Securing Democracy Dispatch

2019-07-15T16:18:29-04:00
July 15, 2019
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Our Take

It is imperative the United States secure forms of advanced technologies that underlie our economy and military, ASD Advisory Council member Michael Chertoff argues in an opinion piece for CNBC.

Modern Russia is ideologically amorphous, ASD Media and Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer comments for PolitiFact’s new book club, which analyzes the Special Counsel report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.  

Establishing industry-wide principles about responsible use in the tech sector is essential to ensure U.S. technologies do not facilitate human rights abuses, ASD Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said to NBC News.  

News and Commentary

Italians discussed secret Russian funding for far-right Lega party: According to a secret tape obtained by BuzzFeed News, a close aide of Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini reportedly negotiated a deal to channel clandestine Russian funding to Salvini’s nationalist Lega party. Prosecutors in Italy have opened an investigation into the alleged scheme under which a Russian oil company would sell at a discounted rate to Italian oil company Eni, which Salvini controls as interior minister. The discount, worth about $65 million, would then be funneled to the Lega party, in violation of Italian electoral law banning political parties from accepting large foreign donations. ASD has documented similar cases of Russian political influence activities, such as lucrative business opportunities offered by Russia to a major Brexit funder and a multi-million euro loan from a Kremlin-linked bank to the far-right French National Rally party. (Buzzfeed News, ASD)

Federal Election Commission says security company can help campaigns defend against cyberattacks: The Federal Election Commission announced last week that it would allow a digital security firm to offer anti-phishing services at a lower cost to help 2020 presidential candidates defend against malicious email attacks like those conducted during the 2016 election. Experts say that many of the campaigns likely lack the expertise to build substantial defenses and fend off attacks by nation-state actors, which have grown increasingly sophisticated over the past three years. ASD Director Laura Rosenberger has noted that political campaigns must collaborate with the private sector to ensure proper cybersecurity procedures and prevent the “hack-and-leak” operations favored by Russia. (The New York Times, ASD)

In other news:

  • The Federal Trade Commission announced that it will fine Facebook approximately $5 billion for mishandling user data in 2018, the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC against a tech company.
  • British regulators fined British Airways and Marriott nearly £300 million combined after hackers stole customers’ data last year–the first fines issued under new GDPR rules.
  • The vast majority of U.S. election jurisdictions employ outdated software in their voting systems, which could lead to potential vulnerabilities before the 2020 election, according to an Associated Press report.
  • Florida distributed over $2.3 million for counties to purchase new election security equipment, such as new tablets and monitoring systems.
  • Twitter announced that it will update its policies to ban dehumanizing language on its platform.
  • Instagram unveiled a new feature intended to counter cyberbullying by using artificial intelligence to evaluate language in posts.
  • Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been using state driver’s license databases for facial-recognition searches, a surveillance measure not authorized by Congress or state legislatures.

Quote of the Week

“Election interference is […] designed to weaken America from the inside out, to drive divisions internally so we fight with each other, to undermine our confidence in the elections and in our democracy.”

  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said following a closed-door election security briefing from intelligence officials, July 10, 2019
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.