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Facebook Funds 'Defending Digital Democracy' Initiative At Harvard (diginomica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Diginomica: A fresh initiative aimed at information sharing about election threats and dubbed Defending Digital Democracy has the financial support of Facebook and the academic muscle of Harvard behind it. Will the project succeed where similar initiatives have failed...? On 19 July and backed by a $500,000 initial grant from Facebook, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School launched a new, bipartisan initiative called the Defending Digital Democracy Project. The project will be co-led by Robby Mook, Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager. The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team comprised of top-notch political operatives and leaders in the cyber and national security world, the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks.
The group will also assess new technologies (including blockchain) to secure elections, and wants to create an information sharing infrastructure modeled "on similar efforts within the tech industry to share tech intelligence." The article says Facebook's chief security officer "hopes that election officials who are wary of cooperating with the federal government will be more receptive to working with an independent group tied to Harvard and the tech industy," and the group also includes Google's director for Information Security and Privacy.

"Facebook plans to host state and local election officials at its D.C. office later this year to discuss the information sharing organization, and launch the organization in early 2018."
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Facebook Funds 'Defending Digital Democracy' Initiative At Harvard

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wikileaks not appearing on Slashdot as usual.

    Today, July 27th 2017, WikiLeaks publishes documents from the Imperial project of the CIA. [wikileaks.org]
    Achilles is a capability that provides an operator the ability to trojan an OS X disk image (.dmg) installer with one or more desired operator specified executables for a one-time execution.

    Aeris is an automated implant written in C that supports a number of POSIX-based systems (Debian, RHEL, Solaris, FreeBSD, CentOS). It supports automated file exfiltration, configurable be

    • SeaPea is an OS X Rootkit that provides stealth and tool launching capabilities. It hides files/directories, socket connections and/or processes. It runs on Mac OSX 10.6 and 10.7.

      Still using a mid-2010 Mac mini (Core 2 Duo) running OS X 10.9 here, I can't imagine anyone still using 10.6 or 10.7 in 2017, except Power PC Macs maybe?

  • Let me guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jarwulf ( 530523 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @04:39AM (#54912169)
    'Defending Digital Democracy' means pushing some selfserving political narrative in the US rather than actually defending democracy in places companies like Facebook kowtow to like China.
    • Re: Let me guess (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That, and the acceptable narrative is one in which advertising companies (who happen to use computers to push narratives) and former campaign managers, formerly employed by loser candidates and now working for Harvard, home of elite smugness, are somehow perceived by the public as trustworthy people instead of the most despicable scum of the earth.

      hopes that election officials who are wary of cooperating with the federal government will be more receptive to working with an independent group tied to Harvard and the tech industy

      Were I such a wary official, I might well trust such a group of advertisers, cryptocurrency scammers, and Harvardian failed political hacks even less than I would

    • Re:Let me guess (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @05:06AM (#54912217) Journal
      Or places like the USA, where Facebook builds profiles about the issues of importance and opinions of the electorate, identifies the marginal voters in swing constituencies and the issues that will persuade them to change their vote, and sells this to the party that bids the highest. And, for an extra fee, will even put adds saying 'Candidate X supports {Issue that you think is the most important}' in their feeds.
    • Your guess is completely wrong. Perhaps you should at least read the summary before you make wild guesses based on the title.

      "The hope is ... the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks."

      We already have insecure electronic voting machines [telegraph.co.uk] and at least one successful attack [thehill.com]. While the changes from that attack were detected and reverted, it's just a matter of time before someone succeed

      • No matter what kind of Rube Goldberg system they come up with, it will always be at the mercy of those who implement and run it.

        You know what the most secure voting system is? Paper ballots. But they are subject to manipulation just as are electronic voting systems.

        The primary "flaw" in voting systems is also their primary strength...the voter is ultimately disconnected from their vote. You don't know who voted for who.

        It would be nice if there were a way I could confirm that the vote I cast is actually ca

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Technical attacks on the integrity of the voting system almost seem like acts of desperation when the usual strategies of misleading voters through coordinated disinformation campaigns stop working.

        The last election seemed to be an example of coordinated propaganda campaigns failing, despite presenting relentless anti-Trump messages (and Trump's own hapless behavior) failing to produce the desired outcome.

