You think election meddling is bad now? Buckle up for 2020, US intel chief tells Congress

Expect trolls, cyber attacks, and even deep fakes in next White House run


Attacks intended to sway the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential election are probably already underway, according to the nation's head of intelligence.

Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, told the the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that China, Russia, and Iran are most likely already well into their operations aimed at influencing the outcome of the election to suit their national interests. It'll make 2016 look like a warm up, he warned.

"More broadly, US adversaries and strategic competitors almost certainly will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine US alliances and partnerships, and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere," Coats said in his remarks (PDF) to the bipartisan panel.

"We expect our adversaries and strategic competitors to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections."

In addition to the current tactics of trolling, hacking political operatives, and social media influence, Coats said deep fake videos are likely to rear their ugly heads in 2020.

"Adversaries and strategic competitors probably will attempt to use deep fakes or similar machine-learning technologies to create convincing—but false—image, audio, and video files to augment influence campaigns directed against the United States and our allies and partners," he told the Senate.

Let's be careful out there

The remarks were part of an annual security briefing that Coats and his counterparts at other intelligence agencies give to the committee on the various network and data threats they expect the US to face in the coming months and years.

In addition to messing with elections, the US intel boss said that he expects hostile nations to continue cyberattacks against the US, with each country choosing a different tactic based on its strengths and needs.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA, JANUARY 2017: Russian traditional toy - Matryoshka with a portrait of Putin and Trump. showcase souvenir kiosk Editorial credit: dimbar76 / Shutterstock, Inc.

US midterms barely over when Russians came knocking on our servers (again), Democrats claim

READ MORE

Russia, for example, will likely continue to go after critical infrastructure and focus on stealing intel from NATO and Five Eyes (US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand) allies in an attempt to get military and diplomatic dirt.

Iran, meanwhile, is likely to focus on social media campaigns to help boost its public image and sway opinions in its favor and North Korea will look to boost its coffers with financial hacks.

China, however, was specifically singled out as the biggest threat to the US. Coats pointed out that Beijing has the capacity and desire to go after American targets for not only diplomatic and military information, but also for attacks on infrastructure and private-sector business.

"China remains the most active strategic competitor responsible for cyber espionage against the US Government, corporations, and allies," Coats noted.

"It is improving its cyber attack capabilities and altering information online, shaping Chinese views and potentially the views of US citizens—an issue we discuss in greater detail in the Online Influence Operations and Election Interference section of this report." ®


Other stories you might like

  • DuckDuckGo tries to explain why its browsers won't block Microsoft ad trackers
    Meanwhile, Tails 5.0 users told to stop what they're doing over Firefox flaw

    DuckDuckGo promises privacy to users of its Android, iOS browsers, and macOS browsers – yet it allows certain data to flow from third-party websites to Microsoft-owned services.

    Security researcher Zach Edwards recently conducted an audit of DuckDuckGo's mobile browsers and found that, contrary to expectations, they do not block Meta's Workplace domain, for example, from sending information to Microsoft's Bing and LinkedIn domains. Specifically, DuckDuckGo's software didn't stop Microsoft's trackers on the Workplace page from blabbing information about the user to Bing and LinkedIn for tailored advertising purposes. Other trackers, such as Google's, are blocked.

    "I tested the DuckDuckGo so-called private browser for both iOS and Android, yet neither version blocked data transfers to Microsoft's Linkedin + Bing ads while viewing Facebook's workplace[.]com homepage," Edwards explained in a Twitter thread.

    Continue reading
  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • Atos pushes out HPC cloud services based on Nimbix tech
    Moore's Law got you down? Throw everything at the problem! Quantum, AI, cloud...

    IT services biz Atos has introduced a suite of cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) services, based around technology gained from its purchase of cloud provider Nimbix last year.

    The Nimbix Supercomputing Suite is described by Atos as a set of flexible and secure HPC solutions available as a service. It includes access to HPC, AI, and quantum computing resources, according to the services company.

    In addition to the existing Nimbix HPC products, the updated portfolio includes a new federated supercomputing-as-a-service platform and a dedicated bare-metal service based on Atos BullSequana supercomputer hardware.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022