• More than security: Passwords serve a personal purpose

    A study has shown that people build their passwords from personal information for a variety of reasons including to invoke important memories or achieve future goals. The study found around half of the respondents infused their passwords with autobiographical memories.

  • Russia’s would-be Windows replacement gets a security upgrade

    For the first time, Russia has granted its highest security rating to a domestically developed operating system, deeming Astra Linux suitable for communications of “special importance” across the military and the rest of the government. The designation clears the way for Russian intelligence and military workers who had been using Microsoft products on office computers to use Astra Linux instead. Patrick Tucker writes in Defense One that Although Russian officials used Windows for secure communications, they heavily modified the software and subjected Windows-equipped PCs to lengthy and rigorous security checks before putting the computers in use. The testing and analysis was to satisfy concerns that vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems could be patched to prevent hacking from countries like the United States. Such evaluations could take three years, according to the newspaper.

  • Minds, the “anti-Facebook,” has no idea what to do about all the neo-Nazis

    Minds is home to neo-Nazis, and wants its users to help decide what content stays on the site. Ben Makuch and Jordan Pearson write in Motherboard that Minds is a US-based social network that bills itself as being focused on transparency (its code is open source), free speech, and cryptocurrency rewards for users. Much of the recent media coverage around Minds, which launched in 2015, has focused on how it challenges social media giants and its adoption of cryptocurrency, while also noting that the site’s light-touch approach to content moderation has led to a proliferation of far-right viewpoints being shared openly on its platform.

  • Facebook’s dystopian definition of “fake”

    Every time another “fake video” makes the rounds, its menace gets rehashed without those discussing it establishing what “fakeness” means in the first place. The latest one came last week, a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi. President Donald Trump tweeted a reference to the video; his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani shared it, too, although Giuliani later deleted his post. Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic that these sorts of events are insidious because it’s hard to form a response that isn’t a bad one. Talking about the video just gives its concocted message more oxygen. Ignoring it risks surrendering truth to the ignorant whims of tech companies. The problem is, a business like Facebook doesn’t believe in fakes. For it, a video is real so long as it’s content. And everything is content.

  • Unknowingly loading malicious content from “trusted” sites

    New research from CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, questions the “trustability” of websites and in a world first quantifies the extent to which the trust model of today’s World Wide Web is fundamentally broken.

  • Doctored video of Nancy Pelosi shows social media giants ill-prepared for 2020

    Hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed a conference Wednesday, a distorted video of the California Democrat’s conversation began spreading across the internet. The manipulated clip, slowed to make Pelosi sound as if she were slurring her words, racked up millions of views on Facebook the following day. It was posted to YouTube, and on Thursday night was given a boost on Twitter when Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York, shared a link with his 318,000 followers. Sam Dean and Suhauna Hussain write in the Los Angeles Times that by Friday, the three social media giants were forced to respond to this viral instance of political fakery. How they dealt with the issue, three years after being blindsided by a wave of fake news and disinformation in the 2016 election cycle, may serve as a harbinger of what’s to come in 2020.

  • The many faces of foreign interference in European elections

    By Etienne Soula

    Citizens of the European Union’s 28 member states go to the polls this week to choose their representatives to the European Parliament. Following Russian interference in several high-profile elections over the past three years, European governments are on high alert for signs of such meddling on social media or in electoral IT systems. Recent events in Austria and Italy show that foreign authoritarian actors are finding other under-examined, but equally insidious ways to infiltrate campaigns and harm democracy in Europe.

  • The Kremlin’s “tools of malign political influence” undermine democracy

    Russia’s “sweeping and systematic malign influence operations” support anti-democratic and anti-Western forces in Europe and the United States, using a variety of tools, from corruption to influence operations, said Heather A. Conley, CSIS senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, and director of the Europe Program, in a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, during hearings on “Undermining Democracy: Kremlin Tools of Malign Political Influence.” “The Kremlin undermines and weakens democracies, rendering them unable to respond promptly to Russian military actions or making them beholden to the Kremlin to such a point that a democratic country will support Russia’s interests over its own,” she testified. She highlighted two specific areas in which she is “particularly concerned U.S. citizens and organizations, wittingly or unwittingly, will come under increasing threat of Russian malign influence”: (1) faith-based and ultra conservative
    organizations; and (2) opaque financial support for key U.S. influencers.

  • Sprawling disinformation networks discovered across Europe ahead of EU elections

    Investigation uncovers flood of disinformation aiming to influence to forthcoming EU elections. The revelations led Facebook to take down pages with more than 500 million views. The mainly far-right disinformation pages which were shut down by Face book had three times the number of followers than the pages of more established right wing, populist, and anti-EU partiers such as Lega (Italy), Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) (Germany), VOX (Spain), Brexit Party (U.K.), Rassemblement National (France), and PiS (Poland).

  • Tweets reveal how ISIS still inspires low-level attacks

    By analyzing 26.2 million Twitter comments in the Arabic language, researchers found that despite losing territory, ISIS remains successful at inspiring low-level attacks because of its messaging for a “call for lone jihad.”

  • Cyber-enabled election interference occurs in one-fifth of democracies

    Cyber-enabled election interference has already changed the course of history. Fergus Hanson and Elise Thomas write in The Strategist that whether or not the Russian interference campaign during the US 2016 federal election was enough to swing the result, the discovery and investigation of the campaign and its negative effects on public trust in the democratic process have irrevocably shaped the path of Donald Trump’s presidency.

  • Hacking democracies

    A new report from an Australian think tank offers an in-depth, and sobering, analysis of Russia’s campaign to undermine Western democracies by weaponizing social media, and, to a lesser extent, China’s similar, if lower-key, campaign against neighboring Asian countries. “Democracies need to look at better ways of imposing costs on adversaries,” the report’s authors say.

  • Eric Oliver on the science of conspiracy theories and political polarization

    The “birthers,” “Pizzagate,” anti-vaxxers. It seems that belief in conspiracy theories is on the rise. At the same time, our polarization is worse than ever. People can hardly even maintain a conversation across political or cultural lines. Could the underlying force driving conspiracy theories also be the same one that’s dividing our country?

  • Facebook, Twitter and the digital disinformation mess

    The kind of disinformation now known as fake news has tainted public discourse for centuries, even millennia. But it’s been amplified in our digital age as a weapon of fearmongers, mob-baiters and election-meddlers that can widen social fissures, undermine democracies and bolster authoritarian regimes. Shelly Banjo writes in the Washington Post that as voters in some of the world’s most-populous countries headed to the polls in 2019, governments began to respond. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under increasing pressure to take action.

  • Google cuts Huawei access to Android software updates

    Google said on Sunday it was rescinding Huawei’s license to use Google’s mobile phone operating system Android, and Google services such as Google maps and YouTube. The move will force the Chinese technology company to rely on an open-source version of the software. The move follows a presidential executive order prohibiting American companies from using telecommunications equipment made by “foreign adversaries” viewed as posing a threat to U.S. national security.