Our assessment of the article below may be somewhat different than most. We try to examine articles from an objective view point. This is our effort.
Email hacks are standard as many organizations do not use two-factor authentication offered by Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google free of charge. Hackers continue to brute force these accounts and use data from other dumps to access email. Many users reuse the same password across multiple accounts or a slight number increment or decrement variation.
Many believe China would like to hack the election to manipulate results, but there is a plethora of data stored in email. Attachments with plans, calendars of past and future meetings with invitees, invitation data, and passwords. Contact lists, birthdays, and more populate emails. There could be strategic plans, campaign maneuvers, lists of donors, lists of possible appointees, strategies against adversaries, and position papers for international approaches to various policies.
China may visibly detract from Trump’s re-election efforts but may wish to have him re-elected. The more his administration pushes for nationalistic tendencies, the faster this pushes China to greater self-sufficiencies. China uses Trump’s policies and rhetoric to generate internal inertia to build new capabilities. Chinese initiatives such as Belts and Roads (China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) hopes to deliver trillions of dollars in infrastructure financing to Asia, Europe, and Africa. If the initiative follows Chinese practices to date for infrastructure financing, which often entails lending to sovereign borrowers, then BRI raises the risk of debt distress in some borrower countries.) initiative and driving forward with China 2025 (China 2025 sets specific targets: by 2025, China aims to achieve 70 percent self-sufficiency in high-tech industries, and by 2049—the hundredth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China—it seeks a dominant position in global markets.) Trump’s policies allow for a vacuum in the world that many countries are rushing to fill, gaining influence in countries where none was before.
Iran may wish to disrupt anything Trump does. Data discovery actions by Iran is much the same as China but for different purposes. Iran would like nothing more than for Trump to go away while looking to go back to the nuclear treaty and a reduction in sanctions. At the same time, their global presence has grown significantly under Trump due to his anti-globalist positions. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Venezuela are but a few examples. Ultimately, Iranian leadership would welcome a change in direction in the United States. Data pulled from hacked campaign emails provide any foreign country the ability to fully understand what they face while crafting their strategies to either support, oppose, or create chaos.
The efforts at espionage are determined by what is discovered in the data taken. You could see social media campaigns that flood the internet, drowning out a candidate’s position or fully supporting that position.
The current situation in the US is ripe for misinformation, disinformation, influence operations, and manipulation. Conspiracy theories are running rampant, false narratives pushed by right-wing extremist groups against peaceful protest take center stage. Emotions are running high, and at any time since the 2016 election, we are most vulnerable when any semblance of critical thinking gives way to immature emotional responses.
Many countries have been ramping up their misinformation, disinformation, influence operations and manipulation since the success of the Russians in the 2016 election. Iran and China have well-funded programs for social media disinformation. You see it on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Instagram, Discord, and other platforms. You do not have to hack before your influence. This is false. Much of our laundry, clean and dirty, is fully aired in various media. All anyone needs to do is strategically collected and analyzed. Examine the social, technological, economic, military, political, legislative educational, internal security, religious, and demographic information of a country, and you can build indicators of change (See Treadstone 71 STEMPLES Plus). From these indicators come patterns and trends. We may discover the general tendencies of people as well as a political campaign. To think you need to hack to gain this information is a major fallacy. Inside knowledge of course, influences operations, but this information is not required.
Foreign countries have always used whatever means were available in their attempts to oppose candidates they do not want and support those they do. This is not new. What is new is the virtual medium of today, the speed which false information travels, and the ability to support and manipulate the ill-informed beliefs. The access to information is no longer behind a series of locked doors only on paper. Today it exists in electronic format. As soon as it is sent somewhere or made available in this way, the risk to exposure increases exponentially.
All significant countries work to manipulate elections, as does Russia, the UK, France, Germany, and India. This is not an epiphany but a fact of foreign intelligence operations. Just perform a search on “history examples of elections influencing,” and you will see this is standard fare. The US had been a significant player in these activities. Deception is a traditional component of country conflicts. Deception is sometimes mistakenly confused with unintentional confusion or misinformation. Disinformation and intentional deception should not be confused with misinformation. Deception depends on the fact that it is both intentional, and it is designed to gain an advantage by those executing the deception. This takes careful planning.
We see false information created and presented as true – this is a fabrication. We see the use of information technically correct but is presented in a different context to create a false implication – this is manipulation.
We see the conditioning of people by the repetition of some concept or action whereby people begin to accept the idea or action as true, building a false sense of security. Our adversaries use:
- aggressive mimicry,
- virtual crypsis,
- negative spin,
- and technical methods of deception such as:
- the deliberate leak of data,
- alteration of data that is then leaked,
- double plays and double bluffs,
- the suppression of data,
- the release of audio, video, blogs,
- all supporting a certain theme pushing an idea or concept that supports what they ultimately seek.
We in the US also think in terms of the short term. For example, our belief of long-term actions may reach five years at best. Our sales cycles are built on three months, or revenue quarterly and annually. Foreign countries can easily manipulate our supply chain and revenue cycles since organizational leadership is based on those timeframes and the associated financial numbers. We play chess and think this is long-term yet honor the speed of moves and countermoves as an American value. The Chinese, on the other hand, support our playing of chess while they play GO. Their idea of the long term is in the 100s of years. They understand the need for possible open losses on the global battlefield to gain ground over time, which ultimately leads to their global hegemony. This, too is being leveraged now. They do not need to hack to gain this advantage. Hacking to access information is but another method to gain more strategic advantage over what is already in hand.
Foreign countries use cyber decoys, phony websites, document forgeries, deceptive propaganda, social engineering, and pretexting. These are standard tools of deception tradecraft.
Ultimately, the deception objective seeks to cause the targets to either take or not take a specific action.
To think that executing theft of data in May and June of 2020 is long-term when considering the November 2020 election is false. These are the final actions to top off their strategic efforts. We will see these attempts occur with more frequency and more focus on specific targets as we get closer. These are tactical advantages that support the overall strategy.