Thursday, August 23, 2018

Midterms 2018: Something Wicked This Way Comes

by Scott Creighton

 With all the hype and PR events taking place right now, with the Secure Elections Act hanging in the balance, I fear something wicked is taking shape on the horizon in terms of the upcoming mid-term elections.

Jamarl Thomas



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(links after the break)

 from The Verge 8-22-18
"Alex Stamos — who left the company earlier this month — argued his case in an essay for Lawfare, saying it was “too late to protect the 2018 elections.” He’s responding to two pieces of news from yesterday: Microsoft seizing six domains apparently intended for Russian political phishing attacks, and Facebook deactivating 652 fake accounts and pages that were allegedly engaged in misinformation campaigns.

Stamos cites this as evidence that hackers from Russia (and now Iran) have not been deterred from election meddling..."
from CNN 8-22-18
The Democratic National Committee contacted the FBI on Tuesday after it detected what it believes was the beginning of a sophisticated attempt to hack into its voter database, a Democratic source tells CNN.

The DNC was alerted in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a cloud service provider and a security research firm that a fake login page had been created in an attempt to gather usernames and passwords that would allow access to the party's database, the source said.
The DNC and the two companies involved in detecting the operation say they believe they thwarted a potential attack...
The source said the DNC is investigating who may have been responsible for the attempted attack, but that it has no reason to believe its voter file was accessed or altered.

from WIRED 8-22-18
"On Tuesday, a trifecta of tech companies announced that they had thwarted what appear to be significant cyberattacks from Russia and Iran. First, Microsoft CEO Brad Smith announced that the company had caught another round of phishing attacks on political groups in the United States, which it attributed to the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear. Then it was Facebook's turn. On a call with reporters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company had shut down 652 pages, accounts, and groups affiliated primarily with Iran, though some had ties to Russia. Twitter almost instantly followed suit, saying it too had taken 284 accounts offline, which appeared to have originated in Iran.

In Washington, the news was met with a mixture of gratitude and anxiety. Gratitude, because these companies are finally stepping up their efforts to stop attacks on democracy like the Russian government unleashed on the US during the 2016 election. Anxiety, because with 75 days left before the midterm elections, the announcements served as yet another reminder that these ad hoc efforts from the tech industry may be the country’s best hope at preventing another crisis."
 from Washington Post 8-21-18
"... Users’ trustworthiness score between zero and one isn’t meant to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility, Lyons said, nor is there is a single unified reputation score that users are assigned. Rather, the score is one measurement among thousands of new behavioral clues that Facebook now takes into account as it seeks to understand risk. Facebook is also monitoring which users have a propensity to flag content published by others as problematic, and which publishers are considered trustworthy by users.

It is unclear what other criteria Facebook measures to determine a user’s score, whether all users have a score, and in what ways they’re used.

The reputation assessments come at a moment when Silicon Valley, faced with Russian meddling, fake news, and ideological actors that abuse the company’s policies, is re-calibrating its approach to risk – and is finding untested, algorithmically-driven ways to understand who poses a threat. Twitter, for example, now factors in the behavior of other accounts in a person’s network as a risk factor in judging whether a person’s tweets should be spread."
 from Politico 8-21-18
"It took me around 10 minutes to crash the upcoming midterm elections. Once I accessed the shockingly simple and vulnerable set of tables that make up the state election board’s database, I was able to shut down the website that would tally the votes, bringing the election to a screeching halt. The data were lost completely. And just like that, tens of thousands of votes vanished into thin air, throwing an entire election, and potentially control of the House or Senate—not to mention our already shaky confidence in the democratic process itself—into even more confusion, doubt, and finger-pointing.

I’m 17. And I’m not even a very good hacker.

I’ve attended the hacking convention DEF CON in Las Vegas for over five years now, since I was 11 years old. While I have a good conceptual understanding of how cyberspace and the internet work, I’ve taken only a single Python programming class in middle school. When I found out that the Democratic National Committee was co-sponsoring a security competition for kids and teens, however, my interest in politics fed into curiosity about how easy it might be to mess with a U.S. election."
from Jimmy Dore show 8-17-18

from The Hill 8-19-18
National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that U.S. officials are concerned about meddling in this fall’s midterm elections by China, Iran and North Korea, in addition to Russia.

“I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to prevent it,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

I’m not going to get into what I’ve seen or haven’t seen, but I’m telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the countries we’re most concerned about,” he added."
 from WIRED 8-2-18
"The DNC’s chief technology officer, Raffi Krikorian, says he was inspired to team up with Def Con after scoping out an event at last year’s conference called Voting Village, where attendees—grown-ups this time—got to hack into various models of voting machines and find flaws. “We wanted to figure out how we could use this to our advantage,” Krikorian tells WIRED. “Let’s get those lessons back to secretaries of state.”

