• Disinformation for Hire: How Russian PR Firms Plant Stories for Companies in U.K. News Outlets, Social Media

    The staples of Russian misinformation campaigns—fake news and social media propaganda—are turning up in a new place: the private sector. Jeff John Roberts writes in Fortune that for a small fee, companies can pay Russian operatives to boost their image or smear their competitors, employing some of the same tactics used by the Kremlin to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “The range of services offered by the Russian PR firms is startling,” “Not only do the firms deploy fake accounts on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, but they offer a service to plant news articles in English-language media outlets.”

  • White Supremacy Has Triggered a Terrorism Panic

    Our collective response to terrorism seems to swing on a pendulum between rank complacency and terrified myth-making. In January 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama dismissed the Islamic State as al Qaeda’s “JV team.” But by September of that year, after the group had captured Mosul in Iraq and launched a genocidal campaign of slaughter against the Yazidis, he started bombing it. A similar dynamic can be observed in the case of white supremacy today. This is not “to suggest that the threat of white supremacy is not real or that we should be complacent about it,” Simon Cottee writes. “Of course it is real, and of course we need to indict and seriously punish those who have committed or are plotting to commit terrorist atrocities in the name of white supremacy.” But we should resist the urge to treat white supremacy as “a mythical monster against which to signal our moral virtue”: “White supremacy is not a monolith endangering our children and societies, but we might just make it into one by overinflating it into precisely this.”

  • Trump Told Russian Officials in 2017 He Wasn’t Concerned About Moscow’s Interference in U.S. Election

    President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 10 May 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. “White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said,” the Washington Post reports, quoting a former Trump administration official to say: “’What was difficult to understand was how they got a free pass on a lot of things — election security and so forth,’ this former official said. ‘He was just very accommodating to them.’”

  • A New National Security Framework for Foreign Interference

    A series of recent signals from Trump administration officials, including the President, are normalizing an idea that is detrimental to our national security – that soliciting foreign interference in a U.S. election won’t be prosecuted. Jessica Brandt and Joshua Rudolph write in Just Security that with foreign rivals from Beijing to Moscow and elsewhere watching closely, it will become open season on our democracy unless we quickly shift our legal framework for such behavior from a campaign-finance perspective to a national security approach. It is now stunningly evident that when it comes to protecting our democracy from foreign interference, our current legal framework is not up to the task,” Brandt and Rudolph write. “That is in part because what we are dealing with are national security threats, not a technical campaign finance violations.”

  • Digital Menace: Using Social Media to Manufacture Consensus, Automate Suppression, and Undermine Trust

    Over the past three years, the Project on Computational Propaganda at Oxford University has monitored the global organization of social media manipulation by governments and political parties. The Project’s 2019 report analyzes the trends of computational propaganda and the evolving tools, capacities, strategies, and resources.

  • The Global Disinformation Order: Excerpts from a New Report

    Around the world, government actors are using social media to manufacture consensus, automate suppression, and undermine trust in the liberal international order. Social media, which was once heralded as a force for freedom and democracy, has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in amplifying disinformation, inciting violence, and lowering levels of trust in media and democratic institutions.

  • Privacy Flaw Found in E-Passports

    Researchers have discovered a flaw in the security standard of biometric e-passports that has been used worldwide since 2004. This standard, ICAO 9303, allows e-passport readers at airports to scan the chip inside a passport and identify the holder.

  • How Kids Get into Hacking

    Is your kid obsessed with video games and hanging out with questionable friends? These are common traits for involvement in cybercrime, among other delinquencies. New research characteristics and gender-specific behaviors in kids that could lead them to become juvenile hackers.

  • Stopping an “Internet of Things” Attack from Bringing Down the Power Grid

    Last year, Princeton researchers identified a disturbing security flaw in which hackers could someday exploit internet-connected appliances to wreak havoc on the electrical grid. Now, the same research team has released algorithms to make the grid more resilient to such attacks. The algorithms could stop an internet of things attack from bringing down the power grid.

