Bottom Line Up Front Last week, Twitter announced it would no longer accept political ads. Meanwhile, Facebook officials have lamented that it would be a bad thing for democracy if social media companies were left to discern fact versus fiction. Even with world-class programmers and sophisticated algorithms, Facebook has ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Facebook recently announced that it identified and disabled Russian and Iranian disinformation campaigns operating on its platform. The proliferation of bots, fake accounts, and malign disinformation campaigns by state and non-state actors alike is expected to increase significantly in the run up to the 2020 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of terrorist propaganda on the Internet aimed at attracting potential recruits while striking fear in terrorists’ adversaries. The aftermath of the Christchurch attack demonstrates how democracies have struggled with the implications—legal, moral, social—of removing and banning ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Conflict is no longer relegated strictly to the physical battlefield but extends through cyberspace, often manifesting in social media disinformation campaigns. There is a social media battle currently in Sudan over the fate of the country’s transition from strongman rule to a power-sharing arrangement between ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Thousands of videos and channels that promote extremist beliefs will be removed from YouTube, according to the company. To date, tech companies have mostly focused on removing jihadist-related content but more recently, social media giants have come to target other hateful and violent ideologies, including ...

The Sri Lankan government responded to Sunday’s deadly terrorist attacks in part, by shutting down access to some social media sites, calling the ban a temporary way to stop the spread of unverified and speculative information. We spoke with Cipher Brief expert Farah Pandith, former chair of a Department of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The investigation into the hacking of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ phone demonstrates how private firms have developed sophisticated electronic espionage capabilities. From social engineering to cyberespionage, private firms and individuals are increasingly hired by governments to blackmail critics and rivals. This trend will likely intensify—barriers ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Russia continues to use social media disinformation to sow doubt, effectively deploying an army of trolls across the Internet. On almost every issue—race, religion, government—Russian social media campaigns aim to create division in western societies. With false scare tactics, these campaigns have made Brexit a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the extent of Russia’s manipulation of Facebook became more apparent following the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the social media company reluctantly investigated itself and discovered serious shortcomings. In the aftermath of the Saudi-ordered murder of Jamal Khashoggi, there was renewed attention to the use ...

Bottom Line Up Front: With the caliphate in ruins, the Islamic State is likely to focus more attention on the ‘virtual world’ and shaping its narrative. One of the reasons the Islamic State has been so successful in its use of propaganda is that the group deliberately dedicates substantial resources ...

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data exploitation crisis seems to be waking up a new wave of Americans to the fundamental downsides of our purposeful addiction to social media providers. Russia’s information war, designed to foment domestic unrest, exposed more of us to the reality of online manipulation, but many viewed this ...

Bottom Line: A spy’s tradecraft must constantly evolve because of the rapid changes of the digital age – especially the tools and skills required to maintain a legend, or cover identity. Virtual recordkeeping, modern surveillance technology and the vast amounts of a person’s background accessible on open-source platforms such as ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to exploit open and free U.S. cyberspace, which serves as a force multiplier for commerce and freedom of expression, with hacking and discoverable influence operations. Conducting all-source forensics following these Russian attacks on our democratic process, U.S. social media networking sites are in the ...

Internet freedom took a nosedive over the last year, with governments doing more than ever to spread disinformation on social media and attacks in the “real world” also surging against dissident speech, according to a new survey. The Freedom on the Net report, published by Freedom House, found that only ...

It was 1999, and the Russian Prosecutor General, Yury Skuratov, who was investigating former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s administration for corruption, found himself in the bull’s eye of a blackmail operation designed to smear his reputation and force him to resign. The operation used blackmail – known as kompromat, or ...

Top social media companies revealed more details about how Russian operatives made extensive use of their platforms to wage a disinformation and influence campaign targeting the 2016 presidential election as senators on Tuesday called the threat a critical national security issue and questioned the ability of tech companies to combat ...

