Our Take

There are not enough robust, multilateral mechanisms to share information about cyber threats, best practices, or lessons learned, Director Laura Rosenberger said on The Council on Foreign Relations’ podcast Why it Matters. Rosenberger also told Politico that policymakers need to update U.S. policy and legal frameworks to help campaigns better detect and deter hacking and covert information operations.

It is becoming more difficult to discern in real time what disinformation is domestic and what is foreign-backed, ASD experts reported in the Washington Post, ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Russian state-backed media is capitalizing on division among Democratic candidates and placing blame on “corporate media” Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson wrote in a blog post for GMF.

If foreign adversaries plant false stories that end up reinforcing Americans’ skepticism of their own government or media, they have won, Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation Bret Schafer told Time.

The UK decision to allow Huawei into parts of its 5G telecom networks opens the door to increasing influence, interference, and theft by the Chinese Communist Party, Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman argued in a blog post for GMF. Gorman also shared her concerns about the EU’s decision that could give Huawei access to citizens’ data with the Financial Times.

Now that Huawei will be in the United Kingdom’s network, it will be especially important for the country to diversify the rest of its supply chain, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina and Program Manager Nada Kovalcikova added to the GMF blog post.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Last week, Russian-linked Twitter accounts were preoccupied with the coronavirus, yellow vest protests in France, and World War II history. Russian government-funded websites also featured extensive coverage of political developments in India and President Trump’s Middle East peace plan. Read the latest analysis of Hamilton 2.0 data here.

News and Commentary

United Kingdom allows Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build part of its 5G network: Last Tuesday, the British government announced that it will permit Huawei to build up to 35 percent of the non-sensitive components of its future 5G networks. On Wednesday, the European Union issued its guidance to member states that seeks to establish a common approach for mitigating cybersecurity risks to 5G. It recommends excluding “high-risk” vendors, like Huawei, from “key assets” within networks, but stops short of recommending a ban on the Chinese telecom company. On his visit to Britain following the UK’s announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained firm in his criticism of Huawei, but underscored that Five Eyes partners would work together to ensure that systems for intelligence sharing are sufficiently secure, even though the United States has been applying heavy pressure on European countries to ban Huawei altogether. Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman asserted that even if the UK is able to exclude Huawei from sensitive military and nuclear facilities, many security concerns remain, including the potential for economic espionage, intellectual-property theft, and the collection of citizen personal data. (New York Times, South China Morning Post, Europa.eu, Reuters, GMFUS)

 U.S. Department of Homeland Security trains election officials to fight cyberattacks, disinformation days before the Iowa caucuses: Officials from 44 states joined representatives from 11 federal agencies and voting technology companies to participate in election security training exercises before the Iowa caucuses. Chris Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security’s chief cybersecurity official, led worst-case scenario workshops to test how officials might identify and respond to a digital attack or disinformation campaign targeting U.S. elections. The Democratic National Committee also deployed a team of experts to Iowa to act on reports of hacking of caucus technology, alert social media companies of policy violations, and push back against false narratives circulating online. Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson noted that Russian state-backed media is focused on amplifying the progressive/centrist divide. Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt also noted that foreign actors like Russia are not creating these divisions, just pressing on them. (Associated Press, Washington Post, Twitter)

In other news

  • Federal prosecutors arrested the chairman of the Harvard chemistry department for lying about receiving millions in Chinese funding to establish a lab and conduct research at Wuhan University of Technology.
  • The cell phone of a New York Times journalist was targeted with spyware in a hacking attempt linked to Saudi Arabia.
  • Facebook is working to limit the spread of misinformation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and will remove false claims about purported “cures” and other unproven theories from its platform; Twitter and Google are also stepping up efforts to guide users to verified sources on the subject.
  • Facebook launched the “Off-Facebook Activity” tracker allowing users to see which companies are supplying the social media platform with information about their online activity.
  • Twitter rolled out a new feature that gives users the ability to flag tweets that may contain misinformation about voting in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Cyberattacks targeting at least 30 organizations and government agencies in Europe and the Middle East were linked to Turkish hackers.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released a plan to fight disinformation that calls on platforms to improve cross-platform coordination, open up data for research, and share information on algorithms.

Quote of the Week

“Imagine your economy sliding along and 10 years from now you run into a significant difference with the Communist Party of China… They can start messing with your economic flow by just turning off pieces of the network…We’re going to have to get members of Congress to understand what’s at stake.”

  • Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said after the UK announced its decision to allow Huawei to build portions of its next-generation 5G networks (January 28, 2020)
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.