  • Tech Fight against Online Extremism Gets Overhaul

    Facebook fulfilled a long-standing demand from policymakers and advocacy groups this week when Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced that a coalition of the country’s most powerful tech corporations will be formalizing its counterterrorism efforts into an independent organization with a dedicated staff. As the companies face ramped-up criticism from regulators and lawmakers worldwide, they are expanding the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), which they originally formed to deal with Islamic terrorism online in 2017. The founding members were Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft.

  • What Data Hackers Can Get about You from Hospitals

    When hospitals are hacked, the public hears about the number of victims – but not what information the cybercriminals stole. New research uncovers the specific data leaked through hospital breaches, sounding alarm bells for nearly 170 million people.

  • Innocent Users Have the Most to Lose in the Rush to Address Extremist Speech Online

    Big online platforms tend to brag about their ability to filter out violent and extremist content at scale, but those same platforms refuse to provide even basic information about the substance of those removals. How do these platforms define terrorist content? What safeguards do they put in place to ensure that they don’t over-censor innocent people in the process? Again and again, social media companies are unable or unwilling to answer the questions. Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert claimed that more than 99 percent of terrorist content posted on Facebook is deleted by the platform’s automated tools, but the company has consistently failed to say how it determines what constitutes a terrorist⁠—or what types of speech constitute terrorist speech.

  • Science Fiction Has Become Dystopian Fact

    So which dystopia are we living in? Most educated people have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. So influential have these books been that we are inclined to view all disconcerting new phenomena as either “Orwellian” or “Huxleyan”. If you suspect we shall lose our freedom to a brutally repressive state, grinding its boot into our faces, you think of George. If you think we shall lose it to a hedonistic consumer culture, complete with test-tube designer babies, you quote Aldous. “My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power,” Huxley wrote in a letter to Orwell in 1949. Niall Ferguson agrees: “As I reflect on the world in 2019, I am struck by the wisdom of [Huxley’s] words. In Xi Jinping’s China, we see Totalitarianism 2.0. The boot on the face remains a possibility, of course, but it is needed less and less as the system of social credit expands, aggregating and analyzing all the digital data that Chinese citizens generate.”

  • The Urgent Search for a Cyber Silver Bullet Against Iran

    After spending billions of dollars to assemble the world’s most potent arsenal of cyberweapons and plant them in networks around the world, United States Cyber Command — and the new era of warfighting it has come to represent — may face a critical test in the coming weeks. To punish Iran for its last month’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, a second U.S. cyberstrike — after one launched against Iran just three months ago — has emerged as the most appealing course of action for President Donald Trump. “The question circulating now through the White House, the Pentagon and Cyber Command’s operations room is whether it is possible to send a strong message of deterrence with a cyberattack without doing so much damage that it would prompt an even larger Iranian counterstrike,” David Sanger and Julian Barnes write, noting that in the past decade, the United States has launched at least three major cyberattacks against Iran. “In each case, the damage to Iranian systems could be repaired over time. And in each case, the effort to deter Iran was at best only partly successful,” they write.

  • Information and Democracy—A Perilous Relationship

    In the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” the villain is Elliot Carver, head of a media conglomerate who has come to believe that information is a more powerful weapon than military force. He blackmails senior British leaders and ultimately tries to spark a war between China and Britain to bring his ally to power in Beijing. At one point in the film, Carver stands underneath massive television screens in the headquarters of his media empire, addressing Bond: “We’re both men of action,” he tells Bond, “but your era…is passing. Words are the new weapons, satellites the new artillery…Caesar had his legions, Napoleon had his armies. I have my divisions—TV, news, magazines.” Fast-forward twenty years, and this scenario appears to be becoming reality. Using techniques far more advanced than those available to Bond villains in the 1990s, today’s practitioners of what a new RAND report terms “hostile social manipulation” employ targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying and harassment of individuals, distribution of rumors and conspiracy theories, and other tools and approaches to cause damage to the target state.