We’ve Lost the Opening Info Battle against Russia; Let’s Not Lose the War

The United States has nearly a perfect track record in predicting the nature of the next conflict we will fight: always wrong. That military adage has unfortunately held true in the current conflict being fought in the information domain. The indictment of thirteen Russians by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just the most recent demonstration that our adversaries are constantly seeking to exploit to our detriment the nature of a more digitized, networked world. In an era where information has never been more plentiful, our adversaries understand that it has also never been more vulnerable to manipulation.

For much of modern history, we have fought wars of iron and silicon in which the outcome hinged on industrial production and the power of the computer chip. Today we confront a new type of conflict: the war of narrative. In this war, cleverly marshalled facts and information—or falsehoods and misinformation—are equally powerful as smart bombs and missiles, and they can be deployed, manipulated, and twisted with far greater ease.

Consider the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election that has now been laid bare. The leaders of the U.S. intelligence community have recently testified that the Russians are likewise gearing up to interfere in the 2018 mid-term election later this year, and almost certainly the 2020 presidential election.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the main goal is steady degradation of U.S. electoral processes and the tenor of our politics. Whether a specific candidate wins is less important than sowing doubt about the legitimacy of our elections in the minds of both the American people and those overseas who look to American democracy as a model. The Russian campaign includes not only efforts to hack voting machines and electoral rolls, but also the seeding of divisive issues through social media. To counter this insidious campaign, we must understand the underlying motives and methods of our adversary.


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In Putin’s Russia, the truth threatens the regime, and, therefore, in a perversion of Winston Churchill’s aphorism, it is obscured at all times by a host of lies. Drawing on his experience as a KGB operative, Putin understands intuitively the power of propaganda, deceit, and false narratives. Misinformation protects his cadre of oligarchs at home, and Putin uses it to delegitimize Western democracies from within. It shrouds the action of “little green men” in Crimea and mercenaries in Syria. Even sport warrants manipulation in Putin’s world, as attempts to glorify Russian athletics at the expense of competitors led to the largest state-sponsored doping scheme in history at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The Chinese government also seeks to advance and control its own narrative, albeit more subtly. Domestically the Communist Party exerts extraordinary control over media and the internet, and insists that global social media and technology companies play by its skewed rules to gain access to the lucrative Chinese market. Internationally, China leverages human and cyber intelligence to steal industrial secrets and intellectual property from Western corporations. At home and abroad, China does not hesitate to use its market power to punish other nations and limit academic freedom. In this way the Communist Party both protects is own cult of personality at home, while manipulating free markets and the Chinese diaspora abroad to its advantage.

The Russian and Chinese governments’ success in manipulating information and hiding the truth has not been lost on other would-be despots around the world. Even our NATO allies are not immune. Illiberal nationalists like Hungarian Leader Viktor Orban have retreated from democratic norms established after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has jailed more journalists than any other country in the world. Indeed, outlawing the truth is the first refuge of an autocrat.

During and after the Cold War, U.S. leaders understood that America’s free press and freedom of expression offered a narrative more powerful than any army or fleet. That is the essential idea behind U.S.-government-funded media outlets such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Voice of America. But in a digitized and interconnected world in which information is increasingly being weaponized, shortcomings in our political system are also creating vulnerabilities that adversaries are intent on exploiting.

Given the First Amendment’s protections and the norms of a free and open society, our leaders and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are often uncomfortable with fully engaging in the information wars being waged by the likes of Russia and China. The time for such reticence has passed.

Fortunately, throughout history America has adapted and overcome whatever challenges we face as a nation. Therefore, our organs of military, intelligence, and diplomacy must willingly engage in conflicts of narrative, ones in which we aggressively wield facts and the truth to counter the lies and deceptions of our adversaries. In both the government and the private sector, we must also better train and support a highly educated cadre of cyber operatives who understand not only the technical dimensions of modern information warfare, but also the critical historical and societal context that lends such power to the American narrative.

Finally, in terms of our politics, partisan polarization and our increasingly tribal politics have created deep divisions in the electorate that enemies have targeted. U.S. politicians must thus understand that our increasingly crude and divisive politics—and the dark passions they purposely inflame—are abetting enemies who seek to turn us against each other, and thus delegitimize our democracy. Our leaders must tame those passions with respectful and civil dialogue that seeks a unifying common ground. No longer is this necessary for political comity alone; now, it is a matter of national security.


