Our Take

Foreign adversaries could rely on some voters’ expectation of manipulation to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process, warned Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine in Fortune.

Elections are just one target of much broader, more insidious influence campaigns by foreign actors, that threaten not only politicians in Washington but also ordinary Americans, Deputy Director David Salvo and Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation Bret Schafer argued in the San Antonio Express-News.

Success in countering illicit financial activity will entail a change in mentality, better information-sharing, and tighter coordination, both within governments and across borders, Senior Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum asserted in a brief for Frivärld, the Stockholm Free World Forum.

Countries should work on creating legislation that requires 5G-connected devices to meet basic cybersecurity standards, Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said in a podcast with Dharma Political Risk and Strategy.

Common transatlantic solutions can help counter disinformation campaigns in France and Germany’s changing media ecosystems, Bret Schafer and Research Assistant Étienne Soula argued in a paper written in cooperation with Institut Montaigne and Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.

From foreign donations hidden by shell companies to oligarchs bankrolling hackers and trolls, it is now abundantly clear that covert foreign money gets weaponized against our democracy, Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph argued on a Hudson Institute panel.

News and Commentary

NATO Secretary General underscores need to secure 5G infrastructure: During his official visit to the United States last week, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, highlighted the importance of securing 5G telecommunications infrastructure as emerging technologies change the nature of warfare and democratic societies. Stoltenberg referenced NATO’s decision from last month to update baseline requirements for civilian telecom networks, including 5G, pointing specifically to China’s growing leadership in the development of other “disruptive” technologies, and its ability to gather vast amounts of data inside its borders and abroad. U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, has urged NATO allies to exclude Chinese companies from building their 5G networks, while in Europe, both Germany and the UK continue wrestling with whether to allow 5G technology from Chinese telecom giant Huawei into their networks. Fellow on Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman argued that all NATO countries have a role to play in securing the digital future, and should commit to more strenuous security requirements for 5G. (Nato.int, Breaking Defense, Politico.eu, Twitter)

New reporting reveals Russia’s interference in Madagascar’s 2018 election had Putin’s authorization and a profit motive: Earlier this year, the BBC reported that in the lead-up to the 2018 presidential election in Madagascar, Russians funded by Kremlin-connected oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin, offered bribes to at least six candidates in exchange for pledges that they would support the leading Russia-sponsored candidate. New reporting shows that the operation began after a secret meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Madagascar’s then-incumbent president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, at which Prigozhin was also present. There, Putin agreed to help with Rajaonarimampianina’s re-election. The Russians supported their candidate with disinformation on social media, paid-for positive press coverage, endorsements from bribed drop-out candidates, and funding for spoiler candidates meant to split the opposition vote. While this campaign bears similarities to the efforts by Prigozhin and the Russian government in the 2016 U.S. election, it was driven by an attempt to secure natural resource profits in Madagascar. Fellow on Malign Finance Josh Rudolph has emphasized the growing frequency of Russian financial tools of political interference, and the need for a coordinated national security response. (BBC, The New York Times, Just Security)

In other news

  • Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Iowa identified eleven new vulnerabilities in 5G-connected devices that could be used to track a user’s location, create false emergency alerts, or disconnect phones from the network entirely.
  • The Australian parliamentary IT system was hacked earlier this year, and data was stolen from the computers of several elected officials, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp.
  • In the wake of recent high-profile hacks, the French government signed a three-year cybersecurity agreement with eight of the country’s major industrial
  • Russia’s security services moved money through Estonia to finance operations overseas, according to Estonia’s finance minister, who is leading a committee tackling money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • Facebook said it took action against tens of millions of posts for violating regulations on hate speech, harassment, and child exploitation; the company’s transparency report also described for the first time its efforts to police Instagram.
  • Experts told House lawmakers that foreign adversaries have been targeting U.S. veterans on social media for the past eight years, and urged a “whole-of-government response” to address disinformation threats against veterans in cyberspace.

Quote of the Week

“Technology is changing warfare, but also our societies…all Allies will have to take into account the need for thorough risk and vulnerability assessments. Identifying and countering cyber threats. And the consequences of foreign ownership, control or direct investment. To increase the resilience of our supply chains. And the resilience of our nations and our Alliance.”

  • Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Jens Stoltenberg delivering the keynote address at the NATO Industry Forum
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.