• Truth decayFake news “vaccine”: online game may “inoculate” by simulating propaganda tactics

    A new experiment, just launched online, aims to help “inoculate” against disinformation by providing a small dose of perspective from a “fake news tycoon.” The game encourages players to stoke anger, mistrust and fear in the public by manipulating digital news and social media within the simulation. Players build audiences for their fake news sites by publishing polarizing falsehoods, deploying twitter bots, photo-shopping evidence, and inciting conspiracy theories in the wake of public tragedy – all while maintaining a “credibility score” to remain as persuasive as possible. The psychological theory behind the research is called “inoculation”: “A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the disease to build immunity. Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that exposure to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more persuasive claims,” says a researcher.

  • Considered opinionSocial media is helping Putin kill our democracy

    By John R. Schindler

    There are few more important issues confronting the West today than what to do about social media companies, which thanks to their ubiquity possess vast riches and daunting influence over our democracies. The Russians have been spreading lies for decades. Active Measures, including fake reports, forged documents, and dastardly conspiracies invented out of thin air, were created by the KGB to smear Western governments. Social media made Moscow’s clandestine work much easier and more profitable. Although the lies currently emanating from the Kremlin resemble Cold War Active Measures in overall form and content, they are now disseminated so quickly, and through so many fronts, trolls, and bots, that Western governments are severely challenged to even keep up with these weaponized lies, much less push back. For this, we have the Internet to thank. While none can deny the countless benefits of the online age, this is one of its most pernicious side effects. It’s time the West seriously addressed the problem, and quickly, since this Kremlin spy game isn’t going away.

  • The Russia watchA Russian-American fraud; Russia goal: Unraveling U.S. democracy; disinformation & military readiness, and more

    · Reading the Mueller indictment: A Russian-American fraud

    · Mueller’s indictment ends Trump’s myth of the Russia “hoax”

    · Russian influence campaign: What’s in the latest Mueller indictment

    · Did Russia affect the 2016 election? It’s now undeniable

    · “Something was weird”: Inside the Russian effort to bamboozle Florida

    · What Mueller’s new Russia indictments mean — and what they don’t

    · Mueller’s indictment of Russian hackers highlights the stakes of the Microsoft case

    · For Russia, unraveling U.S. democracy was just another day job

    · The campaign finance loophole that could make the next Russian attack perfectly legal

    · Lessons about Russian social media meddling from Mueller’s indictment

    · White House objects to Russian hacking that doesn’t benefit Trump

    · How Russia turned the internet against America

    · Mueller’s message to America

    · Foreign disinformation is a threat to military readiness, too

  • The Russia connectionThirteen Russians criminally charged for interfering in 2016 election

    The sheer audacity, scope, and sophistication of the Kremlin’s hacking and disinformation campaign to ensure the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election have been exposed a short time ago in a 37-page indictment handed down by the office or Special Counsel Robert Mueller against thirteen Russians and three Kremlin-related organization. The detailed 37-page indictment says that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump” “and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent. The Russians posed as Americans to operate bogus social media accounts, buy advertisements, and stage political rallies. These Russian government operatives stole the identities of real people in the United States to post online and built computer systems in the United States to conceal the Russian origin of their activity, the indictment says. The indictment contradicts Trump’s false assertions that the idea that there was a Russian campaign to undermine the U.S. democratic process was nothing more than a “hoax,” “witch hunt,” and “fake news” concocted by the “dishonest media” and Democrats to explain Hillary Clinton’s loss.

  • The Russia connectionU.K.: Russia launched last June’s costly NotPetya cyberattacks

    Russian military hackers were behind the NoPetya cyberattack on Ukraine that spread globally last year, the British government said. The United States said June’s NotPetya ransomware attack caused billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Russia was “ripping up the rule book” and the U.K. would respond.

  • Election securitySecuring U.S. election: Congressional panel release report, recommendations

    The Congressional Task Force on Election Security released its Final Report, including ten specific recommendations on what the federal government and states can and should be doing to secure U.S. elections. “Russia’s unprecedented assault on the country’s elections in 2016 – including targeting twenty-one states’ voting systems – exposed serious national security vulnerabilities to our election infrastructure – which includes voting machines and voter registration databases,” the Task Force said. The members of the Task Force also introduced legislation, the Election Security Act, to implement the recommendations of the report.