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Tech Tent: The battle with the bots

Is the battle against online propaganda already being lost as AI puts powerful new weapons in the hands of the fake news merchants?

Tech Tent reports this week on the desperate efforts by the social media giants to root out the armies of bots trying to pollute online debate.

Following the mass shooting at a Florida school, conspiracy theorists and other trolls harassing some of the survivors were spreading stories that those who spoke out for gun control were actors.

The Twitter Safety account highlighted action the company was taking, and also revealed that it was using what it called anti-spam and anti-abuse tools, to weed out “malicious automation” – bots that retweet abusive messages thousands of times, amplifying their impact.

In other words, both the social media firm and the troll army it is fighting are deploying what you might describe as autonomous weapons made possible by advances in machine learning. Twitter has also been rooting out bots apparently linked to Russia, following the indictment of 13 Russians believed to have created fake accounts to conduct information warfare against the US.

That means that one of the scenarios described in a report on potential malicious use of artificial intelligence published this week has already come true.

One of the global experts behind the report, Haydn Belfield from Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, tells us that what he calls “AI-enabled interference” in the democratic process is one of their major concerns.

“What we’re particularly worried about is undermining institutions of democracy, undermining what enables us to trust our fellow citizens and know what’s happening in the world.”

Advances in machine learning, coupled with software which makes it easy to produce fake speech and video are putting new tools in the hands of those with malicious purposes.

“It’s very cheap and very easy to pump this stuff out and it really undermines the ability to continue a functioning democratic conversation in society.”

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption The threat of AI is real and many of the technologies are already developed, warn 26 leading experts

Not smart

But do the bot armies which Twitter is battling really amount to an example of artificial intelligence – however widely defined – and are they really as potent a threat as has been claimed?

Samantha Bradshaw, a researcher from the Computational Propaganda project at the Oxford Internet Institute, is rather more sceptical. She tells us that Twitter is finding it quite easy to spot automation and the bot creators are taking notice.

“We’re seeing a lot of bot developers taking a step back from automation, and instead blending automation with human curation,” she said. That means they will post new comments, along with the automated retweets, to show that a “real person” is behind the account.

While the spotlight has been on Russia when it comes to this wave of computational propaganda and other types of cyber-warfare, one expert tells us we should be more worried about North Korea.

Dmitri Alperovitch is the Russian-born US cyber-security entrepreneur who founded Crowdstrike, the company which first identified Russian involvement in the hacking of America’s Democratic Party. But he tells us that North Korea has spent 15 years building cyber-warfare capabilities, including “breaking into financial institutions and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars,” and hacking Sony Pictures after it made a jokey film about the regime.

What seems extraordinary is that a country that is so impoverished and so closed off from the outside world should be able to pose a serious cyber-warfare threat to the United States, the world’s technology superpower.

“Anyone who can build a nuclear weapon can certainly do cyber,” said Mr Alperovitch, explaining this is a kind of asymmetric warfare, where attack is easier than defence.

Cyber-warfare techniques and artificial intelligence have advanced a long way in recent years. Linking the two fields could bring new threats to our security that we cannot imagine today.

Podcast available now:


The Real Story

The US has been attacked through information warfare, that’s the assessment of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller. So what does the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities tell us about information warfare techniques and the motives behind them. Is Russia using information to wage war on the US? Carrie Gracie has been speaking to cyber war expert Molly McKew.

(Photocredit: Vector Illustration/ Getty Images)


College Football’s Cyber Warfare

After special prosecutor Robert Mueller announced indictments for a number of Russians last week, the Washington Post published an interview with an employee from a Russian troll farm near St. Petersburg. The employee talked openly about creating multiple online personalities and using them to influence opinions, organize efforts and create division using narratives and stories they had cooked up.

This was some real 21st century spy warfare, the kind of stuff you would see in the Showtime series “Homeland.”

But would you believe this type of social media/internet cyber warfare has been going in college football for a long time?

It has.

