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Reining in Technology Companies Looking for Data, Part 2

Several countries – including the United States, France, and Germany – pointed to Russia for interference in their elections.
The first part of this two-part series explains how Russia has used social media as a large part of this effort.

Facebook is struggling to regain public confidence since the scandal of Russia and Cambridge Analytica. However, it is unclear exactly what hostile nation states have done in social media. For example, did Russia simply make an opportunistic game on Facebook and take advantage of the credulity of users? Or have we, the American public, been targeted as virtual victims in a cyber war?

Set & # 39; Cyberwar & # 39;

There are victims and victims of electoral interference. For example, the election of an anti-immigrant candidate in a conflict zone could result in the referral of refugees and their deaths. A war hawk could trigger new wars or increase existing wars, causing casualties in all affected countries.

Conversely, meddling in electing someone who eliminates trade sanctions or otherwise favoring the country that interferes could reduce the number of people affected by shortages. All that to say that yes, elections have consequences. They affect people in the real world, and often around the world.

That being said, could Russia's intervention in presidential and other elections in the United States be an act of war? Have we become pawns in a cyber war, or even victims?

"Russian interference in US elections is a serious problem, and their false news on Facebook may be illegal if it is intended to influence elections," said WK Kellogg Associate Professor at the University Michigan School of Information.

"However, I would hesitate to call it" cyberwar. "If political messages aimed at influencing the population of another country are cyberwar, then the American Voice of the radio's programming America would be a cyber war, "he told the E-Commerce Times.

It seems that the US government recognizes that cyberattacks and manipulations in social media do not in themselves constitute a state of war. the
The Department of Defense's Law of War Handbook sets out the appropriate labeling of various assaults and provides advice to the US Armed Forces on these issues. This extensive book deals with digital attacks with physical impacts, such as an attack on a dam or power grid, but does not consider the theft of personal data or the degradation of websites as an act of war.

Others agree that there must be a physical element with the cyber attack to be described as cyberwar. Some argue that Russia's attacks on voting machines could be this element of qualification.

"To fully understand the risk of voting, you need to understand the complete life cycle or cyberwar of elections," said Laura Lee, executive vice president for rapid prototyping at

"In the case of national elections, the key ground includes the provider who manufactures the system, the database and the voting registration software, the final voting machine, and the main infrastructure who checks the results system. "

However, attacks on voting machines can not be considered physical attacks either.

"A cyber war is determined when a nation-state conducts an offensive and aggressive attack against another nation, but it is generally used to ensure that traditional weapons do better by taking all defensive or intelligence capabilities "Carson, chief of security at

"Cyber ​​is usually used to weaken the target before launching other attacks," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"We are currently in a cyberoffensive, and cyber-weapons are being used, but we are not yet in a complete cyberwar," Carson said.

"Cyber ​​is usually only part of the war," he said. When cyber-weapons are "combined with traditional weapons, then we can confidently say that we are in a cyber war."

Cause and attribution

Like most forms of nation-state-sponsored aggression, it's hard to find the right culprit – and if you can not answer the question of cause, it's hard to identify a cause. .

"The wrong direction is often used in cyberattacks to create conflict or wrong conclusions, so the victim of cybercrime continues to search in the wrong direction and waste resources to pursue another victim."

"The attribution is actually one of the most difficult parts of cyberattacks: without concrete and transparent evidence, we can only believe that the government has conducted an effective digital forensics, and no doubt attribute these cyberattacks to the Russian government ". added.

Given the well-documented mistrust between the Trump administration and the US intelligence community (IC), it is unclear whether the administration would accept or act on such numerical analyzes. True, he has been reluctant to do it so far.

However, it is unlikely that IC will base the award on digital forensics alone. He has other methods to deduce who is behind what action. Thus, his attributions will probably be safer than those of a private sector security research firm that does not benefit from government resources.

Unfortunately, the IC does not like to reveal its methods before the courts as part of the discovery, which is why it is rare for formal criminal charges to be brought against perpetrators sponsored by a nation-state. Special adviser Robert Mueller
the indictment of 13 Russians is an exception that proves the rule, but this is not the only exception. From time to time, the US government has registered cyberattacks sponsored by
The list of the most wanted people by the FBI.

In other words, state-sponsored cyberattacks and manipulations in social media have been treated as crimes rather than acts of war.

"The delivery of fake news by Russia is opportunistic: it applies Russian genius to propaganda on open internet broadcast channels and enhanced by Western democracies," said Toyama, of the University of Michigan .

Propaganda of social media

Several countries attributed the recent electoral interference to Russia and identified social media as the biggest propaganda tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The main impact of technology is to amplify the underlying human strengths: Facebook has amplified the effect of Russian interference, the underlying causes of which are political "said Toyama.

"There would be no false Russian scandal unless Russia wants to finance the creation, distribution and targeted advertising of fake news abroad," he said. .

While several countries have agreed that social media is at the heart of Russia's recent election attacks, their strategies for dealing with it have differed. The European Union has launched voter education programs and adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to help protect elections in this country. However, the United States has made no comparable effort and has no national protection of data confidentiality.

Facebook had been working to appease the American public in the hope of avoiding rigid regulations. He recently
suspended hundreds of applications in its efforts to prevent another system of data abuse from Cambridge Analytica users.

However, these steps seem to have had little effect on restoring the trust of users.

Confidence in Facebook has dropped 66% since the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the downward trend has continued, according to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute.

It seems that the United States may have to follow the example of the EU on voter education and regulation if elections need to be protected from malicious foreign influences.

"Regulations at least as stringent as those that apply to the broadcast media with respect to elections should apply to the Internet and social media," Toyama said. "For starters, there must be" know your customers "rules for internet advertising platforms – it's not enough to accept ads from anyone with the money to pay for them."

Pam Baker has been a journalist with the ECT News Network since 2007. Her main areas of interest are technology, business and finance. She has written hundreds of articles for prominent publications, including InformationWeek Institutional Investor CIO.com and TechTarget. She is the author of several analytical studies on technology, as well as eight books, the latest of which is Data Divination: Big Data Strategies . She has also written and produced an award-winning documentary on paper making. She is a member of the National Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Internet Press Guild. Pam email.

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