With campaigning at full tilt for the Scottish election, Seana Davis joined us on Election Hub Live to talk about the issues around state-sponsored disinformation.
Her comments come as the UK and US released a report identifying a pattern of Russian security attacks.
Speaking on the show on Friday, leading disinformation expert Ms Davis said: “It can be incredibly difficult.
“It takes a lot to get the evidence there, but when the evidence is there we have to be clear when it is happening because disinformation campaigns can be really serious.
“When it comes to Scotland, in 2020 the intelligence agency committee said there was very specific and credible evidence there was foreign interference in the Scottish 2014 referendum.
“It is easy to point fingers but we have to be clear and counter it.”
She added: “It can be so difficult to discern what is true and what is not.”
UK Government says Russia most acute threat to security
This comes after the UK and the US blamed Russia for carrying out the SolarWinds compromise, part of a wider pattern of activities by Russian intelligence services against the UK.
The UK Government says Russia’s behaviour around the world in areas such as cyberspace, election interference and the “aggressive” operations of its intelligence services show Russia remains the most acute threat to UK security.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab says the UK will continue to defend itself against Russian attempts to destabilise the county.
He said: “We see what Russia is doing to undermine our democracies.
“The UK and US are calling out Russia’s malicious behaviour, to enable our international partners and businesses at home to better defend and prepare themselves against this kind of action.
“The UK will continue to work with allies to call out Russia’s malign behaviour when we see it.”
The UK Government has also announced Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, SVR, was behind a series of cyber intrusions and GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre has assessed it is likely SVR was responsible for gaining unauthorised access to SolarWind’s ‘Orion’ software.
These incidents are part of a wider pattern of cyber intrusions by the SVR, which has previously attempted to gain access to governments across Europe and Nato members.
US expels Russian diplomats
This announcement from the UK Government comes after the Biden administration announced the US is to expel 10 Russian diplomats and impose sanctions against dozens of companies and individuals.
These sanctions are a bid to hold the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election, and the cyber hacking of federal agencies.
US officials say Russia cut to the core of American democracy, and want to deter future acts by imposing economic costs on Moscow, such as targeting its ability to borrow money.
US ‘will act firmly’
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said: “These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions.
“We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners.
“Where possible, the United States will also seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia, with the goal of building a more stable and predictable relationship consistent with US interests.”
Last month US intelligence officials alleged in a declassified report Russian president Vladimir Putin authorised influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for re-election as president.