Iran and others, are persistent: They focus on our politics and try to take advantage of existing fissures and American sentiment, particularly if it may weaken us.”

“They’ll try many tactics and can adapt. If it doesn’t work out, they try something else,” she added.

You can read more here.