The internet disinformation wars began years ago in college football. As far back as the late 1990s coaches and operatives in football programs would create online message board personalities to post “rumors” on opposing team’s message boards. Often the rumors involved an opposing coach being on the hot seat, or players being unhappy or wanting to transfer. These posts usually sparked a string of responses.

These threads were created to sow doubts about rival schools in recruiting and often the coaches who started the disinformation would direct recruits to check them out. The recruit would see the rumor and the negative fan feedback.

Those were the early days and they seem quaint now.

As social media exploded so did the size and sophistication of college football social media operations, including cyber warfare.

Because the NCAA now allows coaches and teams to retweet things recruits post they can easily signal to their fan base who they are recruiting. For years the NCAA did not allow teams to publicize who they were recruiting to prevent rogue boosters from having contact with recruits.

Those days are over. Coaches essentially confirm who their school is recruiting and fans can engage directly with recruits on social media. It creates a lot more opportunity for disinformation.

But the real cyber warfare takes place with internet operations in college football programs. Like the Russian troll farms, they create online personalities to troll other teams, to contact and help recruit players and to try to control and react to any negative news stories.

One of the methods used in the Russian troll farms was to stage mock debates between people in comments sections, or in social media. A couple of trolls would debate a straw man in the comments section and inevitably they would convert the straw man to endorse the view they wanted.

Some programs have the same type of operation. On message boards or social media you’ll see online personalities that always defend their school and engage every time there is something they want to refute.

But the disinformation plots don’t just work on recruits. They are used to fight against negative fans when a team might be struggling. They are used to create apparent “virtual momentum” and the appearance of a groundswell of support when a school is deciding to possibly fire a coach, or hiring one. They are used to swamp the comment sections of certain writers who may be critical of the program.

Athletic directors and administrators fall for it because they are concerned about popular opinion. While head coaches may maintain plausible deniability, the operations are all part of helping them keep their jobs.

It is possible that the superagents in college coaching who have many big-name clients may have similar operations. As openings come and go, those agents could deploy their trolls to whip up popular opinion to get their guy hired and thereby reap the rewards of major new contracts.

As more details about the Russian operation emerge, keep in mind that the cutthroat world of international cyber warfare and politics may be reflective of what may be going on at your favorite school’s athletic program.

These operations have shot up as the NCAA’s regulatory retreat from social media has left an online world of Wild-West lawlessness.

Building the positive propaganda and combatting every negative rumor and utterance has become a full-time 24/7 operation. So too are the even murkier operations that create disinformation through rumor and innuendo to damage other schools or help your school with recruits, fans and administrations. An army of interns in football buildings around the country are always on the case.

And you thought that this was a Russian creation? Guess again.

It is a bold new world out there. Prophecies of disinformation operations using high-level technology that Orwell wrote about in his book “1984” have been exposed in politics. Little did many of you suspect that those Orwellian tactics have already been part of college football programs’ operations for years.


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Mueller indictment shows the evolution of Kremlin political warfare

Far deeper than an online disinformation campaign, the IRA’s work included extensive research on American politics and society and real rallies on U.S. soil. Its operatives impersonated Americans to dupe an unspecified number of U.S. citizens and Trump campaign staff.

The indictment provides the clearest blow-by-blow assessment of how Moscow has adapted its influence operations for the 21st century. The basic tactics are straight from the Soviet “active measures” playbook: a continuous spread of disinformation during the Cold War to discredit American political leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), fuel ethnic tensions and undermine trust in U.S. intelligence agencies.

In 1976, the KGB launched a smear campaign against the anti-Soviet Democratic candidate Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, armed with forged FBI intelligence. In the post-Soviet era, Putin’s advisers have boasted about how they pit different groups against each other inside of Russia. Sound familiar?

What’s next: The coming revolution in AI and machine learning will transform malicious actors’ capabilities to influence democracies. This won’t happen by the fall of 2018, but 2020 will likely usher in even more dangerous forms of political warfare.

Alina Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution.


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Memetic Warfare: Spreading Weaponized Ideas for Influence and Control

Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s was recently highlighted in charges from special counsel Robert Mueller for its operations to “to interfere with elections and political processes.”

