• Twitter, Facebook face senators again

    The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to hear from two top social media executives today (Wednesday) on what they have been doing to combat the spread of propaganda and disinformation online and how they are prepared to help secure the integrity of upcoming elections. The committee will hear from Twitter Co-Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – but one chair, reserved for Google cofounder Larry Page, may remain empty. The committee extended the invitation to Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well as Larry Page, who is CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, but the company wanted to send senior vice president Kent Walker instead. The committee made it clear it is not interested in hearing from Walker.

  • The FBI launches a Combating Foreign Influence webpage

    The FBI on Thursday has launched a webpage dedicated to combating foreign influence. The webpage aims to educate the public about the threats faced from disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and the overall impact of foreign influence on society. The FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for investigating foreign influence operations.

  • Russia is co-opting angry young men

    It seems almost too strange to be true: fight clubs, neo-Nazi soccer hooligans, motorcycle gangs, and other violent fringe elements are serving as conduits for the Kremlin’s influence operations in Western countries. “It sounds more like an episode of The Americans with a dash of Mad Max and Fight Club mixed in,” Michael Carpenter writes, “[y]et this is exactly what is happening across Europe and North America as Russia’s intelligence services co-opt fringe radicals and angry young men to try to undermine Western democracies from within. And not just in the virtual world, but in real life.”

  • Less information leaves U.S. vulnerable as midterms approach

    In May 2018, explaining why the intelligence community objected to revealing the name of an FBI informant who talked with several Trump campaign officials in order to explore the extent of their ties with Russian intelligence operatives, FBI director Christopher Wray said: “The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.” High-level U.S. officials say that the United States knows less in 2018 than it did in 2016 about Russia’s planned and executed attacks on U.S. democracy and infrastructure – and one reason is that Russian informants have gone silent. Current and former officials said the expulsion of American intelligence officers from Moscow has hurt collection efforts — but they also raised the possibility that the outing of an FBI informant under scrutiny by the House intelligence committee — an examination encouraged by President Trump — has had a chilling effect on intelligence collection.

  • Fund meant to protect elections may be too little, too late

    The Election Assistance Commission, the government agency charged with distributing federal funds to support elections, released a report Tuesday detailing how each state plans to spend a total of $380 million in grants allocated to improve and secure their election systems. But even as intelligence officials warn of foreign interference in the midterm election, much of the money is not expected to be spent before Election Day. The EAC expects states to spend their allotted money within two to three years and gives them until 2023 to finish spending it.

  • How the U.S. has failed to protect the 2018 election--and four ways to protect 2020

    If the weak response of the Obama White House indicated to America’s adversaries that the U.S. government would not respond forcefully, then the subsequent actions of House Republicans and President Trump have signaled that our adversaries can expect powerful elected officials to help a hostile foreign power cover up attacks against their domestic opposition. The bizarre behavior of the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Devin Nunes, has destroyed that body’s ability to come to any credible consensus, and the relative comity of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has not yet produced the detailed analysis and recommendations our country needs. Republican efforts to downplay Russia’s role constitute a dangerous gamble: It is highly unlikely that future election meddling will continue to have such an unbalanced and positive impact for the GOP.

  • Russian investments in the United States: Hardening the target

    The United States is the single largest recipient of foreign investment worldwide. This openness reflects the country’s innovative industries, deep capital markets, and ease of doing business – and it also contributes to making them possible. At the same time, a hands-off reporting regime makes it difficult for law enforcement and other government agencies to determine whose money is behind investment flows or where they should focus their investigative resources. While most foreign investment is benign, the current framework presents inviting loopholes through which adversaries can gain non-transparent access to U.S. businesses, technology, and data.

  • Microsoft reveals Russian hacking attempts ahead of U.S. elections

    Microsoft says it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts to target U.S. political groups ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November. The company said a hacking group linked to Russia’s government had created fake Internet domains in order to mimic the websites of two conservative Washington-based think tanks that have been critical of the Kremlin — the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. It said the Russian hackers also created three fake domains designed to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate.

  • Following Peter Smith's money

    Peter Smith, a GOP donor and operative who killed himself in May 2017 after a short illness, was determined to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. He believed Russian government hackers had them. Buzzfeed News reports that Northern Trust, where Smith had a personal bank account, turned over ti the Justice Department documents showing 88 suspicious cash withdrawals totaling about $140,000 between January 2016 and April 2017. The FBI and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators suspect Smith used some of the cash to fund his Clinton email operation and pay the Russian government hackers.

  • Former senior intelligence officials rebuke Trump for the Brennan security clearance decision

    In an unprecedented rebuke to President Donald Trump, more than a dozen former senior U.S. intelligence officials have signed a letter pointedly criticizing him for what they describe as his “ill-considered” decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan. “Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views,” they write.

  • Russian spy software in U.S. home and office routers

    The Russian government hackers known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear – the operatives who were behind information attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign, among others – have infiltrated hundreds of thousands of home and office routers worldwide. The presence of Russian malware on the routers could enable the Kremlin to steal individuals’ data or enlist their devices in a massive attack intended to disrupt global economic activity or target institutions.

  • New bill to help protect security of U.S. elections

    On Friday, four members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) introduced the Secure Elections Act, which would provide local communities and state governments with the resources needed to strengthen election systems against cyberattacks. “Hostile foreign actors have attempted and will continue to attempt to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy by attacking our electoral process,” said Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), one of the bill’s sponsors. “It is our responsibility to take every precaution necessary to safeguard our elections and ensure no vote count is ever interfered with.

  • Maria Butina's well-connected money contact highlights the breadth of her support network

    In an exclusive reports, the Daily Beast reports that suspected Russian spy Maria Butina had a point of contact for the cash she was getting from Russian oligarch Konstantin Nikolaev, and that man is a public relations professional with some interesting and wide-ranging connections.

  • We researched Russian trolls and figured out exactly how they neutralize certain news

    Russian “troll factories” have been making headlines for some time. First, as the Kremlin’s digital guardians in the Russian blogosphere. Then, as subversive cyber-squads meddling with U.S. elections. A few statistical analyses of large samples of trolling posts also show that institutionalized political trolling and the use of bots have become a consolidated practice that significantly affect the online public sphere. What has been shrouded in mystery so far, however, is how institutionalized, industrialized political trolling works on a daily basis. We have also lacked a proper understanding of how it affects the state’s relations with society generally, and security processes in particular.

  • Britain “ready to ask” Russia to extradite suspects in Skripal poisonings

    Britain is preparing to ask Russia to extradite two men it suspects carried out the March 2018 nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy in the city of Salisbury. Russia will likely reject the request. In 2006, on Putin’s orders, former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was killed in London by two FSB (the KGB’s successor organization) agents, who put the radioactive substance polonium in his tea. In 2007 Putin rejected a British extradition request for the two operatives. The same year, one of the two operatives, Andrei Lugovoi, was elected a member of the Duma – the Russian parliament – as a member of United Russia, the Putin-led party. In 2015 Putin awarded him a state medal “for services to the motherland.”