• Assault on Democracy: The New Conspiracism

    Conspiracy theory has always been part of political life. Sometimes far-fetched, sometimes accurate, and sometimes a confusing mix of the two, traditional conspiracy theory tries to peel away deceptive masks to show how the world really works. It demands a cause proportionate to the dire effect. In a recently published book, two scholars argue that in today’s conspiracies, conspiracy and theory have been decoupled. We therefore face a distinctively malignant new phenomenon of conspiracy without the theory. Like all conspiracism, it rests on the certainty that things are not as they seem, but conspiracy without the theory dispenses with the burden of explanation. We see no insistent demand for proof, no exhaustive amassing of evidence, no dots revealed to form a pattern, no close examination of the operators plotting in the shadows. Conspiracy without the theory exists less to explain than to affirm. The result  is toxic for a stable society and democratic politics.

  • How Data Privacy Laws Can Fight Fake News

    Governments from Russia to Iran have exploited social media’s connectivity, openness, and polarization to influence elections, sow discord, and drown out dissent. While responses have also begun to proliferate, more still are needed to reduce the inherent vulnerability of democracies to such tactics. Recent data privacy laws may offer one such answer in limiting how social media uses personal information to micro-target content: Fake news becomes a lot less scary if it can’t choose its readers.

  • Jeffrey Epstein’s Death and Our Age of Conspiracy Theories

    In response to the news of Epstein’s death, conspiracy theories exploded across social media on Saturday. The hashtags “TrumpBodyCount” and “ClintonBodyCount” trended nationally, the former in no small part because President Trump himself retweeted the Clinton body count hashtag. In the U.S., conspiracy theories have historically thrived among groups that feel locked out, whether it’s Jim Crow–era African Americans or 19th-century white farmers during the Know-Nothing era who believed the “Pope in Rome” was plotting against them. What makes this moment so different — and dangerous — is that elites who presumably know better, or should know better, have become increasingly paranoid as well.

  • New Vulnerability Found in Internet-Connected Building Automation Devices

    Critical internet-connected smart building devices used in countless commercial and industrial properties, have been found to be vulnerable to a new malicious attack. The vulnerability exploits the properties in the building automation protocol (Bacnet) which enables technicians and engineers performing monitoring, setup changes and remote control of a wide range of key smart systems that impact temperature control, and other monitoring systems.

  • How Does Online Racism Spawn Mass Shooters?

    More and more experts classify mass shootings inspired by white nationalist ideology as terrorism — part of a global white nationalist movement that recruits or inspires potential shooters. The mechanisms of recruiting white nationalist terrorists work much as with other terrorist groups such as the Islamic State; they take lonely young men and give them a sense of purpose and identity. But instead of the alternative society offered by Islamic State membership, violent and racist online platforms build toward single murderous events. The language used on the forums to encourage potential shooters combines nihilism and toxic masculinity, goading them with anti-gay slurs and challenging them as “wannabes” if they fail.

  • U.S. Elections Are Still Not Safe from Attack

    Russia’s attack on American elections in 2016, described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent report as “sweeping and systematic,” came as a shock to many. It shouldn’t have. Experts had been warning of the danger of foreign meddling in U.S. elections for years. Already by 2016, the wholesale adoption of computerized voting had weakened safeguards against interference and left the United States vulnerable to an attack. So, too, the shift to digital media and communications had opened new gaps in security and the law that could be used for manipulation and blackmail.

  • Who Leads the U.S. “War” on Disinformation?

    When former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Intelligence Committee last week about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, some saw his comments about Moscow’s ongoing meddling attempts as the most important statement of the day. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he said when asked about the spread of disinformation and whether Moscow would replicate the efforts again. “They’re doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” It’s not clear, however, who can or will lead the charge in this “war on disinformation.” Even as experts say the problem is worsening, it is unlikely that the current divided government could produce anything close to a solution.

  • Hacking One of the World's Most Secure Industrial Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC)

    Researchers have managed to take control of a Siemens PLC, which is considered to be one of the safest controllers in the world. As part of the attack, the researchers analyzed and identified the code elements of the Siemens proprietary cryptographic protocol, and on the basis of their analysis, created a fake engineering station, an alternative to Siemens’ official station. The fake engineering station was able to command the controller according to the will of the attackers.

  • A Hacker’s Treasure: IoT Data Not Trashed

    While consumers are aware that data needs to be wiped from smart phones and computers before discarding, the proliferation of internet connected (IoT) devices poses new challenges and risks, as they too retain valuable data.

  • Disinformation Moves from Fringe Sites to Facebook, YouTube

    Lawmakers and regulators focusing their attention on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for the platforms’ role in propagating disinformation may be missing a big chunk of other online sites and portals that drive conspiracies and outright falsehoods, according to a nonprofit group that is studying how disinformation works.

  • Foreign Campaign Intervention May Go Way Beyond Russia to China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia

    The risk of foreign intervention goes far beyond Russia. Indeed, this type of action has happened many times in U.S. history. What’s new in 2020 is that, over the past few years, Russians have shown other nations how easy it is to sow disinformation and disrupt democratic elections. Many countries, including the United States, seek to make the voting process easy so balloting is designed much more for user-friendliness than electoral security. At the same time, technology companies have created social media platforms that are easily exploited through disinformation, false news, and fake videos. What’s more, the use of this technology to disrupt campaigns is cheap and difficult to trace.

  • Hatechan: The Hate and Violence-Filled Legacy of 8chan

    El Paso, Texas. Poway, California. Christchurch, New Zealand. Three White Power-inspired attacks by three white supremacists who posted paranoid racist manifestos right before the attacks. Three killing sprees. One targeted Muslims, another Jews, the third Hispanics. What they all had in common was 8chan. In just six years, 8chan has achieved a rather unenviable reputation as one of the vilest places on the Internet.

  • Action Needed to Stem Online Hate: Researchers

    As Americans reflect on two mass shootings that claimed 31 lives last weekend, they’re asking how to stop the carnage. Researchers at a Los Angeles center devoted to tolerance say part of the answer lies in ending hate online. Political leaders and social media companies, they add, must help to tone down the hateful rhetoric.

  • From Across the Globe to El Paso, Changes in the Language of the Far-Right Explain Its Current Violence

    In the past decade, the language of white supremacists has transformed in important ways. It crossed national borders, broadened its focus and has been influenced by current mainstream political discourse. I study political violence and extremism. In my recent research, I have identified these changes and believe that they can provide important insights into the current landscape of the American and European violent far-right. The changes also allow us to understand how the violent far-right mobilizes support, shapes political perceptions and eventually advances their objectives.

  • Unlocking Market Forces to Solve Cyber Risk

    Markets have been slow to adjust to the multi-dimensional perils of cyber risk. Even headline-grabbing cyber incidents such as breaches of Equifax, Target, Anthem, Sony and Home Depot—along with NotPetya’s devastation of Merck, FedEx, and Maersk—have thus far had only fleeting impacts on assessments of major corporations’ prospects by investors, credit rating agencies and insurers. This disparity reflects the broader problem of a “cyber risk gap” between corporations’ exposure to cyber risks and the adequacy of their efforts to address it. Investors, insurers, credit rating agencies and others presently face this gap, and have been only slowly waking up to its magnitude.