  • Spy lizardsKhamenei military adviser: West uses lizards to spy on Iran’s nuclear program

    Saying that their skins absorb “atomic waves,” a top military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged that Western countries use “lizards, chameleons” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program. Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief-of-staff for Iran’s army, said that the spy lizards were released in various places in Iran to find out where inside the Islamic republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.”

  • The Russia connectionU.S. intel chiefs warn Russia intending to meddle in midterm elections

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in a Tuesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence committee, said that one of the major security challenges the United States faces is the continuing cyber activity by Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran, emphasizing “the potential for surprise in the cyber realm”: “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats said. “Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States.” Coats said that Russia views its interference in the 2016 election as a success. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” he said.

  • The Russia connectionWhat’s important is not that Russia changed the 2016 election outcome, “but that it attempted to do so”: Report

    In an important new report on the challenges that Russia’s aggressive posture poses for U.S. interests in the world, and to U.S. democratic institutions and social cohesion at home, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellows Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon warn that the United States has so far failed to elevate Russia’s intervention in U.S. elections to the national priority that it is. They add that the United States has neglected to respond to Russia’s intervention in a way sufficient to deter future attacks. They argue, “A wide range of additional measures is therefore needed in order to better protect U.S. society and political and electoral systems from further intervention.”

  • Election securityMost states’ election systems remain vulnerable to hacking or systemic failure

    Less than nine months before midterm elections, a new study shows that most state election systems remain vulnerable to hacking and other interference by foreign governments bent on disrupting the election process. Researchers have conducted research and interviewed election officials to determine their election security preparedness after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election by targeting state voting systems.

  • The Russian connectionRussian Tumblr trolls posed as black activists to stoke racial resentment ahead of 2016 U.S. election

    Internet trolls working for the Russian government posed as black activists on Tumblr to share political messages before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, BuzzFeed reports. As was the case with the fake accounts created by Russian government operatives on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the fake Tumblr accounts aimed to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election by spreading messages which stoked racial and ethnic resentment and intensified political polarization. A digital forensic analysis tied the fake Tumblr accounts to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), a hacking and disinformation organization employed by the Kremlin to disseminate fake news and commentary on social media as part of the broad Kremlin campaign to weaken Western democracies and undermine organizations such as NATO and the EU.

  • The Russia connectionLawmaker demands documents on Kaspersky Lab, threatens use of compulsory process against DHS

    U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) yesterday sent a letter to the DHS demanding a complete response to the committee’s 5 December request and threatening the use of compulsory process to obtain documents related to the DHS Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 17-01. The BOD required all government agencies to identify and remove Kaspersky Lab software from their computer systems.

  • Truth decayDigital deceit: Tacking the technologies behind precision propaganda on the internet

    Over the past year, there has been rising pressure on Facebook, Google, and Twitter to account for how bad actors are exploiting their platforms. The catalyst of this so-called “tech-lash” was the revelation last summer that agents of the Russian government engaged in disinformation operations using these services to influence the 2016 presidential campaigns. The investigation into the Russian operation pulled back the curtain on a modern Internet marketplace that enables widespread disinformation over online channels. The authors of a new report say we have only begun to scratch the surface of a much larger ecosystem of digital advertising and marketing technologies.

  • The Russia connectionChiefs of three Russian intelligence agencies travel to Washington

    The directors of Russia’s three main intelligence and espionage agencies all traveled to the U.S. capital in recent days, in what observers said was a highly unusual occurrence coming at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions. CIA directors regularly meet and hold talks with their Russian counterparts on a variety of issues. But veteran and retired U.S. intelligence officers say the presence of all three Russian officials in Washington at the same time, and at a time of intense scrutiny over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, is highly unusual.

  • Considered opinionSome real “bombshell news” in the Mueller investigation

    By Jim Geraghty

    Former Trump team legal spokesperson Mark Corallo, in the summer of 2016, had concerns that White House communications director Hope Hicks may be considering obstructing justice after a comment she made in a conference call about emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians with ties to the Kremlin. “Mark Corallo is a pro’s pro who went to work for the Trump legal team completely on board and who wanted to help the president … well, make America great again. When he left after two months with some reports that he was troubled by what he was seeing … that was a deeply ominous sign,” Jim Geraghty writes in National Review. “If Corallo ends up offering sort of critical testimony, this is not because he’s a Judas or because he’s part of the establishment or some sort of ‘Deep State’ sellout. It’s because he saw stuff that genuinely struck him as either illegal or unethical or both and he’s not the kind of person who’s willing to lie under oath about it.”