Our Take

Russia wrote the playbook on foreign interference; other governments are now mimicking their tactics, Deputy Director Dave Salvo said in an interview with 91.5 KJZZ Phoenix.

It is imperative that platforms and policymakers make the information ecosystem more resilient, including by creating ethical norms for the use of the deepfake technologies, argued Non-resident Fellow Aviv Ovadya in the Technology Review

Voter-verifiable paper backups are a critical election security measure because they help to increase voter confidence and ensure that foreign actors cannot penetrate election systems unnoticed, Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine wrote in the Fayetteville Observer.

Centralizing European efforts to counter hybrid threats will enable governments to better identify and respond to them, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina said in a roundtable discussion with German Marshall Fund’s Frontlines of Democracy Initiative.

Government needs experts that can navigate a future in which technology is increasingly intertwined in daily life, argued Advisory Council member Nicole Wong in a Medium post.

News and Commentary

U.S. House passes 2020 national defense bill with increased election security measures, protections against foreign threats: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, an annual defense spending bill that sets U.S. defense priorities for the coming year. The bill features key provisions on election security, military cyber operations, and an updated strategy to counter the threat posed by Russia, China, and other countries engaged in malign influence operations. Notably, the NDAA includes a provision that allows the intelligence community to issue security clearances to state-level election officials to facilitate sensitive information sharing; another provision establishes a Social Media Data and Threat Analysis Center to increase collaboration between social media companies and public sector stakeholders on countering disinformation operations. Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine emphasized that an unclassified report on 2016 cyberattacks on U.S. election infrastructure by foreign governments mandated by the bill could help the public better understand past incidents and current vulnerabilities to election systems. (Congress.gov, Politico, Twitter)

European Council sets new guidelines for countering hybrid threats, calling for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach: The European Council adopted new priorities and guidelines for countering hybrid threats and enhancing resilience that focus on greater cooperation with NATO and partner countries, working across all policy areas, and securing critical infrastructure. The guidance provides recommendations for addressing disinformation and interference seeking to undermine European elections, including monitoring and analyzing online manipulative interference and consolidating an active independent cross-European network of fact checkers and researchers against disinformation. Promoting greater awareness within society is also central in the response to these evolving threats. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina breaks down the guidelines, and highlights a core ASD policy recommendation that calls for a continent-wide buy-in on a new strategic approach to tackle the authoritarian interference challenge. (Consilium.europa.eu, Twitter, ASD)

In other news

  • The National Infrastructure Advisory Council warned that escalating cyber threats to America’s critical infrastructure pose an “existential threat” to national security and that incremental steps are “no longer sufficient” to counter the aggressive tactics used by adversaries.
  • Telefonica Deutschland, one of Germany’s top mobile carriers, chose Huawei to build out its next-generation technology; two parliamentary parties are now preparing a joint proposal that could lead to an exclusion of Huawei from the group of firms building Germany’s 5G network. Meanwhile, in Norway, state-controlled mobile operator Telenor selected rival vendor Ericsson to gradually phase out Huawei from its future telecoms network.
  • The Chinese government ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software over the next three years, dealing a potential blow to multinational companies, like Dell and Microsoft.
  • Senate lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation that grants the nation’s top cybersecurity agency the legal power to issue subpoenas to obtain information about potential cyber vulnerabilities related to U.S. critical infrastructure.
  • The U.S. House of Representative passed a bill that directs the head of the National Science Foundation to support research on manipulated online content, such as deepfakes, among other comparable technologies.
  • India shut down the internet following street protests that broke out in response to a new controversial citizenship rule.

Quote of the Week

“As far as the election itself goes, we think Russia represents the most significant threat to the election cycle itself… but we certainly know that other nation states, China, Iran, others have an interest in influencing our democracy in other ways through different forms of engagement, different types of malign foreign influence. So we are trying to make sure that we’re working hard with others to protect America against all those threats.”

  • Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation Chris Wray in an interview with ABC News (December 9, 2019)
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.