In recent years, Russia has waged a new cold war on the United States through its actions, though we have only recently come to grips with this reality. As in any war, the Kremlin’s objectives are political. The principal weapon in this conflict is information, and the evidence of Russia’s ...

The key question as representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Congress is not how Russia used social media to interfere in last year’s presidential election, but rather what role U.S. voters, the federal government and social media companies should play in building resiliency against such ...

Members of Congress have expressed deep concern over the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign in the 2016 election. They have even taken some action, most notably voting in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 to dramatically broaden the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) mandate to include countering propaganda ...

A bipartisan group of influential lawmakers is expected to introduce the Honest Ads Act this week, legislation that would seek to increase transparency in American elections—and foreign election tampering—through stricter disclosure requirements. The proposed bill, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ), would create ...

U.S. immigration authorities will soon start to catalog social media handles from permanent residents and naturalized citizens. The new information requirements expand “categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”  ...

As more details emerge about Kremlin influence and disinformation operations aimed at sowing discord and exploiting divisions in the United States, congressional investigators are taking a closer look at the role top technology companies played in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are meeting in closed briefings ...

Terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS have strategically disseminated propaganda that appeals to a wide variety of individuals. Although al Qaeda was the first terrorist organization to launch a media wing, ISIS has developed far more expansive media capabilities as it uses various platforms to attract new recruits ...

Just a few days away from the German federal election, a widely held opinion is that Germany has been spared from interference by Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the main advocate of the current EU sanctions on Russia, is widely expected to remain in power come September 25th. Moreover, hypothetically ...

Two top congressional Democrats said Facebook’s announcement it had discovered a Russian-funded campaign promoting divisive social and political messages demands a “very serious look” and likely is just “the tip of the iceberg.” Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Mark Warner on Thursday called for the United States to broadly reassess ...

Tradecraft. A term popularized in the novels of John le Carré, but practiced by spies throughout history. Tradecraft includes a number of methodologies, ranging from chalk-marked dead drops, and honey traps, to wiretapping, losing a tail, and safe houses. Spies have to master their craft if they are to be ...

Intelligence officers must often use a false identity – a legend or cover. How has social media and digital technology changed how they create and preserve these cover identities, and what have counterintelligence units traditionally looked for when trying to identify foreign spies? The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with ...

Intelligence officers’ tradecraft is highly guarded for good reason. One of its most important aspects is establishing a cover identity so foreign governments and hostile groups are not aware who is spying on them. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief, about what ...

The terrorist attacks that have swept the United Kingdom mark yet another chapter in the long war by violent Islamist extremists against the free world. Terrorism in Europe is not a new phenomenon. The fact that three attacks have struck Britain in the last three months alone exposes that despite ...

ISIS has become infamous for using the Internet to radicalize and recruit individuals worldwide. Lesser known, however, are the tech-savvy ISIS supporters who dedicate their time and resources not only to advancing the group’s goals but also to safeguarding its online operations. The cumulative efforts of these supporters represent arguably ...

As people’s lives become more attached to the internet, cyber attacks will have more of an impact. One of the most pressing threats is the growth of botnets, or networks of compromised computers that can be leveraged for a variety of nefarious purposes. The Cipher Brief spoke with Omri Iluz, ...

With the recent U.S. military raid in Yemen and the ongoing campaign in Mosul, the Trump Administration is so far continuing the United States’ longstanding counterterrorism strategy: conducting drone strikes to eliminate terrorist leaders; launching Special Forces operations to capture or kill high-value targets; and working with allies on the ...

For years, the easiest avenue to conduct a cyber attack against a business or an organization was social engineering attacks via emails. While still a primary concern, criminals and nation-states have begun adapting their methods by targeting the largest and most public surface of any business: their presence on social ...

Do Chinese authorities need more laws to surveil people? From the earliest days of the Chinese Communist Party, authorities have kept the closest of eyes on all behavior for signs of dissent. At that time, party members were obliged to report on one another; during the Cultural Revolution, that grim ...

