The Attack of the Clones

In recent months, several Colombian alternative media sites have been cloned in an act to spread disinformation and to discredit the sources. The clones use the same design as the original websites but include articles with opposite point of views of the original content. The fake websites publish news supporting the right-wing, often focusing on Álvaro Uribe, ex-president of Colombia, and connects left-wing politicians with people connected to drug cartels. The fake news are published in the names of the original authors of the media.

This is an investigation in three parts that focus on the disinformation war in Colombia against left-wing independent media. The investigation is a joint collaboration between Qurium and the Colombian news site La Nueva Prensa.

Part 1: Spreading disinformation by website cloning

La Nueva Prensa, known for its independent investigative reporting, often focusing on corruption and links between politics and drug cartels, noticed in October 2020 that a clone of their website had appeared on the Internet. Around the same time, Los Danieles, a popular column run by three prestigious journalists, noticed that their site was cloned as well. The impostors used identical layouts and similar domain names as the original sites, but altered the content and used the medias’ good reputation to spread political disinformation. The report focuses following the digital footprints of the impostors, to reveal the identity of the attacker.

Part 2: Fake friendship – image manipulation

The cloned websites contain not only altered text, but also manipulated images. Several of these modified images show left-wing politicians together with persons connected to narco cartels. This report illustrates how manipulated images easily can be detected and disinformation can be revealed.

Part 3: Priva60 – a haven for disinformation and phishing

After confirming that the clone of Los Danieles and the suspicious company HPS, connected to the fake Twitter account of La Nueva Prensa, both were hosted in Priva60 as a part of the server network, we decided to take a closer look at Priva60. Our findings indicate that Priva60 is a haven for disinformation, trolling, phishing and other types of scams.