• Perspective: Defense of the homelandThe Senate Examines Threats to the Homeland

    On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the evolving threats facing the United States. In their written and opening remarks, the witnesses outlined a dizzyingly broad array of threats—from domestic and international terrorism to transnational organized crime, cyber and economic espionage, election interference, data insecurity, and potential chemical and biological attacks on the homeland. As the hearing wore on, senators’ questions and witness testimony narrowed in scope, focusing primarily on three aspects of America’s security challenges: how to optimize information sharing to combat domestic terrorism; how to counter Chinese cyber and counterintelligence operations; and how to address the growing problems posed by new technologies, namely, ransomware, cryptocurrency and unmanned aerial systems (UASs).

  • Perspective: Truth decayThe Trolls Are Everywhere. Now What Are We Supposed to Do?

    Forget the decline of gatekeepers. Imagine a world bereft of gates and uncrossable lines, with no discernible rules. Andrew Marantz’s just published book, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, offers a detailed and disturbing study of how the social media platforms, rolled out over the last decade by a group of nerdy but naïve Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have been hijacked by “edge lords” — another name for a collection of nihilists, right-wing nationalists, conspiracy purveyors, white supremacists, and more, whose goal is to downgrade the discourse in a way that would soon corrode the entire system. “The ranking algorithms on social media laid out clear incentives: provoke as many activating emotions as possible; lie, spin, dog-whistle; drop red pill after red pill; step up to the line repeatedly, in creative new ways,” Marantz writes. Public discourse is being replaced by the dance of discord and enragement and noxiousness.

  • Perspective: DisinformationDisinformation Agents Are Targeting Veterans in Run-Up to 2020 Election

    Disinformation campaigns are targeting U.S. veterans through social media, seeking to tap the group’s influential status in their communities and high voting turnout in order to influence elections and fuel discord. Katerina Patin writes that veterans present an ideal target for foreign actors. In addition to their social status and voting rate, veterans are also more likely to run for office and more likely to work in government than any other demographic.

  • Perspective: DisinformationOnline Disinformation and Political Discourse: Applying a Human Rights Framework

    The framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) saw human rights as a fundamental safeguard for all individuals against the power of authority. Although some digital platforms now have an impact on more people’s lives than does any one state authority, the international community has been slow to measure and hold to account these platforms’ activities by reference to human rights law. Kate Jones writes that “Although international human rights law does not impose binding obligations on digital platforms, it offers a normative structure of appropriate standards by which digital platforms should be held to account. Because of the impact that social media can have, a failure to hold digital platforms to human rights standards is a failure to provide individuals with the safeguards against the power of authority that human rights law was created to provide.”

  • Foreign interferenceU.S. Security Leaders Warn About Russian, Iranian Interference in 2020 Polls

    Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have joined together to warn Americans about attempts by Russia, Iran, and other foreign “adversaries” to interfere with next year’s presidential election. “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies,” the leaders of the Trump’s administration on security matters said in a joint statement released on 5 November. “Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” they added.

  • Foreign interferenceAre Journalists Ready for Foreign Interference in 2020?

    By Bradley Hanlon

    Last month, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released volume two of its investigation into Russian interference, which details an extensive campaign that aims to sow division and undermine American democracy via social media. One of Russia’s key strategies is to target journalists. As the report describes, “Information warfare, at its core, is a struggle over information and truth. A free and open press — a defining attribute of democratic society — is a principal strategic target for Russian disinformation.” By targeting journalists and news outlets in democratic countries, authoritarians weaken a key pillar of democratic societies.

  • ArgumentsAre Facebook and Google State Actors?

    In 1924, concerned about monopolization in the radio industry, the secretary of commerce said something prescient: “It cannot be thought that any single person or group shall ever have the right to determine what communication may be made to the American people. … We cannot allow any single person or group to place themselves in a position where they can censor the material which shall be broadcasted to the public.” Jed Rubenfeld writes that what Secretary Herbert Hoover warned against has now come to pass:

  • PerspectiveInside the Microsoft Team Tracking the World’s Most Dangerous Hackers

    When the Pentagon recently awarded Microsoft a $10 billion contract to transform and host the U.S. military’s cloud computing systems, the mountain of money came with an implicit challenge: Can Microsoft keep the Pentagon’s systems secure against some of the most well-resourced, persistent, and sophisticated hackers on earth?

  • PerspectiveOfficials Just Had Their Last Chance to Road Test Elections Before 2020

    From a security perspective, Tuesday’s odd-year election went off without a hitch: Officials didn’t spot any major disruptions from hacking or disinformation campaigns. But Joseph Marks writes that the fight to protect the 2020 contest is only ramping up. And officials were quick to warn that it will be a far juicier target for foreign actors.

  • Social mediaSocial Media: Growing Conduit for Electoral Manipulation, Mass Surveillance

    Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year, according to Freedom on the Net 2019, the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of internet freedom, released today by Freedom House.

  • Election securityUsing Algorithms to Seek Out Voter Fraud

    Concerns over voter fraud have surged in recent years, especially after federal officials reported that Russian hackers attempted to access voter records in the 2016 presidential election. Administrative voting errors have been reported, too; for example, an audit by state officials revealed that 84,000 voter records were inadvertently duplicated by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the 2018 June primary election. Researchers are helping with the situation by developing new algorithms for tracking voter data.

  • Election securityForeign Money Flows into U.S. Politics

    By Brian Padden

    Untold amounts of foreign donations are flowing into America’s political system, with little accountability or limits. Although election experts say it’s impossible to accurately estimate the extent of foreign financial influence over U.S. elections, many agree it has increased substantially since a landmark Supreme Court ruling nearly a decade ago opened the flood gates.

  • Perspective: Foreign interferenceDepoliticizing Foreign Interference

    Russian interference in the 2016 election was one of the most effective and dangerous foreign operations ever conducted against the United States. Even worse, the risk of foreign meddling is likely to grow in the coming years. Jessica Brandt writes with just a year left before the next presidential election, U.S. leaders are still grappling with foreign interference in the last election. Postmortems of the 2016 campaign—in testimony from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a bipartisan report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence—have brought renewed attention to the ongoing risks, which have been made more difficult by new actors and new technologies. “As the threat has grown, the political polarization that surrounds election interference has deepened,” she writes, adding:. “Despite this bleak picture, progress is possible.

  • Perspective: BackdoorsWhy Adding Client-Side Scanning Breaks End-To-End Encryption

    Recent attacks on encryption have diverged. On the one hand, we’ve seen Attorney General William Barr call for “lawful access” to encrypted communications, using arguments that have barely changed since the 1990’s. Erica Portnoy writes that we’ve also seen suggestions from a different set of actors for more purportedly “reasonable” interventions, particularly the use of client-side scanning to stop the transmission of contraband files, most often child exploitation imagery (CEI).

  • Perspective: DeepfakesCISA, DARPA Offer Look Into their Dealings with Deepfakes

    Agency and industry officials last week offered details of their efforts to improve public resiliency, streamline communication, and accelerate technical solutions to counter the threats posed by deepfakes and other disinformation techniques ahead of next year’s election. “Essentially, if you generalize a bit, these are attacks on knowledge, right, which underpins everything that we do,” Matt Turek, program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Information Innovation Office said on a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Wednesday. “It underpins our trust in institutions and organizations.”