• Responding to Truth Decay: Q&A with RAND’s Michael Rich and Jennifer Kavanagh

    Winston Churchill is reported to have said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.” Experts say it is worse now. With social media, false or misleading information is disseminated all over the world nearly instantaneously. Another thing that’s new about Truth Decay is the confluence of factors that are interacting in ways we do not fully understand yet. It is not clear that key drivers like our cognitive biases, polarization, changes in the information space, and the education system’s struggle to respond to this sort of challenge have ever coincided at such intensive and extreme levels as they do now. Russian disinformation and hacking campaigns against the United States and other Western democracies are the most obvious examples of the amplification – and exploitation – of Truth Decay. Garry Kasparov, the chess master and Russian dissident, said about Russian disinformation efforts: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking … to annihilate truth.”

  • New malware espionage campaign compromises mobile devices around the world

    Cybersecurity experts have uncovered a new malware espionage campaign infecting thousands of people in more than twenty countries. Hundreds of gigabytes of data have been stolen, primarily through mobile devices compromised by fake secure messaging clients. The Trojanized apps, including Signal and WhatsApp, function like the legitimate apps and send and receive messages normally. However, the fake apps also allow the attackers to take photos, retrieve location information, capture audio, and more. The threat, called Dark Caracal, may be a nation-state actor and appears to employ shared infrastructure which has been linked to other nation-state actors.

  • Tracking and reacting to Russian attacks on democracy

    Last week, a U.S. government report outlined attacks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on democratic institutions over nearly two decades. The report details the many ways in which the Russian government has combined Soviet-era approaches with today’s technological tools. Princeton’s Jacob Shapiro says: “While not a revelation to people who have been following the issue, the depth and intensity of Russian efforts against America’s allies in Europe are striking and well-documented in the report. While some may argue that turnabout is fair play insofar as the United States and its European allies have been aggressively pushing their vision of governance inside Russia and its allies for decades, those efforts have taken place in the context of institutions that abide by widely accepted legal norms. What is striking about the Russian effort is the extent to which it employed actors and approaches that clearly and routinely transgress Russian, international, and domestic laws in the places they operate. To me, the extralegal nature of Russian influence efforts was just striking.”

  • How to respond to Russia's attacks on democracy

    Much of the public discourse concerning Russian interference has highlighted Russia’s use of disinformation to meddle in the U.S. elections, but the Kremlin’s activities extend beyond just interfering in elections. These activities encompass a comprehensive, asymmetric toolkit that exacerbates existing social divisions in Western societies, aiming to undermine democratic governments and institutions. Moscow, as a declining power, has opted for low-cost methods such as information warfare, hacking, political support for extremist groups, economic coercion, and illicit finance in an effort to undermine its perceived enemies in the West and create the perception that democracy is an inherently corrupt system.

  • Russia’s troll factory expands office to 12,000 square meters

    Russian government disinformation and hacking specialists had good eighteen months: they were successful in their campaigns to bolster far-right, nationalist, anti-European political parties and leaders in France (Marine Le Pen), Germany (AfD), and the Netherlands (Geert Wilders); they were successful in raising the profile of populist causes which would weaken European institutions (Brexit, Catalonian independence, Scottish separatism, and Italy’s referendum); and they succeeded in helping Donald Trump, a polarizing, divisive leader who is more responsive to Russian interests and outlook, become president of the United States. Russia’s infamous troll factory in St. Petersburg, which played a major role in the Russian government’s disinformation campaigns on social media, is expanding its office to 12,000 square meters, three times bigger than its previous work space.


  • Russian hackers who hacked DNC are now targeting U.S. Senate: Experts

    Russian hackers from the group known as “Fancy Bear” are targeting the U.S. Senate with a new espionage campaign, according to cybersecurity firm TrendMicro. Fancy Bear was one of the Russian government’s hacking groups employed by the Kremlin in 2016 to help Donald Trump win the presidency, and TrendMicro analysts say the group has spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate. Analysts say that the group’s efforts to gather the emails of America’s political elite suggest that the Kremlin plans to continue to interfere in the American political process.

  • Report details two decades of Putin’s attacks on democracy, U.S. vulnerability to Kremlin's interference

    A Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff report released Wednesday details Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country. The report finds that President Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the threat posed by the Russian government has hampered efforts to mobilize the U.S. government, strengthen U.S. institutions, and work with U.S. European allies to counter Putin’s interference in democracies abroad. In the absence of unequivocal presidential leadership, the United States remains vulnerable to Russian interference. The report includes more than thirty recommendations for the United States and its allies.

  • Russia’s Europe meddling; 2018 election security plan; Russia hacks Winter Olympics, and more

    · Intelligence Committee prepares election security plan to thwart Russian hacking

    · Everything we know so far about Russian election meddling in Europe

    · Congress’ grilling of tech companies in 2017 foreshadows the debates of 2018

    · Why is WikiLeaks trying to kneecap Michael Wolff’s book?