According to a new book, however, the Russian operations are just a small part of a much larger picture. Special interest groups, governments, and big businesses are trying to alter the way we perceive information, in order to influence the culture and underlying values of our societies.

The book, “Information Warfare: The meme is the embryo of the narrative illusion,” by James Scott, founder of the Center for Cyber-Influence Operations Studies, explains the strategies of “memetic warfare,” and reveals the groups using this system to advance their agendas.

(Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology)

A meme is an idea that can can “evolve” over time, and eventually influence culture. Memes are often associated with funny pictures overlaid with text. Yet the concept goes much deeper, and can be anything from music, to movies, to words and their perceived meanings.

Memetic warfare is a weaponized use of memes to intentionally introduce ideas into society, packaged in a way that allows them to spread, with a goal to alter the culture and perceptions of a targeted population.

A goal of memetic warfare isn’t to alter reality, but instead to alter the perceived reality.

According to the book, “the most profound weapon a nation or special interest group can possess is ‘control’ over information. This contributes to control over the narrative, and the meme is the embryo of the narrative.”

Other entities play a role in helping shape the ideas, and control people’s exposure to ideas that don’t fit the objective.

“Corporate nation state propagandists, such as Google, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, perpetuate the syntactical amalgamation of censored ideas, narrative illusions, and perception steering initiatives that cripples and imprisons the mind,” it states.

It adds, “Censorship is about what you don’t see, rather than what you do see. Digital gatekeepers provide users with only the content that they want them to view.”

Manufactured Thought

The nature of warfare has changed. As the book notes, war has moved beyond merely killing an enemy or capturing and holding territory. The war of messages has taken over, and “The emerging hybrid war depends on the allegiance of civilian populations and control over narrative.”

The book poses a question. It cites French philosopher René Descartes, stating, “I think, therefore I am,” and poses the question, “but who does one become when the thought is hijacked?”

It raises the issue that as political organizations, social networking companies, legacy news outlets, and other powerful groups work together to manufacture ideas intended to alter the perceptions of a country, how can people recognize what are their own thoughts, and which thoughts have been planted?

In today’s world, “Information Warfare” states, websites like Facebook are nearly as relevant as the United Nations, information-leaking website WikiLeaks has intelligence analysts similar to the CIA, and “Google’s dragnet surveillance censorship algorithm has become the new gatekeeper of critical information that could lead society into a new renaissance.”

A shift in power has taken place, moving to an “an all-out battle for the psychological core of the global population.”

“Digitized influence operations have become the new norm for controlling the electoral process, public opinion, and narrative,” the book states. “The cyber war has moved beyond the battlefield into an all-encompassing struggle in economics, politics, and culture, along with old-school physical confrontation.”

Among its examples, “Information Warfare” notes that some violent protests are being used by special interest groups to advance key narratives. For instance, the communist extremist group Antifa, known for its black-clad, masked followers, label nearly all conservatives as “fascists” and often escalate conflicts into violence.

“In reality, the overwhelming majority of protestors and counter-protestors are non-violent; however, they and, in most cases, the points of their causes do not merit media attention because relatively minuscule radical factions can easily steal the spotlight,” the book states.

In some cases, the true intention of the “revolutionaries” isn’t just to protest, but instead to “derail an event or detract from a cause by altering public perception and polarizing issues based on partisan politics.”

Due to the fact that Antifa members wear masks, anyone can infiltrate the group to escalate conflicts, which can then be used by legacy news outlets and political groups to frame new narratives.

This is a common phenomenon, the book states, noting “false flag operations and operations sponsored by special interest groups are both effective and prevalent in this space.”

Perception Warfare

The term “meme” was coined by militant atheist Richard Dawkins, who compared the spread of ideas and their effects on society to a “virus.”

The concept far outdates Dawkins, however, and ties to broader systems of propaganda and psychological warfare—a method of warfare designed to alter the way a target interprets information.

Propagandists, such as those under communist dictatorships, will try to control a society’s exposure to ideas through censorship, while also feeding select ideas through state media and other channels—similar to the methods used by today’s information gatekeepers.

Among the methods used to frame ideas are misinformation and disinformation. While misinformation is the mere statement of falsehoods, disinformation is much more complex.

