The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) announced today that Zack Cooper, Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has joined our team as Co-Director, bringing extensive experience in Chinese statecraft to the role. Jamie Fly, original co-founder and continuing the bipartisan collaboration that has defined ASD since its inception. Cooper will succeed Jamie Fly, now President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in the role of ASD’s Co-Director.

David Levine joins ASD as our new Elections Integrity Fellow. Levine previously worked as an elections observer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and most recently served as Ada County’s Elections Director in Idaho.

Our Take

Google should release data on the inauthentic YouTube accounts it removed, in order to inform efforts to deter similar activity in the future, argued Director Laura Rosenberger in a tweet thread that was quoted in Vice.

Elections infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattacks of all types, including ransomware, Deputy Director David Salvo and Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts said on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Hong Kong citizens have taken to the streets to preserve their freedom, and democratic societies owe it to them not to abet their oppressor , argued Research Assistant Étienne Soula in Protego Press.

News and Commentary

DHS raises concerns about ransomware attacks in 2020: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to launch a program to protect voter registration databases and systems against ransomware attacks ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In roughly one month, DHS will start to provide education material to state election officials, as well as remote computer penetration testing and recommendations for preventing or recovering from ransomware attacks. The agency’s program comes after 40 state and local governments were hit with ransomware attacks this year, including major cities in Maryland, New York, and Texas. Deputy Director David Salvo and Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts recently outlined numerous vulnerabilities in our election systems that foreign actors may seek to exploit through the use of ransomware and other cyberattacks. (Reuters, The New York Times, MSNBC).

 Facebook tightens verification rules for political advertisers: Last week, Facebook announced that it will take additional steps to strengthen the authorization process for U.S. advertisers by providing more information about advertisers that seek to influence public opinion through advocacy, debate or discussion. These updates to pre-existing policies that require advertisers to verify their identity and location before running ads about social issues, elections, or politics will ask advertisers to further demonstrate that they are registered with the U.S. government. Facebook will also refresh the list of social issues it uses in determining which ad content requires authorization. Research Assistant Bradley Hanlon has emphasized the importance of robust verification of the identities of ad purchasers as a tool in fighting the spread of foreign-financed disinformation. (FB Newsroom, Facebook Business, The New York Times, ASD)

China uses economic coercion to crack down on pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong: As part of its campaign to rein in the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has increased pressure on foreign firms seeking access to the Chinese market. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific airline has fired staff at the behest of Beijing over perceived lack of support for the Party’s line. Firms, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, have also released statements distancing themselves from the pro-democracy movement. China Analyst Matt Schrader has warned of Beijing’s use of economic coercion in its region, including in South Korea. (The Atlantic, The New York Times, Interference Matters)

In other news

  • Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen has resigned, effectively preventing the agency from making high level decisions until a fourth commissioner is chosen.
  • Cybersecurity and election experts warn that Russian hackers will likely target Florida’s voting systems ahead of the 2020 election.
  • The Democratic National Committee plans to reject Iowa’s plans for virtual caucusing, citing cybersecurity concerns.
  • A former Chechen field commander was reportedly murdered by a Russian national in Berlin, though Russia has denied any involvement.
  • Democracy activists were arrested this week ahead of a major protest planned for the fifth anniversary of a previous wave of protests in Hong Kong.
  • Amazon’s doorbell camera company Ring has partnered with 400 police forces in the United States, giving them access to footage from customers’ cameras.
  • Investigators at Bellingcat and Buzzfeed have identified two Russians who met with representatives of Matteo Salvini’s La Lega party last year to negotiate a covert scheme to finance Italy’s far right ahead of European elections last spring.
  • The Department of Defense is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks” ahead of elections in 2020.  


Quote of the Week

“Recent history has shown that state and county governments and those who support them are targets for ransomware attacks. That is why we are working alongside election officials and their private sector partners to help protect their databases and respond to possible ransomware attacks.”

  • DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs, announcing plans to launch a new election security program, August 26, 2019
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.