from Net Politics

Cyber Week in Review: October 25, 2019

A handout picture from October 2019 shows a component of Google's Quantum Computer in the Santa Barbara lab, California, U.S. Picture taken in October 2019. Google/Handout via REUTERS

Islamic State appeals to young users with propaganda on TikTok; Google claims "quantum supremacy" with new processing chip; Russian cyber-espionage group masquerades as Iranian hackers; Facebook and Microsoft double down on election security; and China promotes cyber sovereignty at World Internet Conference.

October 25, 2019

A handout picture from October 2019 shows a component of Google's Quantum Computer in the Santa Barbara lab, California, U.S. Picture taken in October 2019. Google/Handout via REUTERS
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Islamic State Appeals to Young Users with Propaganda on TikTok

Islamic State militants have been posting short propaganda videos to TikTok, the social network owned by Chinese company Bytedance. The videos, which combine lighthearted TikTok filters and stickers with the violent imagery and jihadist songs of the Islamic State, came from two-dozen accounts and have since been removed in accordance with the app’s policies. The Islamic State has set itself apart from other jihadist groups for their use of propaganda on social media to spread their message and attract young people. Though TikTok has invested in advanced algorithms to detect illegal content and has hired thousands of moderators, the presence of these videos on an app where thirty percent of the user base is under the age of eighteen stresses the urgency of keeping platforms free of extremist content.

More on:

Cybersecurity

Islamic State

Election 2020

China

Influence Campaigns and Disinformation

Google Claims "Quantum Supremacy" with New Processing Chip

Google has claimed it has “achieved quantum supremacy,” a breakthrough nearly forty years in the making. In its announcement, Google claimed it successfully created a quantum machine that performed a mathematical calculation in under four minutes that would take the most advanced supercomputers more than 10,000 years. While IBM has cast doubt over the achievement, the calculation performed by Google’s machine, “Sycamore,” foreshadows the large advances that quantum computing could drive, especially in artificial intelligence. Google’s quantum breakthrough comes as the United States and China race to develop emerging technologies. Specifically, China has invested $400 million in a national quantum lab and has filed almost twice as many quantum patents as the United States in recent years, while the Trump administration has committed $1.2 billion to quantum research in its National Quantum Initiative this year.

Russian Cyber-Espionage Group Masquerades as Iranian Hackers

A Russian cyber espionage unit masqueraded as Iranian hackers to spy on government and industry organizations in more than thirty-five countries, according to a joint two-year investigation by the United States and the UK. To conduct the espionage campaign, the Russian-backed Turla group hijacked the tools of the Iranian-linked Oilrig group, which was likely unaware that they had been compromised. Armed with these tools, Turla targeted military, government departments, and academic institutions in the Middle East and across the world. This process is known as a “false flag” operation, in which an actor conceals its identity by masquerading as as another actor. Turla’s successful theft of Oilrig’s tools indicates the group’s high level of sophistication and reflects the challenge of attribution in cyber operations.

Facebook and Microsoft Double Down on Election Security

More on:

Cybersecurity

Islamic State

Election 2020

China

Influence Campaigns and Disinformation

Facebook announced a new security program for the accounts of presidential campaigns and election officials in anticipation of foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. election. The program, designed to protect against hacking attempts, will require two-factor authentication and monitor unusual login attempts. Separately, Facebook executives announced they recently dismantled foreign influence operations originating in Iran and Russia, including the troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, which swayed U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Microsoft established a bug bounty program for its open-source election software, inviting researchers and experts to earn up to $15,000 for each bug they report that could threaten data security.

China Promotes Cyber Sovereignty at World Internet Conference

Under the shadow of continued U.S.-China tech tensions, China held the 6th World Internet Conference, a state-backed forum promoting “cyber sovereignty” and advances in AI and 5G technologies. Setting the mood for this year’s conference, which drew fewer U.S. tech executives than prior years, Huang Kunming, head of the Publicity Department, said “Cold War mentality” and “bully behavior” are to blame for the lack of mutual trust in cyberspace. Academics from Chinese think tanks and universities also released a paper outlining the principles and practice of cyber sovereignty, calling on nations to both safeguard cyber sovereignty and develop universally-accepted rules for cyberspace. The paper reflected comments made by scholars throughout the conference, who urged higher cybersecurity standards as well as greater cooperation among countries and internet companies to counter threats in cyberspace.

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