Securing Democracy Dispatch

2019-07-22T16:41:28-04:00
July 22, 2019
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Our Take

States need additional federal funding to address election security vulnerabilities, according to a report co-authored by ASD Deputy Director David Salvo and Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson with the Brennan Center for Justice, R Street Institute, and University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security. In an interview with the Washington Post Rachael Dean Wilson said, “our election security is only as strong as the weakest system we have.” David Salvo was also cited in the Post arguing that states do not have the resources needed to defend against the threat of foreign interference. Alabama news station WVTM 13 also interviewed Wilson, and the report received additional coverage in The Hill, Defense One, Politico, AL.com, TribLive.com, and the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

Italy’s campaign finance scheme highlights the expanding reach of Russian interference in populist, nationalist movements, ASD’s Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt observes in a piece for Axios. ASD Research Assistants Thomas Morley and Etienne Soula explain Russia’s methods for exploiting legal loopholes in European and American systems on our blog.

Russia’s social media campaign is an example of “active measures” meant to subvert democracy, ASD’s non-Resident Fellow Clint Watt explains in the first episode of Lawfare’s podcast’s, The Report.

The appointment of an experienced official to a new senior position that will oversee election security intelligence across the government is a positive step, but the federal government needs to do more to address the wide scope of the problem, ASD Director Laura Rosenberger said to the New York Times.

Disinformation, cyber campaigns and other vectors of malign influence are new threats from old adversaries, argued ASD Director Laura Rosenberger and Advisory Council member and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at the 2019 Aspen Security Forum.

News and Commentary

Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bills to keep tight restrictions on Huawei: Lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bipartisan legislation permitting Congress to override attempts to remove Huawei from the Commerce Department trade blacklist and to disallow waivers that exempt individual companies from complying with the ban. Beyond the United States, Britain’s parliamentary committee also recommended excluding Huawei from sensitive “core” wireless networks, Poland’s digital ministry proposed upping certification requirements on 5G suppliers, and Canada’s leaders will reportedly postpone making a decision about whether to allow Huawei in its 5G networks until after their October general election. ASD’s Thomas Morley and Matt Schrader have advised European governments to exclude Huawei from their domestic 5G networks, noting that failing to do so may give the Chinese government unprecedented tools to corrupt, influence and subvert Western democracies. (Reuters, U.S. House of Representatives, Bloomberg, ASD)

Controversy over FaceApp raises concerns about data privacy: Following the viral success of the face-transforming app FaceApp, concerns have emerged that the St. Petersburg-based company might be using users’ photos and other phone data for potentially nefarious purposes. According to cybersecurity experts, however, many of the security fears were unfounded since the app does not appear to secretly upload users’ entire photo rolls and the other data it sends is fairly innocuous. ASD’s Lindsay Gorman has noted that despite the focus on FaceApp, many companies maintain similar terms of service, which lack restrictions on leaving data vulnerable to foreign intelligence services. (Washington Post, CNET, New York Times, ASD)

Intelligence community consolidates election security efforts: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats announced the creation of a new position, the Election Threats Executive, to coordinate and integrate election security efforts across the intelligence community in responding to the “enduring challenge” of foreign electoral interference. Coats selected intelligence veteran Shelby Pierson to serve in this new role, also stating that he would order all agencies responsible for election security to appoint an official to monitor foreign attacks by actors such as Russia and China. In her testimony before Congress in May, ASD Director Laura Rosenberger advocated for creating a senior coordinator on the National Security Council to counter foreign interference across the entire government. (U.S. Director of National Intelligence, New York Times, ASD)

In other news

  • Huawei reportedly helped the North Korean government develop its domestic wireless network, raising questions about whether the company, which has used American technology in its components, violated U.S. export controls.
  • Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini agreed to respond to questions before the Parliament about a recording of his aide seeking funds through a Russian oil deal.
  • The Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity detected a coordinated Twitter effort attempting to spread disinformation in Ukraine ahead of its parliamentary elections.
  • Microsoft will donate software to help secure voting machines and ensure election integrity in advance of the upcoming 2020 elections.
  • Facebook is introducing a tool in the UK to report scam advertisements, and is creating a team to review the reports and take down violations.
  • The Federal Trade Commission reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with Google after an investigation determined that its video-streaming service, YouTube, violated data-privacy laws for children users.

Quote of the Week

“[NATO’s] core value is creating a society which is resilient against attempts to interfere.”

  • Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaking at the 2019 Aspen Security Forum, July 17, 2019
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.