A group of hackers connected to Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, started creating fake Facebook accounts to boost stolen emails as early as June 2016, according to a new report by the Washington Post.
The report comes weeks after Facebook announced that fake accounts linked to Russia were able to use the social network and spread fake news and purchase $100,000 worth of political ads during the election.
The Facebook accounts were reportedly linked to the GRU’s hacking group, called APT28, or Fancy Bear, reportedly set up an account called DCLeaks and one under the name Guccifer 2.0, which helped spread the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in late 2015.
Cybersecurity also believes the same group, Fancy Bear, was also behind the DNC hack.
According to the Post, Facebook contacted the FBI but determined the accounts were financially motivated and not linked to a foreign government.
It is important to note that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said shortly after President Donald Trump victory, that it was “crazy” to believe his company had been used a platform for Russian propaganda. But the social network began to look again after Zuckerberg was pulled aside by then President Barack Obama later that month, according to the Washington Post.
Aides to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama analyzed the data and shared it with the Senate Intelligence Committee. But, it would take four months later to discover the Russia-linked accounts had purchased ads targeting certain districts and demographics during the election.
Facebook reportedly does not know the extent of Russia’s advertisement purchases, or whether these unidentified ad buys are still on the social networking site. This is because the Russia-linked entities could have used the site’s self-device tool to purchase ads and bypass the social networking site’s employees.
Facebook also added that the Russia-linked groups took it to another level with more than just buying advertisements and sharing memes. The groups tried to organize anti-immigrant, anti-Hillary Clinton rallies in Texas and Idaho.
Zuckerberg said in a statement on Thursday that the company is reevaluating how the social networking algorithms were used during the presidential election to promote advertisements or other content on the platform.