The Voting Village, which caters to experienced hackers, will continue this year. But the organizers behind the event wanted to expand their work to cover one of the most glaringly obvious holes in election security: state websites that post election results. International elections have already proven how these types of hacks can go horribly wrong. In 2014, Russian hackers penetrated the website of Ukraine's Central Election Commission and changed the election result, prompting Russian media to run with the false news.

But getting kids involved was more than just a cutesy ploy to get the public to pay attention to election security, says Jake Braun, who worked for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama and is organizing the event."
 from Engadget 8-2-18
"At the Def Con hacker conference next week, the Democratic National Committee is co-sponsoring a contest that will pit child hackers against replicas of state government websites, Wired reports. Kids between the ages of eight and 16 will try to break into replicas of the websites secretaries of state use to post election results, and the one that devises the best defensive strategy will win $500 from the DNC. Another $2,000 will be awarded to whoever can penetrate a site's defenses. The University of Chicago and a non-profit called r00tz Asylum that offers cybersecurity lessons for children are also sponsoring the event."
 from RT 8-21-18
In reality, if people like Evelyn Farkas truly cared about the condition of American democracy, they’d be spending their think-tank time and money analyzing the organizational structure of the US political system. Indeed, how can anyone speak about ‘foreign meddling’ in our elections – a virtual impossibility, incidentally, since the voting machines are not hooked up to the internet – when corporations and mega-wealthy individuals are spending billions of dollars to sway the outcome of these contests?

Consider the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Outside groups spent almost 7 billion dollars greasing the wheels of democracy, reported the Center for Responsive Politics. Not only is that a new record in election spending, it’s over 300 million dollars more than the 2012 election. Yet the Atlantic Council and far too many US politicians are fretting over some Russian Facebook ads that even the House of Zuckerberg admitted had not the slightest impact on the elections.

Much of the reason for the explosion in campaign spending is connected to the 2010 Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates on corporate and individual spending in the political process through so-called Super PACS (‘public action committees’).
from The Hill 12-20-16

Old-time Washington is not sure if Donald Trump is fur, fin or fowl.

He ran as a Republican, but he donated to Democrats. Which one is he?

The short answer, is that Donald Trump is Donald Trump.  How can you tell which way the wind blows with Trump?  

Here’s a hint — It blows against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent the last year demonizing him for his positions on trade and immigration.

What is certain, however, is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent the last 18 months demonizing Donald Trump in the expectation that Hillary Clinton would be president. President-elect Trump has made it clear that he wants to move quickly on immigration, trade, and out-of-control defense and health care spending.

Consequently, the battles ahead may be less about Republicans versus Democrats and more about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce versus President Donald J. Trump.
from Ballotpedia
Donald Trump trade speech
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took to Twitter to criticize Donald Trump's policy positions on international trade deals during his June, 28, 2016, speech in Pennsylvania. "Under Trump's trade plans, we would see higher prices, fewer jobs, and a weaker economy," the Chamber claimed among a series of tweets highlighting the positive aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the potential benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).[10]
 Trump responded to the Chamber's criticism by reasserting his opposition to NAFTA and the TPP while claiming that the Chamber is controlled by special interests. "They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” said Trump at a rally in Maine the following day. "They want to have TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA

from CNN 8-9-18
"Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who's up for re-election this year in a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, said Russians have "penetrated" some of his state's voter registration systems ahead of the 2018 midterms.
"They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," he told the Tampa Bay Times before a campaign event in Tampa.
He added, "We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the intelligence committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records."
The newspaper reported he said something similar in Tallahassee on Tuesday, but declined to elaborate.
"That's classified," Nelson said Tuesday.
 from Orlando Sentinal 8-21-18
"The heads of two of the nation’s top security agencies refuted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s claim that Russian agents have infiltrated the election systems of some Florida counties.

In a letter to the Florida election officials late Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen and FBI director Christopher Wray stated that no election system in Florida has been hacked. The letter was released nearly two hours after Nielsen spoke with Gov. Rick Scott on the phone about election security...

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel said he’s been in contact with DHS and the FBI, and there’s been no breach. Nelson’s comments have raised alarm among some voters, he said, but while there’s been no breach so far, that doesn’t mean the threat has subsided.

There was no intrusion in ’16, none in ’17, none in ‘18, and we’ll prosecute anyone that attempts to,” Ertel said, adding that “you’ve got to be careful not to pump your chest up so much that you cause someone to see you as a potential target.”
 from The Atlantic 8-17-18
" Sixty-five years ago this week, a CIA-backed coup toppled Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister. The goal of the coup was to strengthen the hand of the West’s ally Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a new Iran Action Group to coordinate U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord with Iran.

 Brian Hook, whom Pompeo named head of the Iran Action Group, dismissed speculation that the new group’s creation during a week coinciding with the coup anniversary suggested that the United States was pursuing regime change in Iran, calling the timing “pure coincidence.”


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