A disinformation campaign can take the form of false-flag operations, such as manufactured events or protests, or fake scientific studies and research papers. The disinformation can then be pushed by news outlets or through other channels to help shape a narrative. The rule is that disinformation needs a grain of truth, which the propagandist can point to in order to derail critics during debate.

Another use of disinformation is to cite otherwise true information, but to manufacture a false conclusion, using the propagandist concept of “one plus one equals three.” This can include citing a series of half truths, then claiming the evidence adds up to something it does not. Debunking this method requires a dissenter to debunk each piece of evidence, which can rarely be done quickly enough for public debate.

These tools are still in heavy use. As the book notes, psychological warfare is part of the Chinese Communist Party military’s “three warfares” system, which also includes “legal warfare” to manipulate courts, and “media warfare” to control news and social media coverage.

Disinformation is still actively being used by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which the book says includes “a collection of government-employed online trolls directed to spread propaganda, incite divisions in foreign communities, and otherwise sow chaos and destabilize democratic platforms.”

“Propagandists from Russia, China, and other nations typically pander memes to both sides or multiple factions of sensitive conflicts in an attempt to breed discord, capitalize from chaos, derail productive discussion, distract impending investigations, dwindle valuable resources, or polarize susceptible populations,” “Information Warfare” states.

The overall picture is that numerous groups, both public and private, are using memetic warfare to attack the perceptions of individual people. Some are interested in advancing their political agendas, others are working to destabilize the United States.

The book states, “nations must decide how to best defend their people against foreign influence operations while launching their own campaigns against emerging adversaries in the hyper-dynamic, ill-defined battlefield for control of the meme, control of the narrative, and control of perceived reality.”


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Russian meddling prays on a gullible public

By Hank Waters

In an excellent report published in this newspaper last Sunday, Rudi Keller explained what he learned from several researchers about recent Russian meddling in U.S. affairs using social media. Keller’s primary source was Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, who for years has studied Russian cyber warfare and recently wrote a peer-reviewed report including student protests at the University of Missouri as an example.

Prier says Russian disinformation campaigns seek to sow discord among allies of the U.S. and internally as well. Particularly galling to Prier, a 2003 MU grad, was the successful Russian effort to stoke unfounded fears of a violent white backlash surrounding 2015 student protests and subsequent resignation of then-UM President Tim Wolfe.

Prier found Russian cyber trolls used Twitter to spread untrue accounts of campus violence, including Ku Klux Klan marches and a phony picture of a battered black youth. Incessant repetition on social media caused many to believe the false reports.

The recent indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller charges Russia used its campaign in the 2016 presidential campaign to benefit Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders in order to discredit Democrat Hillary Clinton, thought by the Russians to be their main target.

Larger conclusions by Prier and other expert witnesses interviewed by Keller are interesting. Prier says “They want to force the American public to go over into a corner and argue amongst themselves.”

MU Professor of political science Cooper Drury says the Russian long-term goal is not the victory of any political party but a weaker U.S. If disruption is your goal, says Drury, “then the greater polarization you can get inside a democracy the more successful you will be.”

MU professor of communications Mitchell McKinney says social media helps mask the source of otherwise questionable propaganda, and volume creates believability. Then, he says, most success comes when these rumors are reported by trusted news organization.

“These Russian trolls were driving clicks,” says Prier. “Clicks are what keeps the business moving.”

If political polarization in the U.S. is a primary goal we might think the Russian campaign has been spectacularly successful, but MU professor Drury points out that traditional media once considered neutral is more likely today to take sides. He cites television networks Fox News and MSNBC which attract opposed and mutually disdainful audiences.

Prier’s report sounds pessimistic, but MU journalism professor Mike Kearney argues the internet makes it easier for each of us to share and find information “by ourselves.” Prier says it’s up to providers of information, including Twitter, to be more careful.

Obviously, the first line of defense should be the retail consumer of news, but as we see in the new age of easy disinformation, we have not yet fully learned that skill. A gullible public has existed since the first human society appeared. Today the same human frailty persists, frighteningly fueled by the internet and its latest, most insidious tool, Twitter.

Yes, I will say “insidious.” The benefit of sharing innocuous messages is sadly overcome by the pernicious opportunities gained by newly empowered trolls who so easily get in our heads anonymously. Will we learn to be skeptical enough?



