Ex-spook details how he was ‘targeted by cyber gang backed by republicans’ | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Philip Ingram says attacks by cyber gangs can involve hundreds of anonymous abusive messages in a very short space of time.

Co Tyrone man Philip Ingram MBE, who now lives in England, served as a UK Army intelligence colonel in Nato and is now chairman of Global Intelligence Insight, a company which infiltrates IS and Al Qaeda social media networks.

In yesterday’s News Letter he explained why he believed former first minister Arlene Foster and BBC presenter Stephen Nolan may both have been targeted by similar groups. The pair went public earlier this year to speak about “dark forces” trying to silence them online.

Mr Ingram said that loyalists and republicans were clearly guilty of serious online trolling (harassment) but that republicans were much more sophisticated while loyalists act more like “thugs” online.

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Former Intelligence Col Philip Ingram from Co Tyrone now chairs a cyber security company.

An attack from an eastern European cyber-gang is characterised by a high volume of anonymous abusive messages in a very short time frame, he said.

“As soon as I appeared on Radio Ulster in recent years – all of a sudden my social media timelines would be filled with lots of different anonymous accounts commenting on things that I had said in very disparaging ways,” he said.

“It would be virtually instantaneous – all of sudden there would be hundreds and hundreds of comments. It would all happen within an hour.

“All of them from completely anonymous accounts, all of them with some kind of republican backing and trying to undermine anything that I have said. Over 95% of it would be anonymous.”

Former First Minister Arlene Foster says the attacks on Mr Ingram are very similar to those she has endured.

He was also subjected to the same attacks after tweeting directly at a senior republican figure.

He thinks trolls may be watching the account of the individual concerned and to see if they are being criticised that this then triggers a reaction.

But once he stopped popping up in the individual’s timeline, having been blocked, many of the attacks against him appeared to stop.

“This would suggest it was the individual’s timeline that was being monitored by people who wanted to then come and react against me.”

He says that republicans’ traditional links with eastern European crime gangs for illegal smuggling suggests they are working together to attack targets on social media.

Mr Ingram noted that the PSNI chief constable has affirmed that the IRA Army Council is still operational.

The former colonel said that, as such, he is certain the council would be actively controlling republicans’ use of eastern European cyber gangs to attack its perceived enemies online.

But the attacks are not just a matter of political opinion, he said.

There is a real threat to freedom of speech and democracy when journalists and elected politicians are being so ruthlessly targeted.

“This is something society hasn’t woken up to properly yet. We don’t recognise and counter it. This and what some people call ‘fake news’ is probably the single greatest threat to society as we know it at the moment.”

Former first minister Arlene Foster welcomed Mr ingram’s analysis – saying it closely matches her own experience.

FOSTER: THIS ANALYSIS CONFIRMS MY THINKING

“This is very interesting,” she said of Philip Ingram’s analysis for the News Letter. “The experience detailed after this gentleman was on Radio Ulster is very familiar to me. I have suspected for some time that the Twitter ‘pile-on’ on me has been coordinated by republicans and what Philip has said backs up my own thinking on the issue – although unlike him I don’t have the expertise to analyse it.

“I do think this requires further work by the authorities including the social media companies themselves as it does go to the heart of democracy in the attempt to bully and harass journalists, innocent victims and elected politicians.

“This is also something which the Home Office should be concerned about and I will be raising it directly with the home secretary.”

She welcomed the increased emphasis by the police on dark web criminality. She has announced that she is campaigning to make social media giants require ID before allowing people to open an account.

In May, Mrs Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill both recounted the “vile” abuse they have experienced online.

Ms O’Neill said women in politics are “constantly swimming upstream against a constant undercurrent of misogyny and abuse”.

RUSSIAN LINKS TO REPUBLICANISM

Mr Ingram believes the common ground between republicans and Russian political philosophy is another reason why eastern European cyber gangs are likely to be running paid-for trolling services for republicans.

He said republicans increasingly use a Russian tactic called ‘Maskirovka’, which is all about masking and coordinating disinformation. Most of the information they put out is accurate but then one or two key facts are left out.

“A lot of the officials around eastern Europe were trained in Russian-style doctrine and they are very good at developing Maskirovka campaigns, as I found out when I was involved in different campaigns in the Balkans.”

A practical example, he said, would be the poisoning of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018 with the nerve agent Novichok.

When the UK accused the Russians of responsibility, Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed the agent leaked from the British facility at Porton Down just outside Salisbury.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then asked if this was true in Parliament, which helped sow seeds of doubt in UK sceptics.

In NI this may come in the form of glorifying IRA ‘martyrs’ while ignoring the horrific murders they may have carried out. “That is classic Maskirovka,” said Mr Ingram.

The Official IRA had links with Russia while the Provisionals had links to south American terror groups and Col Gaddafi, which were all proponents of Russian-style disinformation doctrines.

Socialist doctrines are also espoused in the IRA training manual, the Green Book, he added.

Young people are especially vulnerable to being brainwashed by a partial version of the truth about the Troubles. Islamist, right-wing, loyalist and republican terror groups all use the same tactics for grooming, recruiting and inculcating young people into their ways of thinking.

They do this through the use of Maskirovka, disinformation, misinformation and then encouragement of people to go and carry out different actions.

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