Collaborating with the private sector remains “a work in progress” for the U.S. government and intelligence community, but prioritizing that effort is crucial to protecting national security, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday. Reaching out to the private sector is a “daunting task,” the U.S.’s top spy said, ...

The clash between the tech industry and the federal government over data access has become an enduring part of the national narrative about countering violent extremism. On one side, there are those who argue that, as along as proper legal procedures are followed, the government should have access to people’s ...

Social media is a potentially powerful source of information for the Intelligence Community, but the tensions between the government and the tech industry have made it more difficult for the IC to partner with industry in order to efficiently utilize it. The Cipher Brief asked Rhea Siers, former Deputy Associate ...

The issue of government access to privately held data about American citizens is an important one, and the debate about privacy has expanded into the field of social media. In early May, a firm called Dataminr – which provides real time updates on breaking events by monitoring Twitter data – ...

One day before Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian immigrant who killed 84 people by plowing a rented refrigerator truck into the Bastille Day crowd celebrating on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, a State Department official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that ISIS [the Islamic State] was “tapping into already ...

The Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping is viewed more favorably by China’s youth than any previous regime in the country’s recent history. Yet there is no guarantee that Beijing will be able to meet their increasingly material expectations. If it cannot continue to grow economic opportunities, the Party ...

If Xi Jinping is the father and China’s people are his children, then Xi’s parenting style is definitely based on discipline rather than trust.  The question is, will tightening his grip on society through restrictions of media, entertainment and free speech make China’s youth respect their father figure, or resent ...

Since 2012, President Xi Jinping has mounted an aggressive anti-corruption campaign against the so-called “tigers and flies,” corrupt officials at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as local bureaucrats and businessmen throughout the country.  Over 1500 officials have been prosecuted for corruption so far, including ...

ISIS has stood out among other terrorist organizations for, among other factors, its deftness at strategic communication. Using propaganda to increase followership is certainly not new among terrorist organizations, nor among state aggressors.  At al-Qaeda’s peak, they were exploiting satellite television, the Internet, DVD technology, and cellular communications to intimidate ...

The rise of the Islamic State has been accompanied by the increasing presence of the terror group on social media. ISIS’s message of a Muslim utopia is disseminated through various organizations and outlets, all coordinated through complex bureaucratic measures. Counterterrorism analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, Harleen ...

German U-Boat commanders called a period in 1940-41 when they were more or less unfettered and free to attack at will, “the happy time.”  For the Islamic State, the “happiest time” was certainly the period between the summer of 2013, beginning with the gradual fall of the Syrian city of ...

Social media use has skyrocketed in recent years and connected the world in ways unimaginable in the past. Families, friends, professionals, political movements, and corporations all use social media to maintain contact around the globe, share ideas, unite against oppressive regimes, or enhance a company’s brand recognition. Facebook's billion and ...

It seems that wherever opportunities for innovation and technological developments arise, cyber attacks are not far behind.  Latin American countries are certainly seeing this trend emerge in their markets.  Latin America may not be the first region that comes to mind when one thinks of technology and innovation.  Indeed, Latin ...

With the growing threat of cyber attacks in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the Organization of American States (OAS) has been a crucial component in analyzing the threats’ origins and methods for defending against them.  Belisario Contreras, the Cyber Security Program Manager at the OAS, spoke with The Cipher ...

Aligned with the global trend, Latin America has experienced colossal growth in access to information, facilitated through the Internet and information communication technology (ICT). Because ICT enables efficiencies across all disciplines, gains realized through advancements in ICT have a compounding effect on many aspects of life—sometimes for good and sometimes ...

Long before ISIS, transnational terrorist groups had discovered the use of the Internet and social networks. Terrorists went online for recruiting, fund-raising, mission-planning, intelligence gathering, and propagandizing about their cause.  Yet, the efforts of ISIS have garnered unusual attention. In part, that is because their activities are both vigorous and ...