Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said Monday that Russia deployed tens of thousands of bots to influence the 2016 U.S. elections in favor of Donald Trump, but not because Trump is a great friend of Russia.
Speaking at The Marker's digital conference, Pardo said that it seems to him that the Russians simply chose to support the candidate that would be the most politically advantageous for them.
Pardo said they took a look at the political map in Washington, "and thought, which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals? And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president."
Many experts at the conference spoke of the dangers posed by bots, computer programs designed to run automatically and mimic the cyber behavior of a real user.
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Is there a business opportunity here for Israel's cyber companies? Not necessarily, Pardo said.
In an interview with Sami Peretz, the ex-Mossad head said that “what we’ve seen so far with respect to bots and the distortion of information is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the greatest threat of recent years, and it threatens the basic values that we share – democracy and the world order created since World War Two."
The use of bots and fake information on the web is a global issue that Israel must be prepared to handle, Pardo said. On the digital battlefield war is clean, compared to the death and destruction of physical battlefields. But, Pardo noted, they pose real threats to humanity and to Israel on the web, and the democratic nations should act quickly.
Politicians may believe they can use the bots to their advantage, but the consequences will come back to haunt them, Pardo continued. As an example, he said that Trump may think the bots worked in his favor, but it is the same bots that are liable to topple him. Politicians hold the key to stopping the chaos created by the bots, he concluded.