        Part of me thinks it wasn't a repudiation of media manipulation per se, but that its effect was too loc

        • What happened was that pro-Hillary goons beat up on Trump supporters at his rallies. People were scared to admit they were voting for Trump. When asked, they said they were voting Clinton. But when election day came, they voted Trump. The fear of speaking up for Trump led many people to think Hillary had it in the bag. No need to go campaign in Michigan or Wisconsin, etc.

          Ironically, if the democrat goons had not scared Trump supporters into silence, they would've heard from those supporters, and known that

    • The more worrying bit about digital democracy, is it isn't the voice of the majority, but of the most vocal.

      The recent healthcare stuff in congress has the following sides that seems to be prevalent.
      1. Get rid of the ACA and make something new.
      2. Keep the ACA and don't change it one bit.

      Because the most vocal groups on the topic either really hate it or just love it.

      Those people who want to do the responsible thing like.
      Take a look at problems with the ACA, and see if there are ways to fix these.
      See what is

      • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

        You either believe that the federal government should intrude so deeply into our lives that they control our access to health care, or you don't. There isn't much of a middle-ground. This isn't a power that is given to the federal government under the Constitution.

        • There is plenty of room in the middle to believe that the poor should have a good effective health care safety net paid for with an equitable tax but that we should also have freedom of choice in how we purchase health care and to allow people to save up their money in good health instead of purchasing health insurance. And who on either side supports the middle income cliff/wall where millions of people make too much for subsidies, but too little to afford adequate health insurance?

          • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

            I don't think you understand my comment. A good portion of the population doesn't want the federal government involved with access to health care, at all. No federal subsidies, no bail-outs, no federal safety nets, no federal requirement of insurance by abusing the IRS to make an end-run around the Constitution for the "it's not a fine and it's not a tax but it's both." None of it. These are all issues for the states to sort out for themselves.

    • From TFS (emphasis mine):

      The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team...

      Sounds about right - Left/Right wing protectionism, probably focused on keeping third parties from receiving fair and/or equal representation.

    • Forget China.... the Clinton campaign worked like hell to make sure the Democratic Party primary was a coronation and not a serious primary.

      How can this effort be serious when the people who worked to subvert a free and fair election in the US are given leadership positions?

    • Actually it also means promoting politics that the CEO of the company like, left wing politics in name but autocratic politics in fact.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Technology is the golden fairy dust to fix everything.

    No, folks: if there's something democracy needs is *less* opaque stuff. People have to get some trust in the democratic processes, and for that, they have to be *transparent* (to everyone).

    That's why I strongly favour paper ballots *and hand counting* (gasp!). Not because they're more secure than electronics (they're not, they just have another set of vulnerabilities), but because you *need* lots of people to do that counting, ideally organized as a "cou

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @05:51AM (#54912297)
    what losers.
  • by DeplorableCodeMonkey ( 4828467 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @06:15AM (#54912363)

    The group will also assess new technologies (including blockchain) to secure elections

    The most ingenious idea I have ever seen for securing ballots follows a few simple steps:

    1. Assign a unique serial number to all ballots printed.
    2. Use a scantron system to record the choices and serial number.
    3. Let the voter either keep the ballot or a carbon copy.
    4. As the votes are tallied, the serial numbers and choices are posted online on a government website so that voters can verify their vote.

    Motor voter laws are probably the single biggest threat to our process aside from the lack of a solid ID requirement at the precincts. Set aside any views you have on politics and culture for a moment and just consider these facts:

    1. In some states, illegal immigrants--by state policy--can get driver's licenses.
    2. You can register to vote at the DMV without any form of ID showing you are a US citizen.

    If any system dealing with PII, finances, etc. in your life had such a low barrier on security, would you use it? I don't think you would.

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      With suitable encrypted signatures, you could set up the receipt so that you had to pay a $1000 fee to check that your vote was accurately counted, and if it wasn't, you are awarded $1,000,000 in compensation (to deliver the sting where it matters, each election oversight group could be organized like the unlimited Lloyd's "names" of old).

      Why would you do this?

      Well, there's a problem with ubiquitous, easily verified receipts that's usually covered in the second lecture of Public Administration 101.

      I don't p

      • No, my idea doesn't work, because the Mafia can do the same thing in reverse: gather up all the receipts associated with "paid" votes, then randomly test ten (a $10,000 cost-of-doing-business fee), on penalty of worse-than-death.

