• How Fake News Could Lead to Real War

    Who really bombed the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf two weeks ago? Was it Iran, as the Trump administration assured us? Or was it Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Israel—or some combination of the three? Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon write in Politico that they believe in the official U.S. position, that Iran was behind the attacks, trying to prod other countries to pressure the U.S. to relax its sanctions makes sense. But the whole unsettling episode opened our eyes to a deeply troubling reality: The current fake news epidemic isn’t just shaking up U.S. politics; it might end up causing a war, or just as consequentially, impeding a national response to a genuine threat. Thus far, public discussion of deep fakes—and fake news more broadly—has focused on domestic politics and particularly elections. That was inevitable after the Russian interference on President Donald Trump’s behalf in 2016—the dimensions of which were laid out in the unprecedented joint assessment of the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation in February 2017 and the Mueller Report.
    But fake news’ implications for foreign and security policy may be as far-reaching—and even more dangerous. Misinformation in geopolitics could lead not only to the continued weakening of our institutions but also to combat deaths. Sure, fake news has been a feature of international relations for a long time, but it’s different now: “Advancing technology that can fabricate convincing images and videos combined with the chronic, exuberant dishonesty of the commander-in-chief and his minions has meant that no one can feel confident in assessing life or death choices in foreign policy crisis. For a democracy—one with global interests—this is a disaster,” Benjamin and Simon write.

  • If Aliens Call, What Should We Do? Scientists Want Your Opinion.

    The answer to this question could affect all of our lives more than nearly any other policy decision out there: How, if it all, should humanity respond if we get a message from an alien civilization? And yet politicians and scientists have never bothered to get our input on it. Sigal Samuel writes in Vox that in the age of fake news, researchers worry conspiracy theories would abound before we could figure out how — or whether — to reply to an alien message.

  • Pentagon Report: Russian Leaders Believe They Are Already at War with the United States—in the Gray Zone

    A group of governmental, military, and outside experts published a white paper urging the US government to jump fully into the so-called gray zone—the conceptual space in which countries take action that lies somewhere on the continuum between warfare and peaceable relations.  Russia, they say, is exploiting it effectively. It’s in the gray zone that Russia meddles with elections, launches online disinformation campaigns, and uses a host of other means to gain greater leverage in places ranging from the former Soviet states to Latin America. Matt Field, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, notes that Russia’s already doing well in this sub-military conflict space. He quotes Nicole Peterson, who writes in the report’s executive summary: “Overall, Russia’s influence abroad is growing, and the Kremlin has mastered the use of ‘hybrid warfare’ in driving Russia’s foreign policy… Russia utilizes a variety of gray zone tactics   around the globe. These include the use of paramilitary forces and other proxies, interference in political processes, economic and energy exploitation (particularly in Africa), espionage, and media and propaganda manipulation.”

  • Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling.

    The European Union launched an ambitious effort earlier this year to combat election interference: an early-warning system that would sound alarms about Russian propaganda. Despite high expectations, however, records show that the system has become a repository for a mishmash of information, produced no alerts and is already at risk of becoming defunct. Matt Apuzzo writes in the New York Times that Europe’s early struggles offer lessons for other nations, including the United States, where intelligence officials expect Russia to try to interfere in next year’s presidential election. In many ways, the European Union has been more aggressive than Washington in demanding changes from social media companies and seeking novel ways to fight disinformation. Efforts to identify and counter disinformation have proven not only deeply complicated, but also politically charged.

  • DHS Chief Orders Probe of Agents' Offensive Facebook Posts

    DHS secretary on Wednesday ordered an immediate investigation into a report that current and former U.S. Border Patrol agents are part of a Facebook group that posts racist, sexist and violent comments about migrants and Latin American lawmakers.