The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

—Winston Churchill


Europe isn’t ready to face modern threats

NATO is preparing for the wrong war. The alliance’s members have a combined 3 million troops and close to 10,000 tanks. But tomorrow’s battles won’t be fought just by conventional means. As hostile states exploit the blurred lines between war and peace, NATO and its Western allies will have to become more creative in defending against hybrid attacks. That means widening the scope beyond the military.

European countries are woefully unprepared for the type of hybrid warfare being developed across the globe. Last month, Britain’s army chief Nick Carter warned that the U.K.’s failure to keep up with Russian defense capabilities has left it exposed to cyberattacks that could take a heavy toll on civilian life. The U.S. too is failing to keep pace — a recent study found that it could lose a war against Russia or China.

Consider power generation. Germany alone has nearly 2,000 power plants. In a conventional attack, adversaries might bomb a power plant. Today, they’re more likely to hack it or send a missile. Powers like Russia and China are not conventional adversaries; they have the ability — and the willingness — to bring a country to a standstill long before a conventional war takes place.

“We’ve been fooling ourselves into thinking that we’ve constrained warfare,” said General Richard Barrons, who until 2016 commanded Britain’s Joint Forces Command. “But the nature of war never changes; it’s about violence and brutality. Now opponents are moving toward a sophisticated use of hybrid warfare.”

Hostile foreign powers are, nowadays, more likely to attack via hacking or sending a missile.

A potential hack on a power grid would not just plunge citizens into darkness; it would raise mortality rates, disrupt water supplies and shut down ports. “They can paralyze us long before we get to a kinetic war,” said Julian Lindley-French from the National Defense University in Washington. And it could be accomplished with relatively inexpensive cyber tools that are “difficult to predict and hard to trace,” according to Jarno Limnéll, professor of cybersecurity at Aalto University in Finland.

The sea cables that conduct nearly all internet traffic carry no less than $10 trillion of financial transactions every day. They present another easy target. Even if only some of these cables were sabotaged, chaos would ensue among vital services like retail and transport. Here’s the dilemma: Because NATO and its allies can boast of strong conventional armed forces, hostile states are more likely to use different forms of warfare — and then argue that an act of aggression like hacking a power plant doesn’t constitute a true act of war.

Call it “weasel warfare” — the equivalent of throwing pebbles at a neighbor’s windows from a safe location behind a hedge. Modern warfare will be less about territorial invasion than it will be about breaking society’s will and grinding daily life to a halt.

Alarmist? Not at all.

Power companies are already noticing a growing number of hacks. Between 1992 and 2006, Russia engineered 55 energy cut-offs. Throughout 2015 and 2016, “elements in the Russian government” hacked the Danish defense ministry, gaining access to employees’ emails. And in recent months, Russian submarines have also been circling around vital communication cables in the North Atlantic.

As open societies, we’ll never be able to fully defend ourselves against weasel warfare. But we can build resilience. Doing so would be inexpensive (compared to a conventional military buildup). But it would necessitate coordinated action by institutions from across society: Cabinet ministers, government agencies, companies, civil organizations.

International Cybersecurity Forum in Lille | Philippe Huguen/AFP via Getty Images

Denmark’s total defense system is a good model for how this can be done: Every year, the government organizes an exercise for every key sector of society (including the Cabinet, corporations, civic organizations and its military) focused on specific threat scenarios. The most recent one involved a terrorist attack on crucial government targets combined with a cyberattack. If every segment of society is trained in how to respond, the scope of the damage caused by a potential attack will be far smaller.

Governments should also launch public awareness campaigns informing citizens about how the services on which they rely — power, water, transport and the internet — would be affected in case of an attack. Cities and government agencies should offer citizens training in how to get by without this full slate of services.

Together with industry, government agencies should also refine resilience plans. During the Cold War, every country had such plans. But lately they have been collecting dust and are, at any rate, no longer relevant because the nature of warfare has changed. A side effect of globalization also means that governments no longer have the same power to command companies to action.

Countries should also follow in the footsteps of Sweden, which announced in January it would establish a new agency for psychological defense. Creating resilience against the erosion of our democratic institutions is also crucial to defending our societies from modern forms of warfare.

