Our Take

A new bill to outlaw anonymous shell companies has broad bipartisan support and is a rare example of Congress working exactly as it is supposed to, argues Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph in The American Interest.

Austria’s recent election shows that skirting election finance laws and courting foreign interference can lead to losses at the ballot box, warns Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina and Research Assistant Étienne Soula in Interference Matters.

Nord Stream is politically sensitive because it splits the strategic interest of Germany from that of the rest of Europe, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina told The New York Times.

News and Commentary

China suspends business ties after NBA team executive expressed explicit support for Hong Kong protestors: Several Chinese businesses are suspending ties with the NBA’s Houston Rockets, after the team’s general manager tweeted in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over the weekend. The NBA’s Communications Office has since expressed regret for the comment, sparking criticism from U.S. lawmakers who rejected the team’s prioritization of its partnership with Chinese companies over human rights. China Analyst Matthew Schrader has argued that this incident reveals that increasing economic interconnectedness between the United States and China extends the extraterritorial reach of the Chinese government’s ideological apparatus. Schrader has also laid out various ways in which growing economic ties to China have created political and security vulnerabilities in countries, such as South Korea. (CNN, Twitter, Interference Matters)

Hacking campaign with links to Iran targeted U.S. government officials and presidential campaign: Last Friday, Microsoft announced that Iranian hackers, with apparent backing from the Iranian regime, targeted current and former U.S. government officials, political journalists, and at least one presidential campaign. Some media outlets reported that the hackers attempted to break into President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Microsoft attributed the intrusion to the outfit Phosphorus, which has previously been implicated in cyberattacks against the United States. The intrusion highlights the underlying vulnerability of the U.S. election system to security threats. Research Assistant Bradley Hanlon has written about the evolution and increasing sophistication of Iran’s tactics in the disinformation and cyberwarfare spheres. (Microsoft, The New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post, Interference Matters)

National Security Agency launches Cybersecurity Directorate to defend against digital attacks: The National Security Agency launched a Cybersecurity Directorate that will combine threat detection, cyber defense, and future-technologies personnel to prevent digital attacks on sensitive government and defense-industry systems. The agency will also work to declassify threat intelligence more quickly and increase collaboration with private sector groups that can use the intel to protect their own systems. ASD experts have advocated for the need for more constructive public-private partnerships to identify and address technological threats in order to build resilience against foreign adversaries and cyber criminals. (Washington Post, ASD)

New report finds that the commercial disinformation services industry is growing: According to a new report from the internet technology company Recorded Future, threat actors are offering disinformation services on underground criminal forums. These services range from publishing articles in various media outlets to creating and maintaining social media accounts in bulk that can propagate content without triggering content moderation controls. Non-resident Fellow Clint Watts has discussed the proliferation of Advanced Persistent Manipulators (APMs) in the public and private sector and the wide diversity of sources contributing and spreading online disinformation. (Recorded Future, ASD)

In other news

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security told local election officials that Russia may focus on voter suppression to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.
  • Cybersecurity firm FireEye announced that it created a free election security public resource to help governments protect upcoming elections from cyber threats.
  • Facebook plans to exempt opinion pieces and satire from its fact-checking program.
  • The EU’s highest court ruled that lower courts in Europe can order Facebook to remove user posts that have been declared illegal.
  • New findings show that a series of sophisticated cyberattacks targeting opposition politicians and human rights activists in Egypt were likely carried out by Egyptian authorities.
  • A new Maryland law went into effect giving state administrators of elections the power to end contracts with election service providers if there is evidence of influence from a foreign entity.

Quote of the Week

“[The Russian government] … might seek to covertly discourage or suppress U.S. voters from participating in next year’s election… We have high confidence in these assessment based reports by firms with expertise in social network analysis, open source press reporting, and observed activity of Russian-linked social media actors.”

  • According to a joint, official document from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security, (October 4, 2019)
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.