Earlier this year, leaders from the Marine Corps, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the NSA, the White House, and the FBI gathered at a Ritz-Carlton in Virginia to discuss the latest in cybersecurity and information warfare.
The event was organized by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a nonprofit think tank founded just a few years ago that quickly established itself as a convener of well-attended cybersecurity events, a facilitator of Capitol Hill briefings, and the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships from top private sector security vendors.
The day’s closing session featured James Scott, ICIT’s senior fellow and cofounder, discussing Russian cyberinfluence operations and his new book about information warfare. What audience members from intelligence and law enforcement agencies didn’t know is that Scott and ICIT have been running their own deceptive information operation.
BuzzFeed News identified a network of at least 45 fake Twitter accounts being used to amplify ICIT content and Scott’s book, as well as a group of fake YouTube accounts that upload and like ICIT videos and frequently post adoring comments about Scott on content featuring him.
Reporting by BuzzFeed News has also established that Scott, ICIT’s top expert, previously sold spammy and fake social media engagement services, has a history of manufacturing flattering articles about himself and his ventures using dubious SEO techniques, and ran companies that are magnets for online complaints about dishonest business practices. His background in information security also primarily consists of self-published books on the topic that he only began publishing in 2013.
ICIT will be holding its annual forum on June 18 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC. Sponsors of that event include McAfee, Micro Focus Government Solutions, Centrify, Skybox Security, Cylance, Garrison, and KPMG. Epoch Times is a "partner" for the event.
Here is a Think Tank piece from 2015 about a fake think tank apparently set up by Russia to project its power.
Here is a 2017 Think Tank Watch story about a fake think tank that had been uncovered. Here is another 2017 piece about fake think tanks.
Also in 2017, Russians dumped real documents hacked from the Bradley Foundation (which funds a number of think tanks), and added a forged letter indicating that the foundation had made an illegal $150 million donation to the Clinton campaign.
Welcome to the new world of fake think tanking.