Since 2016, hacking operations have become much more common. Incidents have been spotted repeatedly in Saudi Arabia, u United Kingdom, France, and u United Arab Emirates. The results have been very different, but the general trend is clear: This has become an indispensable tool for foreign nations seeking to influence politics and elections.
“We’ve seen an uptick in these types of operations before, because they’re easy to do,” says James Shires, a researcher at Atlantic Center’s Cyber Statecraft initiative. “It’s also undeniable because of an unknown person or hacktivist who claims to make the loss. And it’s in the rules of the game. It’s not clear what is permissible and not in terms of foreign interference in the election. It’s very It is clear that changing the number of votes is beyond the red line set by most states, but filtering information on political parties makes it difficult to measure the impact and is clearly not something that states say. to do it and that’s how we’re going to respond. So there’s a great opportunity, it’s negative, and it’s also subtle. ”
The next operation
So is the United States better prepared for this kind of information war during the 2020 elections?
Russian pirates who carried out the 2016 operation have been spotted mira Democratic organizations only this month. When Facebook hunted a Russian-linked influence operation last week, the head of the company’s security policy explicitly warned of hacking operations. And last week Washington Post editor Marty Baron warned his staff on the dangers of covering pirated material and presented the new plan: Slow down and think more about the bigger picture. With the presidential election just 36 days away, the possibility of another distracting dump of pirated information looms large.
Shires, which research hack-and-leaks, says America has a mixed record. On the one hand, the U.S. government, political campaigns, the press, and technology companies are more aware of the threat than in 2016. There have also been real investments and increases in cybersecurity protection. On the other hand, he points out that France has responded very differently to similar attempts to interfere with its elections.
“The effect of a piracy operation comes from the underlying political context and in this case the United States is much worse off now than it was in 2016,” says Shires. “If you look at Macron’s leaks, which happened shortly before the French president was elected, a lot of things from the party have been put online. The French media have gathered, the candidate has communicated, and they have agreed not to publish stories based on to these filters before the election. There is a lot of trust and community spirit in the French media and political environment. Clearly that is not the case in the United States at the moment. “
Faced with the same trap
Shires says a lot can be done to blur the next operation. Traditional media can more thoughtfully control the tone and focus of their articles so that pirates do not manipulate the narratives so easily. Social media companies can, in some cases, control the virality of the pirated material being spread.
The situation soon becomes more complex if the material comes out of American newsrooms. This makes journalists key targets in this type of operation.
“The press is, at some point, aware of how they were used and played in 2016,” says Bret Schaefer, a media and digital disinformation researcher at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “But collectively I don’t think we’re in a much better place for a hacking operation. Facebook and Twitter policies now prohibit the posting of stolen material on their platform, but that only prohibits their point of origin. S ‘whether it’s placed elsewhere, a frangipani site or a publication, then it can exist. And for obvious reasons we won’t look to Facebook to leave the New York Times if they report on pirated and runaway material. ”
“Technology companies are in trouble and journalists are looking at it wondering if the information is authentic and in the public interest. I hope they don’t fall into the same trap of 2016 of pulling more salty details out of the public interest. But this is still the vector where we are the most vulnerable. ”
And how should ordinary voters be prepared?
Be careful, says Shires. When presented with filtered information “it is natural and valuable to read and learn”.
“But the second level of how to handle this information is to think twice about why it’s in the public domain, who tried to put it there, who uncovered it and for what purpose. That’s media literacy, to understand sourcing. and the actors who write these stories and produce information behind these stories. If all members of the public think twice about content and supply, we need to reach a much more mature and responsible debate. “