• The Russia connectionRussian Influence Peddlers Carving Out New Audiences on Fringes

    By Jeff Seldin

    After four years of warnings and preparations, the 2020 presidential election did not see a repeat of 2016, when intelligence officials concluded Russia meddled using a combination of cyberattacks and influence operations. But according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, as well as analysts, the good news ends there.

  • China syndromeChina-Sensitive Topics at US Universities Draw More Online Harassment

    By Lin Yang

    Last week, students at Brandeis University hosted an online discussion about China’s controversial Xinjiang policies, hearing experts discuss the detention, abuse and political indoctrination of more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. But as Uighur attorney and advocate Rayhan Asat appeared before the student group last Friday, her screen was taken over as hackers wrote “fake news” and “liar” on it. Experts said it fits with an increase in more organized harassment against topics on American campuses seen as objectionable by the Chinese government.

  • China syndromeThe China Initiative: Year-in-Review

    On the two-year anniversary of the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, the Department said it continues its focus on the Initiative’s goals, and announced progress during the past year in disrupting and deterring the wide range of national security threats posed by the policies and practices of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government.

  • PERSPECTIVE: China syndromeSurveillance State: Why Zhenhua Data Is Researching Irish People for the Chinese Government

    An obscure Chinese company with close ties to the Chinese intelligence services was found to have collected detailed information on 963 influential Irish people. The Irish dataset is part of the company 2.4 million-strong database, consisting of influential people from practically every country in the world. Intelligence specialists say China’s goal is to identify potential weaknesses that could be exploited to advance China’s interests.

  • BOOKSHELF: The Russia connectionRussia’s “Neo-Imperialism” Is a Product of Complex Factors

    By Simon Saradzhyan

    Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, there has been no shortage of commentaries, articles, papers and entire volumes by Western academics, think-tankers, former policy practitioners and journalists on how Russian President Vladimir Putin is rebuilding the Russian empire or how the Kremlin has never actually stopped building one. Still, there are some books on Russia’s external policies that I could not have missed, and Russian Imperialism Revisited by long-time Russia scholar Domitilla Sagramoso is one of them.

  • Election securityElection Security 2020: Why Did Things Go Right This Time?

    By Adam Segal, Connor Fairman, Lauren Dudley, and Maya Villasenor

    In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. government and technology companies took several steps to safeguard election security in cyberspace, focusing their efforts on disinformation and cyberattacks. Although there were a handful of incidents, none compromised the integrity of the election, and Election Day passed without any major disruption. Why did things go right this time? A combination of government and private sector action motivated by the lessons of the 2016 and 2018 elections. Still, as the vote count continues, disinformation remains a real threat.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Post election disinformationSix Disinformation Threats in the Post-Election Period

    The problem of disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election is well covered in the news media. Justin Hendrix writes that what hasn’t been as widely covered is the disinformation campaigns that will likely come right after Americans vote on 3 November.

  • Information operationsUnderstanding, and Countering, Information Operations

    In recent years, a growing number of governments, non-state actors, and citizens have rapidly expanded their use of pernicious information operations against other countries and even their fellow citizens. Social media and the internet have become the main tool. The current technological revolution has lowered the cost of entry for those wishing to spread misinformation and disinformation.

  • Election securityU.S. Bracing for Attacks Before and After Election Day

    By Jeff Seldin

    U.S. intelligence officials have already confirmed attacks on the election have been underway for some time, with Russia, China and Iran all waging operations designed to influence the way voters cast their ballots. And more recently, intelligence officials warned that Russia and Iran managed to acquire voter registration data while hacking into U.S. databases. In another significant difference from the 2016 and 2018 elections, intelligence and election security officials warn that, this time, the assault on the election will not end when the polls close. Instead, they say the attacks will persist, likely until at least the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021.

  • Election securityRansomware Can Interfere with Elections and Fuel Disinformation – Basic Cybersecurity Precautions Are Key to Minimizing the Damage

    By Richard Forno

    Government computer systems in Hall County, Georgia, including a voter signature database, were hit by a ransomware attack earlier this fall in the first known ransomware attack on election infrastructure during the 2020 presidential election. Thankfully, county officials reported that the voting process for its citizens was not disrupted. Attacks like these underscore the challenges that cybersecurity experts face daily – and which loom over the upcoming election. As a cybersecurity professional and researcher, I can attest that there is no silver bullet for defeating cyber threats like ransomware. Rather, defending against them comes down to the actions of thousands of IT staff and millions of computer users in organizations large and small across the country by embracing and applying the basic good computing practices and IT procedures that have been promoted for years.

  • Election securityElection Cyber Program Targets Foreign Threats

    Following two alerts from the Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) regarding Iranian and Russian threats to election systems, the University of Chicago’s Election Cyber Surge (ECS) program mobilized its cyber volunteers to help.

  • Election securityWill Russia influence the American vote?

    By Scott Jasper

    U.S. voters should prepare for strange and unexpected forms of information warfare that manipulate, distort or destroy election-related information between now and Election Day – and perhaps beyond that, depending on whether there are questions about who may have won the presidency. Since 2016, Americans have learned that foreign interests attempt to affect the outcomes of presidential elections, including with social media postings and television ads. As a scholar of Russian cyber operations, I know other nations, and Russia in particular, will go to extreme measures to influence people and destabilize democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere.

  • DeepfakesDetecting “Deepfake” Videos by Checking for the Pulse

    With video editing software becoming increasingly sophisticated, it’s sometimes difficult to believe our own eyes. Did that actor really appear in that movie? Did that politician really say that offensive thing? Some so-called “deepfakes” are harmless fun, but others are made with a more sinister purpose. But how do we know when a video has been manipulated?

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. Puts Sanctions on Russian Research Institution Tied to Malware That Targets Industrial Systems

    The United States has placed sanctions on a Russian government research institute connected to the development of computer malware capable of targeting industrial safety systems and causing catastrophic damage.

  • Election securityU.S. Says Russian Hackers Targeted State, Local Governments Ahead of Election

    Russian state-sponsored hackers have targeted dozens of U.S. state and local government networks in recent weeks and stolen data from at least two servers, the U.S. government says. In an advisory released on October 22, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) described a range of activity from Russian-backed hackers since at least September.