Cybersecurity | Homeland Security Newswire

  • As Russians hack the U.S. grid, a look at what’s needed to protect it

    The U.S. electricity grid is hard to defend because of its enormous size and heavy dependency on digital communication and computerized control software. The number of potential targets is growing as “internet of things” devices, such as smart meters, solar arrays and household batteries, connect to smart grid systems. In late 2015 and again in 2016, Russian hackers shut down parts of Ukraine’s power grid. In March 2018, federal officials warned that Russians had penetrated the computers of multiple U.S. electric utilities and were able to gain access to critical control systems. Four months later, the Wall Street Journal reported that the hackers’ access had included privileges that were sufficient to cause power outages. It’s important for electric utilities, grid operators and vendors to remain vigilant and deploy multiple layers of defense.

  • A Mueller-like criminal investigation into Russia’s meddling in U.K. politics needed: MP

    British lawmaker calls for launching a criminal investigation in the U.K., modelled after the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the United States, to explore the reach and extent of Russia’s efforts to interfere in British democracy. Damian Collins, a Conservative MP, said that only a police investigation, with the power to seize documents and subpoena witnesses, could ascertain the scope of any Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to influence the 2016 referendum over Britain’s membership in the EU. Such an investigation, he said, would also ensure that future elections were protected from attack by foreign powers.

  • Making phrase-based passwords more user friendly for better online security

    Although passphrases, or phrase-based passwords, have been found to be more secure than traditional passwords, human factors issues such as typographical errors and memorability have slowed their wider adoption. Researchers have developed and tested two new passphrase systems that seek to address these shortcomings and improve the usability and security of existing passphrase authentication systems.

  • Toward a more secure electrical grid

    Not long ago, getting a virus was about the worst thing computer users could expect in terms of system vulnerability. But in our current age of hyper-connectedness and the emerging Internet of Things, that’s no longer the case. With connectivity, a new principle has emerged, one of universal concern to those who work in the area of systems control. That law says, essentially, that the more complex and connected a system is, the more susceptible it is to disruptive cyber-attacks.

  • U.S. national security leaders on Russia’s attacks: "Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs”

    In joint press briefing in the White House on Thursday, the leaders of U.S. intelligence and national security offered a detailed and disturbing picture of Russia’s on-going meddling in U.S. politics, and the efforts by Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists to shape the outcome of the 2018 congressional midterms elections. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russia is engaging in “pervasive messaging campaign to try to weaken and divide the United States.” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.” President Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania a few hours after the briefing at the White House, dismissed the judgement of the U.S. intelligence and national security leaders. “In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “We got along really well… Now, we are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, okay?”

  • Russia’s influence campaign can “wreak havoc in our society and in our elections”

    On Wednesday, 1 August, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee convened an open hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms. “Twenty-one months after the 2016 election – and only three months before the 2018 elections – Russian-backed operatives continue to infiltrate and manipulate social media to hijack the national conversation and set Americans against each other. They were doing it in 2016. They are still doing it today,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice-chairman of the committee said. “These active measures have two things in common: They are effective. And they are cheap. For just pennies on the dollar, they can wreak havoc in our society and in our elections. I’m concerned that even after 18 months of study, we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to Russia’s information warfare.”

  • Bipartisan bill introduces “crushing” measures against “Kremlin aggression”

    An influential bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a package of measures designed to “defend American security from Kremlin aggression,” including new financial sanctions and a “strong statement of support” for NATO. The bill introduced on 2 August represents at least the fourth piece of legislation circulating in Congress to punish Russia for its alleged interference in U.S. elections, its aggression in Ukraine and Syria, and other “malign” activities. “The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said in a statement introducing the bill. “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the U.S. electoral process, halts cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria,” Graham said.

  • As midterm elections approach, a growing concern that the nation is not protected from Russian interference

    The United States has done little to protect the country’s election systems against Russian interference – or interference by other foreign state actors. Two years ago, Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists conducted an effective campaign of interference in the 2016 presidential election. Their disinformation campaign on social media — aiming to deepen divisions in American society along racial, ethnic, and religious lines and increase political polarization and acrimony – has never stopped. It is on-going. There is evidence that the Russian government hackers have already began their hacking efforts to help shape the 2018 midterm congressional elections. Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg write in the Washington Post that Russian efforts to manipulate U.S. voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the United States.

  • Scorecard on hate crimes in 57 OSCE nations released

    Against a backdrop of rising reports of hate crimes, Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday released their annual analysis of hate crime reporting by the 57 participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a security- and human rights-focused intergovernmental organization comprising governments from North America, Europe, and Central Asia. The report notes that many OSCE governments remain unwilling or unable to meet even basic standards concerning the reporting of hate crimes.

  • Facebook IDs new fake influence campaign

    As the U.S. midterm election nears, the Kremlin is intensifying its disinformation and hacking campaign to help bring an outcome in the November election which would be favorable to Russia – as it did in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook on Tuesday announced it has identified a new ongoing political influence campaign and has removed more than thirty fake accounts and pages.

  • How the Russian government used disinformation and cyber warfare in 2016 election – an ethical hacker explains

    The Soviet Union and now Russia under Vladimir Putin have waged a political power struggle against the West for nearly a century. Spreading false and distorted information – called “dezinformatsiya” after the Russian word for “disinformation” – is an age-old strategy for coordinated and sustained influence campaigns that have interrupted the possibility of level-headed political discourse. Emerging reports that Russian hackers targeted a Democratic senator’s 2018 reelection campaign suggest that what happened in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election may be set to recur.

  • Social media manipulation rising globally: Report

    The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to public life. Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science.

  • Make tech companies liable for "harmful and misleading material" on their platforms

    In a withering report on its 18-month investigation into fake news and the use of data and “dark ads” in elections, the U.K. Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMC) says that Facebook’s egregious indifference to its corporate responsibility has led to a massive failure with far-reaching consequences. The DCMC charges that Facebook “obfuscated”, refused to investigate how its platform was abused by the Russian government until forced by pressure from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. In the most damning section of the report, DCMC offers evidence that Facebook’s indifference aided and abetted the incitement and persecution of the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar, causing large-scale death and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

  • Midterms first Kremlin hacking target revealed: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

    In 2016, on orders of President Vladimir Putin, the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence branch, launched a broad and effective hacking and disinformation campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The Kremlin is already busy orchestrating another hacking and disinformation campaign to shape the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections.

  • With hacking of U.S. utilities, Russia could move from cyberespionage toward cyberwar

    Even before the revelation on 23 July that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer systems of U.S. electric utilities and could have caused blackouts, government agencies and electricity industry leaders were working to protect U.S. customers and society as a whole. These developments highlight an important distinction of conflict in cyberspace: between probing and attacking. The distinction between exploiting weaknesses to gather information – also known as “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” – and using those vulnerabilities to actually do damage is impossibly thin and depends on the intent of the people doing it. Intentions are notoriously difficult to figure out. In global cyberspace they may change depending on world events and international relations. The dangers – to the people of the United States and other countries both allied and opposed – underscore the importance of international agreement on what constitutes an act of war in cyberspace and the need for clear rules of engagement.