Ex­perts en­cour­age more pub­lic aware­ness on Rus­sian med­dling

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The United States will get hit again by Rus­sian cy­ber­at­tacks if the coun­try doesn’t pay closer at­ten­tion and work more closely with Euro­pean al­lies who are also vic­tims, in­ter­na­tional elec­tions ex­perts warned. In tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, ex­perts de­scribed ex­ten­sive Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in Euro­pean elec­tions and en­cour­aged more aware­ness among the Amer­i­can of how Rus­sians are try­ing to un­der­mine US can­di­dates and faith in govern­ment.

One wit­ness, a for­mer US am­bas­sador to NATO, crit­i­cized both for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and cur­rent Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for not do­ing more to pub­li­cize the prob­lem and com­bat it. “I do think that it’s time for Congress and not the pres­i­dent to lead the re­sponse to Rus­sia’s cy­ber­at­tack on the United States,” said Ni­cholas Burns, who worked as NATO am­bas­sador and un­der­sec­re­tary at the State Depart­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush. Burns crit­i­cized Obama for not do­ing more as it be­came ap­par­ent dur­ing last year’s elec­tion that Rus­sia was try­ing to in­ter­fere.

But he had harsher words for Trump, say­ing he hadn’t been skep­ti­cal enough of Rus­sia’s role in the elec­tion. “If he con­tin­ues to refuse to act, it’s a dere­lic­tion of his most ba­sic duty to pro­tect the coun­try,” Burns said. Rus­sian of­fi­cials have de­nied any med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion. US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have con­cluded that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was re­spon­si­ble. Burns rec­om­mended that the United States work more closely with Europe to iden­tify Rus­sia’s cy­ber dis­in­for­ma­tion - fake news spread through so­cial me­dia, for ex­am­ple - and share in­for­ma­tion in real time. He also rec­om­mended that US print, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion net­works find ways to quickly dis­credit those Rus­sian ef­forts as they hap­pen. Ja­nis Sarts, di­rec­tor of the NATO Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence, said “so­ci­ety and its per­cep­tions” are the main tar­get of Rus­sian in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions, so pop­u­lar aware­ness that they are hap­pen­ing is key. “We have seen re­silience lev­els raise in­stantly as so­ci­ety rec­og­nizes be­ing tar­geted,” he said.

All four wit­nesses - Burns, Sarts, Am­bas­sador Vesko Garce­vic of Bos­ton Univer­sity and Dr Con­stanze Stelzen­mueller of The Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion - said they be­lieve Putin is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the ef­forts to in­flu­ence the elec­tion. Se­na­tors ex­pressed con­cerns that there would be more ef­forts to un­der­mine next year’s con­gres­sional elec­tions, and com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Burr, R-NC, agreed the US must “lean on our al­lies” as those elec­tions ap­proach. “We must ad­vance more quickly than our ad­ver­sary and only to­gether can we do so,” Burr said.

Af­ter the hear­ing, Burr said he’d like to fin­ish the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling by the end of this year, but ac­knowl­edged “that’s as­pi­ra­tional right now.” Burr said the panel has an ag­gres­sive sched­ule in July, and may go into the Au­gust re­cess hav­ing done as many as 80 in­ter­views. He also said the Se­nate panel doesn’t have plans at this point to bring in long­time Trump con­fi­dent Roger Stone for an in­ter­view. Stone is sched­uled to ap­pear be­fore the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee next month. “We still have a very dif­fi­cult time un­der­stand­ing whether he has any­thing to con­trib­ute to our in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Burr said. Stone has said he com­mu­ni­cated with Guc­cifer 2.0, an un­named hacker who has taken credit for break­ing into the servers at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. — AP

GELDROP, Nether­lands: A lap­top dis­plays a mes­sage af­ter be­ing in­fected by a ran­somware as part of a world­wide cy­ber­at­tack. The un­prece­dented global ran­somware cy­ber­at­tack has hit more than 200,000 vic­tims in more than 150 coun­tries, Europol ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Rob Wain­wright said. Bri­tain’s state-run Na­tional Health Ser­vice was af­fected by the at­tack. —AFP

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