« Manhattan to Montreal bike path. Thanks Cuomo ! | Main | Explanations of Donald Trump know few bounds »

Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts

The media is getting played, too

"The American press has focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Russian hacking and cyberattacks, and the reporting itself has only muddied the truth for most in the audience:

-- says Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in an interview with CJR. Watts is now a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he analyzes social bots, trolls, and websites that intelligence agencies say are the foot soldiers of Russia's information war.

"The hacking generates information, which promotes Russia's influence campaign, but the end objective is to convince people to choose a candidate based on Russia's preference. This is getting confused, because people hear 'hack' and they think their votes are being changed."

It's a classic page from the Cold War playbook, says Watts, adding that Putin has brought new meaning to the Soviet-Era doctrine of using "the force of politics" rather than "the politics of force."

"The main success of this campaign is not that it took place, but the panic we are in now," Meister adds. "We've lost our self-confidence in our system, in our democracy, in our elections and in our media. That's the biggest success of the Russian campaign."

According to Watts, more coverage should have been paid to Russia's information war, and its effort to influence voter opinion, than on the cyber attacks that were conducted as a means to attain some of the information that swayed voters. After all, it wasn't just information gleaned from those hacks that influenced voters, but widespread false stories that circulated across Facebook and Twitter throughout the campaign.

A simple look at the headlines that preceded and followed the election illustrates the emphasis on hacking: "U.S. Says Russia Directed Hacks to Influence Elections," says The New York Times headline on October 7, and follows on November 25, with: "U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears."

It's no wonder, given the headlines, that 50 percent of Clinton voters in a recent poll believe Russia "tampered with vote tallies" to help Trump. Of course misinformation is bipartisan: 62 percent of Trump voters in the same poll incorrectly believe millions of votes were cast by undocumented immigrants.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)