Threat Intelligence

Google details nightmare whack-a-mole scenario with Dragonbridge disinfo campaign

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Researchers with Google’s security arm say they have been dealing with a particularly nasty Chinese disinformation group responsible for hundreds of thousands of malicious accounts.

Known to researchers in the Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) as Dragonbridge, the disinformation campaign is believed to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of spam accounts, including 175,000 that have already been removed from the YouTube and Blogger services.

The TAG team, back again, said in a Wednesday report that in the last quarter alone it took down 10,000 accounts associated with the Dragonbridge campaign, and in the 2023 calendar year some 65,000 accounts in total were wiped from its services.

The group is believed to be acting on behalf of or directly within the PRC government itself, as most of its content is delivered in Chinese and is pitched in such as a way as to praise the Chinese government directly or criticize western nations.

Interestingly, TAG believes that the group is attempting to camouflage itself by flooding most of the fake channels with generic spam content, only occasionally pushing out political content at strategic intervals where it is likely to have the greatest influence on public opinion.

“The majority of Dragonbridge activity is low quality content without a political message, populated across many channels and blogs,” the TAG bulletin explains.

“However, a small fraction of Dragonbridge accounts also post about current events with messaging that pushes pro-PRC views. This content is either quickly created in response to breaking news, or produced ahead of time for anticipated events.”

One possible explanation for the group’s prolific output is a heavy reliance on automated tools. The Dragonbridge accounts make heavy use of stock images and AI voiceovers that have become synonymous with low-quality spam content.

Still, with such large numbers at their disposal, the Dragonbridge operation may still be able to brute force its way into influencing public opinion. The group was found to be especially active earlier this year around Taiwan’s general elections.

This is particularly relevant as the US is set to conduct a particularly testy presidential election this Fall. Researchers believe that the Dragonbridge operation will be kicking into high gear with its influence efforts.

“Dragonbridge continues to create content with US-focused narratives that portray US government, society, and democracy in a negative light, cycling through political and social narratives that evolve with the headlines,” the TAG researchers noted.

“We have seen Dragonbridge respond to significant events with pre-produced content and consider it highly likely that they will continue to do so, including with the 2024 US general election.”

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