The need for resilience in confronting Russia’s cyber warfare extends beyond bits and bytes to building up better political resistance to the influence operations that allows Russia to exploit its cyber attacks, argues analyst P.W. Singer. We must continue to uphold our freedom of speech but also ensure that authoritarian leaders don’t take advantage of it, Singer writes for Wired magazine:
Congress should reconvene the Active Measures Working Group, an interagency effort during the Cold War that debunked the worst of Soviet misinformation. It should also work in cohesion with our NATO allies to help identify and counter Russia’s campaigns (many of which just pivoted from targeting US to European voters). This will also help in debunking the individuals and outlets who have chosen to become either willing partners or полезные дураки, “useful idiots,” for foreign government propaganda.
Other parts of society will also have to weigh their own roles, much as in the Cold War. Tech firms have too long looked away at the manipulation of their networks by extremist groups and now authoritarian governments. The activities by Russian troll factories and bot campaigns that accelerate false news and propaganda violate terms of service and should become a target of reform in social media.
So too does traditional media need to rethink how it rewards these campaigns. When hackers outed millions of people cheating on their spouses after the Ashley Madison breach, responsible journalists reported on the breach, but not the fruits of it. By contrast, they breathlessly reported the most minute and personal details in the latest Russian government attacks. The New York Times public editor even acknowledged last year that by acting this way, the paper had ended up functioning as a “a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.” Will media continue to be so in the future?
“Akin to the Cold War, we face a long-term challenge that has to be managed and mitigated,” Singer notes. “For as long as we use the Internet, adversaries like those in Putin’s Russia will seek to exploit it and us.” RTWT