Tuesday, January 22, 2019

New Cyber Influence Wrinkles: Deepfakes and Cyber Media Jamming

Cyber Influence is clearly a growth industry. New wrinkles seem to be turning up more frequently as the pace of innovation quickens. Two of them that are very interesting to me are “Deepfakes” and what I call “Cyber Media Jamming”.

Deepfake Videos

Deepfake videos as defined in a Brookings Institute article (see: https://brook.gs/2T30m9r) are: “videos that falsify information and distort reality, false news creation and dissemination, robotic tweets and social media posts that spread inaccurate narratives, and systematic disinformation campaigns from foreign and domestic adversaries.”)

Deepfake videos can be thought of either as digital propaganda leveraging videos and images. Lisa Kaplan, the Former Digital Campaign Director for the Angus King for U.S. Senate campaign (see: https://angusformaine.com/newsletter/) offers details on what the campaign had to be alert to:
  • “Memes, images with embedded text, often use humor or evoke an emotion. They are frequently shared among social media users and thus rewarded within Facebook’s algorithm and seen by more users.
  • Deepfakes, videos altered by an artificial intelligence tools to either misrepresent an event that occurred or manufacture an event that never occurred.
  • Altered videos use traditional editing tools to misrepresent an event that occurred. Like a deepfake they seek to alter the facts that voters use when deciding whom to support.
  • False news pages and articles are created and run for either political or financial gain. They can be from foreign or domestic sources and typically post divisive or sensationalist content to sway social media users to believe their content and vote accordingly. They also increase website traffic, thereby increasing revenues from ad sales.
  • False information spread from individual accounts seeks to undermine the campaign’s chances of success.”
If you’re interested, the article provides guidance on how political campaigns can protect themselves. The article also offers a link to the altered video of CNN’s Jim Acosta as posted by the Washington Post.

I have posted a screenshot of a quick Google search for deepfake videos below.

Cyber Media Jamming
DOD Joint Publication 3-13-1 defines  electromagnetic jamming is the deliberate radiation, reradiation, or reflection of electromagnetic energy for the purpose of preventing or reducing an enemy’s effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum, and with the intent of degrading or neutralizing the enemy’s combat capability (see: https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3-13-1.pdf).

In January 2019 the LA Times and other newspapers were hacked in such a way as to limit their ability to print newspapers in effect ‘jamming’ the presses so they were not able to be used.. (see: https://zd.net/2R7uSx1, a photo source.)

So far we haven’t seen many of this kind of attack, but clearly we can see the possibilities especially when combining Cyber Media Jamming with kinetic attacks. Jamming of radio and TV signals during a kinetic operation would be especially unnerving to the civilian population of the target country.

We are just scratching the surface for possibilities of new wrinkles in Cyber Influence. Stay tuned – if you can.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Social Media Counter-Propaganda – You Need An Insider

I was deployed as a Public Affairs Officer from 22 to 28 December 2018  to help support the Red Cross Camp Fire Recovery Effort.

Christmas was Day #47 of the Disaster. Normally by that time in the disaster most people either went back to their homes or relocated outside the affected area either temporarily or permanently. This was not the case here as about 700 people were still at the Red Cross Shelter Campus located at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, CA, a city of slightly less than 100,000 people and about 90 miles north of Sacramento.

There was little interest from traditional broadcast and print media with the notable exception of the local newspaper, The Chico Enterprise Record. According to Wikipedia, “The Chico Enterprise-Record is the daily newspaper of Chico, California. Also known as the E-R, the newspaper was first published in Bidwell Bar, California as the Butte Record in 1853 and is now part of the MediaNews Group Corporation, who took control of the paper  in 1999.”

You can read a very good story on Christmas Day at the Shelter at: bit.ly/2VG7har (which is also a photo source).

Social Media, as you might expect, was ablaze with action, most of it rumor mongering.

While I was stationed at the main reception area at the Fairgrounds, a volunteer came up to me and said “You need to meet with this young woman.” I was introduced to a young woman in her late thirties or early forties. In the olden days we would have said ‘she looked like a hippie chick’.

Clearly articulate and concerned she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She explained that she felt that the Red Cross was getting a bad rap on Facebook. She knew that because one of her friends was a volunteer at the A. If I let her look around the shelter facility for herself she would use her Social Media outlets to set the record straight.

As many of you know, I’m not an impulsive person, in this case I went with my ‘gut’ that this was indeed the right call and got her a “Day Pass” which gave her unfettered access to the campus.

Later in the day I found out that she made very good use of that access. In showing her the dining facility an hour or two later, it was quite clear that she knew many of the people who were at the shelter.

While I didn’t personally check her postings, the Shelter Site Director told me he was quite favorably impressed with her as a community leader and hoped to enlist her help for other projects such as a Christmas in January party for the children of Paradise.

Moral of the story: sometimes you have to put the analytics aside and just do what you feel is the right thing.