• Lawmaker 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.

  • Digital 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.

  • Chiefs 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.

  • Some real “bombshell news” in the Mueller investigation

    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.”

  • Wanted: A firewall to protect U.S. elections

    As the FBI and Congress work to unravel Russia’s hacking of the 2016 presidential election and learn whether anyone in Donald Trump’s campaign supported the effort, one thing has become clear: U.S. elections are far more vulnerable to manipulation than was thought. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security warning and offer last year to help state election officials protect voter registration rolls, voting machines, and software from tampering was coolly received, perhaps out of skepticism or innate distrust of federal interference in a domain historically controlled by the states. Now, as federal and state officials are partnering to examine voting and election security, a new initiative at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is working to shore up another at-risk component of the U.S. election system: political campaigns.

  • Hybrid warfare: Russia is “arch exponent” of the disappearing “distinct states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’”: U.K. military chief

    The West’s adversaries “have become masters at exploiting the seams between peace and war. What constitutes a weapon in this grey area no longer has to go ‘bang’. Energy, cash - as bribes - corrupt business practices, cyber-attacks, assassination, fake news, propaganda and indeed military intimidation are all examples of the weapons used to gain advantage in this era of ‘constant competition,’ and the rules-based international architecture that has assured our stability and prosperity since 1945 is, I suggest therefore, threatened,” Sir Nicholas Carter, the British Army chief of staff, said last week. “The deduction we should draw from this is that there is no longer two clear and distinct states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’; we now have several forms. Indeed the character of war and peace is different for each of the contexts in which these ‘weapon systems’ are applied,” he added. “The arch exponent of this [new approach to war] is Russia…. I believe it represents the most complex and capable state-based threat to our country since the end of the Cold War. And my fellow Chiefs of Staff from the United States, France, and Germany shared this view.”

  • House bill will hold Putin, others accountable for election meddling

    Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Brad Schneider (D-Illinois) introduced H.R. 4884, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, a House companion to S. 2313 which was introduced by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) earlier this month. The DETER Act would impose sanctions against Russia should it meddle again and requests a presidential strategy for deterring future interference by China, Iran, North Korea, or any other foreign government.

  • British government’s new “anti-fake news” unit has been tried before – and it got out of hand

    The decision to set up a new National Security Communications Unit to counter the growth of “fake news” is not the first time the UK government has devoted resources to exploit the defensive and offensive capabilities of information. A similar thing was tried in the Cold War era, with mixed results. Details of the new anti-fake news unit are vague, but may mark a return to Britain’s Cold War past and the work of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD), which was set up in 1948 to counter Soviet propaganda. This secretive government body worked with politicians, journalists, and foreign governments to counter Soviet lies, through un-attributable “grey” propaganda and confidential briefings on “Communist themes.” IRD eventually expanded from this narrow anti-Soviet remit to protect British interests where they were likely “to be the object of hostile threats.” IRD’s rapid expansion from anti-communist unit to protecting Britain’s interests across the globe also shows that it’s hard to manage information campaigns. Moreover, government penny pinching on defense – a key issue in current debates – could also fail to match the resources at the disposal of the Russian state. In short, the lessons of IRD show that information work is not a quick fix. The British government could learn a lot by visiting the past.

  • Dutch intelligence instrumental in launching FBI’s investigation into U.S. election meddling

    In 2014, Dutch government hackers from AIVD, the Dutch intelligence agency, managed to infiltrate “the computer network of the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear,” a Dutch newspaper reports. A year later, the Dutch operatives witnessed “Russian hackers launching an attack on the Democratic Party in the United States.” The penetration of the Russian network allowed the Dutch intelligence services to provide the FBI with valuable information. The Steele Dossier was taken so seriously by the FBI not only because Christopher Steele was a credible and reliable Russia expert – but because much of the raw intelligence contained in the dossier dovetailed with information the FBI already had from other sources – one of them being Dutch intelligence.

  • Fake news kicks into high gear in Czech presidential runoff

    Jiri Drahos, the pro-West, pro-EU challenger of incumbent Czech president Milos Zeman, came in second in the first round of the Czech presidential election, held 12-13 January. Zeman is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest allies in central Europe, and the Russian government’s disinformation specialists have been ordered to help him win the runoff election, which will be held 27-28 January. These specialists have been successful in their social media efforts to boost the political strength of Marine Le Pen and her National Front in France; Geert Wilders and his Party of Freedom in the Netherlands; the Alternative für Deutschalnd (AfD) in Germany; Beppe Grillo and his Five Star movement in Italy; and increase the influence of other populist, ethno-nationalist movements such as Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. They have also helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election. In the last two weeks, these disinformation experts have been targeting Drahos and his pro-West supporters.

  • So what did we learn? Looking back on four years of Russia’s cyber-enabled “Active Measures”

    Americans continue to investigate, deliberate, and wallow in the aftermath of Russia’s rebirth of “Active Measures” designed to defeat their adversaries through the “force of politics rather than the politics of force.” Kremlin interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election represents not only the greatest Active Measures success in Russian history, but the swiftest and most pervasive influence effort in world history. Never has a country, in such a short period of time, disrupted the international order through the use of information as quickly and with such sustained effect as Russia has in the last four years. Russia achieved this victory by investing in capabilities where its adversaries have vulnerabilities — cyberspace and social media. Putin’s greatest success through the employment of cyber-enabled Active Measures comes not from winning any single election, but through the winning of sympathetic audiences around the world he can now push, pull, and cajole from within the borders of his adversaries. Much has been learned about Russia’s hackers and troll farms in the year since the 2016 presidential election, but there remain greater insights worth exploring from a strategic perspective when looking at the Kremlin’s pursuit of information warfare holistically.

  • What we didn’t learn from Twitter’s news dump on Russiagate

    On Friday evening, amid a pending U.S. government shutdown and a presidential porn payoff scandal, Twitter released its long-awaited report on Russian uses of its platform to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The numbers were striking. Twitter officials said, they had found a cluster of 3,814 accounts that were “a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).” These were supplemented by a broader project of 50,258 automated accounts — bots — which spread the messaging further. In total, 677,775 people in the United States followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Peter Singer writes that social media is about scale and networking, and this combination means that, in actuality, the numbers released by Twitter are far worse than they seem.

  • Rubio, Van Hollen introduce legislation to deter foreign interference in American elections

    U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) on Tuesday introduced the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act. The senators said it sends a powerful message to any foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: if you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences. “We cannot be a country where foreign intelligence agencies attempt to influence our political process without consequences,” said Senator Rubio. “This bill will help to ensure the integrity of our electoral process by using key national security tools to dissuade foreign powers from meddling in our elections.”


  • EU issues call to action to combat Russian “propaganda”

    The European Commission and lawmakers have accused Russia of orchestrating a “disinformation campaign” aimed at destabilizing the bloc and called for increased measures to combat the threat. “There seems frankly little doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy, delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, as often as possible,” EU Security Commissioner Julian King told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 January.

  • Declining trust in facts, institutions imposes real costs on U.S. society

    Americans’ reliance on facts to discuss public issues has declined significantly in the past two decades, leading to political paralysis and collapse of civil discourse, according to a RAND report. This phenomenon, referred to as “Truth Decay,” is defined by increasing disagreement about facts, a blurring between opinion and fact, an increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact, and declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.