Because weasel warfare targets citizens’ ordinary way of life, we can no longer leave security to a small number of paid troops. The wars of tomorrow call for resilience at every level of society — from school children to prime ministers — and we can only hope to counter them if we boost civil engagement.

Elisabeth Braw is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.


Information Warfare: The Meme is the Embryo of the Narrative Illusion

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology’s (ICIT) Center for Cyber Influence Operations Studies (CCIOS) today announced the publication of “Information Warfare: The Meme is the Embryo of the Narrative Illusion,” the highly anticipated book on digital influence operations, fake news, and propaganda authored by James Scott, Co-Founder and Senior Fellow of ICIT and CCIOS.

The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) Introduces the Center for Cyber-Influence Operations Studies (CCIOS), an an advisory that studies the weaponized digital applications used by foreign nation-states for influence operations. (PRNewsfoto/Institute for Critical Infrastr)

As demonstrated during the 2016 Presidential election and other major events of the past year including the Black Lives Matter and take a knee movements and conflicts between antifa and the alt-right, control over the distribution of information (whether real of fake) has shifted from traditional media to social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. This shift has given threat actors like Russia, China and special interest groups the power to weaponize accounts, memes, and hashtags and revolutionize propaganda and information warfare.

“The meme is the embryo of the narrative. Therefore, controlling the meme renders control of the ideas; control the ideas and you control the belief system; control the belief system and you control the narrative; control the narrative and you control the population without firing a single bullet,” said Mr. Scott.

This publication, destined to change the influence operations landscape on a global scale, offers the first of its kind assessment of the attack vectors (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Google etc.) and tools (Socionics, cognitive bias, spiral dynamics, psychographic targeting, etc.) used by threat actors to target populations. The book covers topics including how cognitive biases assist in engineered memetic responses, psychological profiling concepts used in memetic design, the use of logical fallacies to shape troll and bot responses, guerrilla tools, techniques and procedures, and threat actors like Russia, China, and dragnet surveillance propagandists.

ICIT and CCIOS will host an exclusive briefing on this publication featuring an in-person interview with Mr. Scott at the March 14, 2018ICIT Cyber Intelligence Briefing in Washington D.C.

About James Scott: James Scott is a Senior Fellow and co-founder of ICIT, Senior fellow at CCIOS and the author of more than 40 books with 9 best sellers on the topics of hacking cyborgs, energy sector cybersecurity, nation state cyber espionage and more. He advises to more than 35 congressional offices and committees as well as the American intelligence community, NATO and Five Eyes on cyber warfare and digital influence operations. Mr. Scott’s work gains regular coverage in domestic and international publications and his work was referenced by media, academia and industry more than 3000 times in 2017 alone.

About CCIOS: The Center for Cyber Influence Operations Center (CCIOS) is an advisory that studies the weaponized digital applications used by foreign nation-states for influence operations. CCIOS research is hyper-focused on all facets of information warfare, the weaponization of psychographic and demographic information, influence campaigns, and propaganda studies exclusive to digital weaponization.

About ICIT: The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), a 501c3 non-profit organization, is America’s Cybersecurity Think Tank providing objective advisory to the legislative community, federal agencies and critical infrastructure leaders on critical infrastructure security, cyber warfare, and digital influence operations. Through original cutting-edge research, publications and educational events, ICIT and its members are improving the resiliency of our nation’s critical infrastructure sectors and defending National Security.

Cision View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/information-warfare-the-meme-is-the-embryo-of-the-narrative-illusion-300595945.html



Vladimir Putin makes use of cyber weapons to maintain Individuals at one another’s throats

By – – Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Just so there’s no confusion: This column is not about Americans conspiring or colluding or coordinating with Russians. That’s a separate controversy about which I don’t have a lot to say at this moment.

What this column is about: Dezinformatsiya, the Russian word that gave birth, in the 1980s, to the English neologism “disinformation.” Understand that disinformation is not a synonym for misinformation. The later implies information that happens to be wrong. The former implies an attempt to deceive public opinion for strategic purposes.