        I think that would reduce the enforcement cost enough to turn paying for votes into a cash-flow-positive business model.

        Bear in mind that delivering on penalty of worse-than-death is not cheap (either in time now, or potential for time later). If all the rabbits are trembling enough

    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

      3. Let the voter either keep the ballot or a carbon copy.
      4. As the votes are tallied, the serial numbers and choices are posted online on a government website so that voters can verify their vote.

      If you can verify your ballot, so could someone who could put pressure on you.

      Vote for $CANDIDATE or something bad happens to your job/spouse/children/whatever is a serious potential problem.

      • Vote for $CANDIDATE or something bad happens to your job/spouse/children/whatever is a serious potential problem.

        No, it's not a problem and it never has been. You're crazy.

        .
        .

        1. ...look, I typed what you said, ok?...see?...right here...now put the baby down and leave, please!!

        Strat :)

      • What's more likely... coercion of elections officials or coercion of a plurality of voters?

        Far far easier to coerce a small number of elections officials.

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @07:14AM (#54912457)

    The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team comprised of top-notch political operatives and leaders in the cyber and national security world, the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks.

    Step 1 to protecting democracy:

    Don't riot when someone with different political views comes to your campus. For comparison:

    • Bernie Sanders visits conservative Christian university and gets treated like a human being and is allowed to speak: video [c-span.org]
    • [insert name of conservative politician/pundit] gets invited to [insert name of university] then disinvited after students riot (e.g., UC Berkeley [wikipedia.org])

    Once the universities begin to act like a) they have a role in our democracy (we are actually a representative republic, but I am not going to split hairs), and b) start working constructively to improve it, then we may have something worthwhile.

    • I love how more recently formal liberal darling Richard Dawkins had a radio interview cancelled by Berkley students because he is 'abusive towards Islam'
    • Don't [protest] when someone with different political views comes to your campus

      You probably meant don't protest just because someone with a different view comes. Both of the "conservative pundits" in your link are trolls. Protest to avoid feeding the trolls. Do so regardless of party.

      And yes, I changed your quote to the less inflammatory and more accurate verb. Even your link calls it protesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dhawton ( 691348 )
        What happened wasn't protesting... What happened was the very definition of rioting. And if someone is a troll, do they still not have the same freedom of speech that everyone else enjoys?
        • There was a 1500 person non-violent protest. 100 people arrived (from off campus) to riot. There's a difference.

          If someone is a troll, they certainly have the same legal rights to free speech. And no one denied that! It's just not a high bar. I certainly ignore trolls, and encourage society to ignore them, as a rule. And that applies to Michael Moore just as much as Ann Coulter.

          • by dhawton ( 691348 )
            If 10 people come in and turn a protest into a riot, it's still called a riot. So yes, there is a difference. Once it's a riot, it's a riot. The protestors did nothing to expel those causing trouble out, they went along like it was okay. That means they were okay with the unnecessary violence.
  • There's already a guy scanning political sites for security strengths/weaknesses and publishing the results as "cybersecurity letter grades". How 'bout just writing him a grant?
    http://cybertical.com
  • Paper ballots. In person. Providing any of a number of government-issued photo IDs. Cast your ballot, dip your finger in the ink.

    Roll Credits, cut to commercial.

    You're welcome. . .

  • This project is already the failure. The US isn't a democracy and was never meant to be. You can't defend what isn't there.
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      This project is already the failure. The US isn't a democracy and was never meant to be. You can't defend what isn't there.

      Yeah, because for 241 years it's been failing. Surely it will fall apart before it gets to 242.

      • The USA is a constitutional republic, which means we elect representatives to make laws and run the state. We are not a direct democracy - which, 'true' democracies do NOT have bills of rights etc. because the voters can decide ANYTHING.
        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          Yeah, yeah, I don't believe that the OP meant the comment in that way since the vast majority of people consider the U.S. to be a democracy....technically right or wrong.

          • by dhawton ( 691348 )
            People can call it what they want, but that doesn't make it so. We're not a democracy, anyone who says we are doesn't understand basic government.
  • When you see Facebook, Harvard (or any Ivy/near-Ivy), and "bipartisan" in close proximity, it's safe to assume they're not. They're establishment if not outright left-leaning.

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