• Detecting “deepfake” videos in the blink of an eye

    A new form of misinformation is poised to spread through online communities as the 2018 midterm election campaigns heat up. Called “deepfakes” after the pseudonymous online account that popularized the technique – which may have chosen its name because the process uses a technical method called “deep learning” – these fake videos look very realistic. Because these techniques are so new, people are having trouble telling the difference between real videos and the deepfake videos. My work with colleagues has found a way to reliably tell real videos from deepfake videos. It’s not a permanent solution, because technology will improve. But it’s a start, and offers hope that computers will be able to help people tell truth from fiction.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Election security bill without paper records and risk limiting audits? No way.

    The Senate is working on a bill to secure election infrastructure against cybersecurity threats, but, unless amended, it will widely miss the mark. The current text of the Secure Elections Act omits the two most effective measures that could secure our elections: paper records and automatic risk limiting audits.

  • Lawmaker demands answers about Russian cyberattacks on electric utilities

    In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2016 and 2017, hackers backed by the Russian government successfully penetrated the U.S. electric grid through hundreds of power companies and third-party vendors. Russian hackers gained access to control rooms, putting them in a position to disrupt U.S. power flow.

  • Dark shadow on computer security

    Researchers have uncovered Foreshadow, a new variant of the hardware vulnerability Meltdown announced earlier in the year, that can be exploited to bypass Intel Processors’ secure regions to access memory and data. The vulnerability affects Intel’s Software Guard Extension (SGX) technology, a new feature in modern Intel CPUs which allows computers to protect users’ data in a secure ‘fortress’ even if the entire system falls under an attacker’s control.

  • More efficient security for cloud-based machine learning

    A novel encryption method devised by MIT researchers secures data used in online neural networks, without dramatically slowing their runtimes. This approach, a combination based on two encryption techniques,  holds promise for using cloud-based neural networks for medical-image analysis and other applications that use sensitive data.

  • Why political scientists aren’t writing about Russian hackers

    Political scientists who study election mechanics — — campaign finance, what polling data have to do with voting, how different population groups vote, how effective political advertisements are — are yet to come to grips with the role Russian government agents played in the 2016 election. Clark University political scientists Robert Boatright writes that “We don’t have the ability to track exactly what went on over Twitter or Facebook in the election, which accounts were real and which were fake. And … we may not regain the sort of transparency that enabled us to study elections with the precision we once did. We don’t really have any precedent for studying what a foreign government might do to influence an American campaign in this way because it hasn’t been done before in the United States. Maybe we’ll get there in a few years, but for now, all we know is that our research is more likely than usual to be incomplete.”

  • 11-year old took 10 minutes to hack a replica of Florida's election reporting website

    DEFCON, the world’s largest hacking convention, took place in Las Vegas over the weekend. Emmett Brewer, one of about 40 children between the ages of 8 and 16 who were taking part in the event, took less than 10 minutes to hack into a replica of Florida’s election reporting website. An 11-year old girl also managed to break into the site, tripling the number of votes for one of the candidates. Several 8-year old kids managed to tamper with vote tallies and change candidates’ names.

  • 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.

  • Security gaps identified in internet protocol IPsec

    Researchers have demonstrated that the Internet protocol “IPsec” is vulnerable to attacks. The Internet Key Exchange protocol “IKEv1,” which is part of the protocol family, has vulnerabilities that enable potential attackers to interfere with the communication process and intercept specific information.

  • Intel processor vulnerability could expose millions of PCs at risk

    A newly discovered processor vulnerability could potentially put secure information at risk in any Intel-based PC manufactured since 2008. It could affect users who rely on a digital lockbox feature known as Intel Software Guard Extensions, or SGX, as well as those who utilize common cloud-based services, a new report says.

  • 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.

  • Hacked satellite could launch microwave-like attacks

    The satellite communications which ships, planes, and the military use to connect to the internet are vulnerable to hackers which, in the worst-case scenario, could carry out “cyber-physical attacks,” turning satellite antennas into weapons which operate, in effect, like microwave ovens. An expert speaking at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, said that a number of popular satellite communication systems are vulnerable to such attacks, which could also leak information and hack connected devices.