Cyber and disinformation attacks against Lithuania are growing in scale, becoming bolder and more sophisticated, according to the annual report compiled by the National Cyber Security Centre at the Ministry of Defence.
Last year, the Strategic Communications Department of the Lithuanian Armed Forces reported nearly 2,900 information attacks to spread fake news.
A fourth of them were aimed at undermining trust in Lithuania's statehood, independence and democratic institutions, according to the cybersecurity report.
“The number of such cases [...] rose 15 percent last year. Lithuania's statehood, independence and the institutions of democracy have become some of the key targets of the unfriendly media in recent years,” it said.
The fake news sought to “construct an image of Lithuania as a hostile and unreliable state,” included incitement to war and ethnic tension. The fake news stories often quoted “falsified facts, purposefully distorted statements by public figures, doctored video footage”.
These attacks employed more advanced technological and design solutions than before, suggesting more resources dedicated to them, according to the report.
Fake statements were also sometimes attributed to real people or institutions.
“One of the clearest informational cyber attacks targeted a journalist of Delfi.lt," according to the report. An email attributed to the journalist was sent out to Lithuanian and foreign institutions, as well as news agencies, asking for comments on alleged offences committed by NATO allies in Lithuania.
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Another attack was carried out against the Jewish community in Kaunas. Using its chairman's name, hackers sent out statements, falsely claiming that NATO forward presence battalion troops in Lithuania committed anti-Semitic crimes.
Read more: More fake news target NATO’s presence in Lithuania
Another fake news operation claimed that Lithuania's minister of defence took a large bribe from US officials.
Several online website were also hacked during this attack to post fake news stories discrediting the minister. The stories were linked to a website designed to look very similar to the country's anti-corruption institution, Special Investigation Service (STT).