    · The digger who commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier

    · Czechs fear Russian fake news in presidential election

    · We are being defeated in a digital war – but there is still time to fight back

    · Sneaky malware disguises itself as an Adobe Flash Player installer

    · Fancy Bear: Alleged Russian hackers leak ‘emails and documents’ from Olympic body

    · Republicans work to frustrate Mueller’s Russia investigation as probes close in on Trump White House

  • Election hacking, as we understand it today, is not a cybersecurity issue

    Many lawmakers and analysts argue that the Kremlin’s successful 2016 campaign to undermine American democracy, increase societal conflict and political polarization, and help Donald Trump win the presidency, had to do with weak cybersecurity measures – and that the way to prevent similar efforts by foreign powers to influence U.S. elections is to bolster U.S. cybersecurity. Herb Lin writes that it is not at all obvious that the success of Russian meddling in the 2016 election was primarily the result of failures in the nation’s cybersecurity posture. Rather, much more decisive in Russia’s successful meddling was the Kremlin’s sophisticated disinformation campaign on social media platforms. Even fully funded and well-implemented measures the strengthen the cybersecurity aspects pf American elections will not ameliorate the effects of Russian efforts to increase the polarization of the U.S. electorate. “For this reason, a focus on preventing the hacking of election systems is misleading and dangerous—it distracts us from the real danger to the republic today, which is the toxic nature of political discourse in an internet-enabled information environment that Russia can manipulate in entirely legal ways.”

  • Russian influence in Mexican and Colombian elections

    Russia’s ongoing effort to destroy faith in democracy is not only a problem for the United States and Europe. The Kremlin has set its sights on destabilizing next year’s Mexican and Colombian elections, and has been strengthening its instruments of political influence in both countries. In 2015, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, then in his capacity as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, warned that under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is “using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

  • McMaster says U.S. must reveal “insidious” Russian meddling to prevent further attacks

    The president’s national security adviser H. R. McMaster says one of the most important tasks in defending U.S. national security is to reveal Russia’s “insidious” interference in elections worldwide to prevent Moscow from meddling again in the democratic process. “What we have to do is come up with a way to deal with this very sophisticated strategy [of meddling],” McMaster said. “This new kind of threat that Russia has really perfected…the use of disinformation and propaganda and social-media tools to really polarize societies and pit communities against each other, to weaken their resolve and their commitment,” he added. U.S. intelligence officials concluded last January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the 2016 election, aiming to undermine confidence in U.S. democracy, tarnish the reputation of Democrat Hillary Clinton, and help Republican Donald Trump.

  • Experts: “Russian public media spread Catalan pro-independence propaganda”

    A year ago, a British parliament committee – the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee – began an investigation into fake news, exploring evidence that media outlets with ties to the Russian government have tried to destabilize the EU and NATO by disseminating disinformation. The members of the committee – five from the Conservative Party, five from the Labor Party, and one from the Scottish National Party – have already taken evidence from dozens of experts, scholars, and journalists on the subject of fake news. The experts appearing before the committee noted that there have been a similar pattern between Russian government’s interference and meddling activities with the Brexit referendum campaign, and Russian meddling activities pushing for Catalan independence.

  • Aussies tipped FBI to Russia’s meddling; the latest 2018 election-hacking threat; Putin’s political provocateurs, and more

    · Report: ex-Trump aide told Australians of Russian “dirt” on Clinton

    · Book review: In “Collusion,” Guardian reporter makes case for Russian manipulation of Trump

    · Putin’s political provocateurs: “Meddling” created blueprint for 21st-century subversion

    · “Whoever controls cyberspace will control the world”: Russian hackers waging cyber war on Ukraine “training” for Western targets

    · What we learned about Trump, Russia, and collusion in 2017

    · The latest 2018 election-hacking threat: 9-month wait for government help

    · Should we believe a Russian hacker who claims he hit the DNC for a rogue operative in the FSB?

    · What Russian journalists uncovered about Russian election meddling

    · Forgetting the past: The U.S. response to Russian disinformation

    · Pressure builds to improve election cybersecurity

  • Lawmakers from states targeted by Russian hackers urge action to protect U.S. elections

    Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Maryland) the other day, along with members of Congress from 18 of the 21 states targeted by Russian hackers in 2016, called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to take immediate action to protect state voting systems from cyberattacks and to bolster state election infrastructure.

  • Spotting Russian bots trying to influence politics

    A team of researchers has isolated the characteristics of bots on Twitter through an examination of bot activity related to Russian political discussions. The team’s findings provide new insights into how Russian accounts influence online exchanges using bots, or automated social media accounts, and trolls, which aim to provoke or disrupt. “There is a great deal of interest in understanding how regimes and political actors use bots in order to influence politics,” explains one researcher. “Russia has been at the forefront of trying to shape the online conversation using tools like bots and trolls, so a first step to understanding what Russian bots are doing is to be able to identify them.”