Announcements

ASD’s David Levine and OSET’s Eddie Perez will present their new report, Enhancing the Security of Electronic Pollbooks Is Essential for Election Integrity, at the Electoral Integrity Project’s virtual workshop on Friday, July 9 at 9:00 a.m. EDT/ 3:00 p.m. CET. Register for the technology and the voting process panel here.

Our Take

Throughout May, Russian state-backed media took aim at Annalena Baerbock, the German Green Party’s chancellor candidate, over accusations of plagiarism, and state-backed outlets attempted to create an equivalence between Belarus’ forced landing of a Ryanair flight to arrest a Belarusian journalist and an unscheduled plane landing in Berlin, GMF researchers Corinna Blutguth and David Metzger find in their latest analysis of data from our German Elections Dashboard.

A number of states have passed laws that are either restricting access to the ballot or are restricting elections officials’ ability to administer their elections in a non-partisan manner, the second of which is a relatively new phenomenon that requires additional resources, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told Government Executive.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aggressive posturing reflects a consensus within the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership for a more assertive policy toward its frontier, such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and its periphery, including Taiwan and Australia, China Analyst Bryce Barros said in Newsweek.

Follow us on Twitter for more quick takes @SecureDemocracy.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Last week, Russian diplomatic accounts and state media promoted an article by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which included claims that the West is “imposing” its values on the world and promoting an “aggressive LGBT propaganda.” The Russian network monitored on Hamilton also touted that President Putin had received the Sputnik V vaccine and asserted that the Russian vaccine is more effective than other vaccines against the Delta variant. Meanwhile, the U.S.-U.K. advisory released last week that named the GRU as the actor behind a global cyber campaign was met with denials and the counterclaim that the United States is hacking Russia. Similarly, state media highlighted President Biden’s statement that he was uncertain whether Russia was behind the ongoing Kaseya global ransomware attack carried out by the Russia-based group REvil, with RT Russian claiming that U.S. media have launched a “campaign to discredit Russia.”

Accounts monitored on the China dashboard focused on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party last week. The majority of messages surrounding the anniversary glorified the achievements of China over the past decades, including praise of the Chinese government’s democratic underpinnings and appreciation for the country’s “complete victory” over poverty. Some Chinese commentators were more pointed in their celebrations, as China’s ambassadors to ASEAN, Barbados, and the EU shared Xi Jinping’s statement that his country’s enemies were up against “a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Chinese diplomats also continued to target Canada for its “long history of systemic oppression” against indigenous people. Chinese officials and state media also highlighted challenges with racism in the United States.

Last week, Foreign Minister Zarif used the 33rd anniversary of the downing of Iran Air 655 to blast the United States over its refusal to apologize for the incident, while adding that U.S. violence “continues today with #EconomicTerrorism against our people.” Iranian state-backed outlets extensively covered an attack on a U.S. military base in Syria, with a widely shared Press TV article reporting that the United States’ “biggest Syria base” was hit by “massive explosions.” Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto later clarified that the perimeter of the base was hit by three rockets but that “there are no injuries and damage is being assessed.” Iranian media outlets also amplified Russian and Chinese diplomats in their push for the Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA) to be restored to its original terms. Finally, Zarif praised the CCP on its 100th anniversary and extended “warm congratulations on its remarkable achievements.”

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Russia-based ransomware gang launches global attack: Last Friday, the Russia-based ransomware gang REvil launched one of the most wide-spread and damaging ransomware attacks to date through a supply chain hack that compromised software used by Kaseya, a Florida-based firm that provides IT services to small and medium-sized businesses. Kaseya said today that the attack impacted up to 1,500 businesses, none of which were critical infrastructure entities, and the company released detection tools for its customers over the weekend. REvil claims that it has impacted more than 1 million victims and is demanding $70 million in cryptocurrency to unlock affected systems. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said that the White House had “directed the full resources of the government to investigate the incident,” and President Joe Biden suggested that the United States would respond if it determined that the Russian government was involved in the attack. ASD Cybersecurity Fellow Maurice Turner argued that the REvil attack shows that ransomware groups have not been deterred by warnings from the Biden administration or NATO.

Iranian disinformation campaign targets private chats used by Israeli activists: In the months around Israel’s March 2021 elections, Iranian agents infiltrated WhatsApp groups, Telegram channels, and other encrypted messaging apps used by Israeli activists to share polarizing content and engage with activists, a new report by disinformation watchdog group FakeReporter found. The Iranian campaign posted content obtained directly from Israeli activists, amplified authentic content placed in private chats, created original content, and repurposed images and memes from Iranian websites. The operation was exposed by Israeli activists who became suspicious of the Iranian agents’ poor grammar and reported the accounts to FakeReporter. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, removed multiple WhatsApp accounts linked to the Iranian campaign. Israel’s security agency has launched an investigation into the disinformation efforts, and U.S. intelligence agencies are looking for similar attempts to target Americans, the New York Times reports. ASD Research Assistant Amber Franklin and Jessica Brandt have shown how authoritarian disinformation efforts have matured since 2016 to become more targeted and harder to detect.

In case you missed it

  • U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies released a joint advisory exposing the details of a Russian state-backed cyberespionage campaign that targeted hundreds of government and private entities around the world.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court in two separate rulings made it easier for states to enact voting restrictions and for anonymous money to influence politics.
  • The Chinese-owned manufacturer Nexperia acquired the United Kingdom’s largest semiconductor producer, prompting concern among some U.K. lawmakers.
  • Russian state-backed hackers compromised Denmark’s central bank and maintained access for seven months as part of the SolarWinds campaign, new reporting shows.
  • Germany’s federal data protection commissioner ordered government organizations to close their Facebook pages by the end of 2021 after the social media platform failed to comply with European privacy laws.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced its “most successful cybersecurity hiring initiative” in history, bringing in nearly 300 cyber employees and extending offers to 500 more in the past 60 days.
  • Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced legislation that would establish a training program for federal employees tasked with purchasing information technology products for agencies.

Quote of the Week

“We have to establish what I call a ‘Cyber Geneva Convention.’ We have to have international norms and standards so that if an attack occurs, these people are pariahs on the world stage, and they don’t have any place to hide. And that includes Russia and China.”

  • Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said at a Washington Post event on June 29
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.