  • The Russian Submarine that Caught Fire and Killed 14 May Have Been Designed to Cut Undersea Internet Cables

    A Russian navy submarine caught fire on Monday, killing 14 sailors on board. Two independent Russian news outlets reported that the vessel was the AS-12 “Losharik,” a nuclear-powered vessel that US officials have said is designed to cut undersea cables that keep the world’s internet running. Alexandra Ma and Ryan Pickrell write in Business Insider that Moscow officials have remained secretive about the type of vessel and whether it was nuclear-powered, prompting accusations of a cover-up. President Vladimir Putin canceled a scheduled event on Tuesday and told his defense minister to “personally receive reports” on the investigation into the accident, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

  • Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Tackle Rising Threat of Deepfakes

    New bipartisan bill would require DHS secretary to publish annual report on the state of digital content forgery. “Deepfakes pose a serious threat to our national security, homeland security, and the integrity of our elections,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), one of the bill’s sponsors.

  • Before Connecting an IoT Device, Heed Cybersecurity Advice

    Seemingly every appliance we use comes in a version that can be connected to a computer network. But each gizmo we add brings another risk to our security and privacy. So before linking your office’s new printer or coffee maker to the internet of things (IoT), have a look at an informational report from NIST outlining these risks and some considerations for mitigating them.

  • No, Russian Twitter Trolls Did Not Demonstrably Push Trump’s Poll Numbers Higher

    We should note at the outset that it’s clear that Russia’s interference in the election had a tangible effect. The information stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman that was later released by WikiLeaks was a staple of media coverage around the conventions in July 2016 and during the last month of the campaign. While measuring the effect of that leaked information is tricky, it’s clear that it had influence. The Russian social media push, though? Philip Bump writes in the Washington Post: “[A]s I’ve written before, there’s very little evidence that Russia effectively targeted American voters with messages that powered Trump’s victory.: He adds: “We certainly can’t definitively say that no votes were changed as a result of Russian disinformation on Twitter or that no one’s political views were influenced by it. We can say, though, that [a recent University of Tennessee] study is worth a great deal of skepticism — especially among those who are looking for evidence that Russia’s trolling handed the election to Trump.”

  • Defending democracy from cyberwarfare

    Foreign meddling in democratic elections, the proliferation of fake news and threats to national security through the “weaponization of social media” will be tackled by a new research Center being launched last week at Australia’s Flinders University.

  • Russian Twitter propaganda predicted 2016 U.S. election polls

    There is one irrefutable, unequivocal conclusion which both the U.S. intelligence community and the thorough investigation by Robert Mueller share: Russia unleashed an extensive campaign of fake news and disinformation on social media with the aim of distorting U.S. public opinion, sowing discord, and swinging the election in favor of the Republican candidate Donald Trump. But was the Kremlin successful in its effort to put Trump in the White House? Statistical analysis of the Kremlin’s social media trolls on Twitter in the run-up to the 2016 election social suggests that the answer is “yes.”

  • Personalized medicine software vulnerability uncovered

    A weakness in one common open source software for genomic analysis left DNA-based medical diagnostics vulnerable to cyberattacks. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories identified the weakness and notified the software developers, who issued a patch to fix the problem.

  • How Content Removal Might Help Terrorists

    In recent years, counterterrorism policy has focused on making social media platforms hostile environments for terrorists and their sympathizers. From the German NetzDG law to the U.K.’s Online Harms White Paper, governments are making it clear that such content will not be tolerated. Platforms—and maybe even specific individuals—will be held accountable using a variety of carrot-and-stick approaches. Joe Whittaker write in Lawfare that most social media platforms are complying, even if they are sometimes criticized for not being proactive enough. On its face, removal of terrorist content is an obvious policy goal—there is no place for videos of the Christchurch attack or those depicting beheadings. However, stopping online terrorist content is not the same as stopping terrorism. In fact, the two goals may be at odds.

  • Second Florida city pays ransom to hackers

    A second small city in Florida has agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom to cybercriminals who disabled its computer system. Days after ransomware crippled the city of about 12,000 residents, officials of Lake City agreed this week to meet the hackers’ ransom demand: 42 Bitcoin or about $460,000.

  • U.S. House passes election security bill after Russian hacking

    The U.S. House of Representatives, mostly along partisan lines, has passed legislation designed to enhance election security following outrage over Russian cyberinterference in the 2016 presidential election.The Democratic-sponsored bill would mandate paper ballot voting and postelection audit as well as replace outdated and vulnerable voting equipment. The House bill faces strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.