For decades, thousands of Soviet propagandists and espionage agents disseminated tons of dezinformatsiya around the world. Today, using social media, sophisticated tech platforms and cyber weapons, the Russian government, headed by , is running a dezinformatsiya offensive beyond Joseph Stalin’s wildest dreams.

Jamie Fly and Laura Rosenberger have been studying this operation. Senior fellows at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, they are seasoned national security professionals. Both have worked, among other assignments, at the National Security Council, Mr. Fly in the George W. Bush administration, Ms. Rosenberger under President Obama.

They’ve been tracking “Kremlin-oriented social media accounts,” “troll farms,” “fake personas” and “fake organizations.” President , they’ve concluded, is attempting to undermine faith in America’s democratic institutions, assist extremists on both the left and right, divide and polarize Americans (even more than they already are), and poison the policy debates that citizens of a mature republic should be able to conduct in a civil manner.

Elections are just one target of opportunity. Russia’s networks, Mr. Fly and Ms. Rosenberger write in the Journal of Democracy, have been using social media to heighten tension in a range of controversies. One example: Reasonable people may differ over whether Confederate statues, in Charlottesville and elsewhere, should remain or be removed. The mission of Russian disinformation operations: Make this a fight between neo-Nazis on one side and Antifa thugs on the other.

Another example: has a strong interest in keeping his European neighbors dependent on his oil and gas, and pushing the price of those commodities as high as possible. So ’s networks have been running a covert disinformation campaign against hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has made it possible to access abundant natural gas deposits cheaply. The Kremlin didn’t create the controversy over fracking, it has simply promoted “some of the most divisive, conspiracy-minded stories around” that debate.

America is not Moscow’s only target. The Fly/Rosenberger research “has found examples of Russian interference” in 27 countries since 2004: planting false information in reputable newspapers, boosting radical political parties, hacking moderate political parties and leaking juicy tidbits to friendly and/or credulous journalists. More insidious than spreading fake news is sprinkling lies into a goulash of facts to produce a distorted narrative that becomes impossible to successfully rebut.

Why is doing this? If that’s the question you’re asking, you haven’t been paying attention to the man. His mission is to restore the power Russia lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. And, in his calculus, strengthening Russia and weakening the West amount to the same thing.

is an authoritarian and like other authoritarians — Chinese, Iranian, Turkish, North Korean, etc. — he regards democratic and republican forms of government as weak, decadent and, over time, bound to fail or, better yet, be defeated.

Undermining democratic institutions increases ’s legitimacy. You say elections in Russia are rigged? His supporters say that elections are not so free and fair in America and Europe either. This perception hobbles movements in support of civil rights and representative government everywhere.

Okay, I think I will say a few words about the raging partisan debate — allegations from Democrats and some #NeverTrump Republicans that meddled in America’s 2016 election with the goal of helping Donald Trump. More likely is what retired CIA chief of station and veteran Russia-watcher Daniel Hoffman concluded: that the “Russian espionage disinformation plot” was meant to target “both parties and America’s political process.”

As evidence, he notes a 2017 report from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence which concludes that “pro-Russia bloggers even prepared an election-night Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, designed to question the election’s validity after a Clinton victory.”

As V.I. Lenin would say: What is to be done? A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Chris Van Hollen would punish Moscow if our intelligence community determines that Russia is interfering in future elections.

Mr. Fly and Ms. Rosenberger argue that a “whole-of-government response, with a strong interagency lead and process that cuts across national security and domestic policy spaces, will be required to address this threat.”

They add: “With the United States and Europe facing a shared threat with similar tactics, a united trans-Atlantic response is critical to pushing back on Moscow’s efforts to weaken democracies and divide democratic nations from one another.”

Finally, the United States should do whatever is necessary to win the race in cyberspace, as much a domain of modern warfare as air, land, sea and space. Our aim should be nothing less than overwhelming superiority, both defensively and offensively.

We also need to get way ahead in the race for artificial intelligence, a weapon of dezinformatsia with enormous potential. declared last year that “whoever becomes the leader in this area will rule the world.”

The United States has no interest in ruling the world. The United States does have a vital interest in preventing authoritarians from ruling the world. Acutely aware of that, will do everything in his power to keep us at each other’s throats.

• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.



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