How To Increase Your SEO Traffic (An 8-Day Planner) - ThomasNet News

How To Increase Your SEO Traffic (An 8-Day Planner) - ThomasNet NewsHow To Increase Your SEO Traffic (An 8-Day Planner) - ThomasNet NewsMoz vs Semrush (2020) - Which is the Best SEO Tools - YourStory10+ Best Keyword Research Tools 2020 (Free & Paid) - YourStoryHow To Increase Your SEO Traffic (An 8-Day Planner) - ThomasNet NewsPosted: 13 Jul 2020 10:26 AM PDTThere is no magic bullet or quick fix for good SEO. The algorithms that search engines use to rank sites and pages — Google's are particularly challenging — constantly change. This negates any possible SEO "hacks" you could try.The true key to good SEO for manufacturers is a long-term strategy that uses proven best practices but remains flexible as situations change. It doesn't matter if you're well-seasoned in the search engine marketing field or are just wrapping your head around what you need to do to get started, here's what the first few days of a 30 day plan looks like to increase your SEO traff…

Daily briefing. - The CyberWire

Daily briefing. - The CyberWire

Daily briefing. - The CyberWire

Posted: 07 Nov 2019 12:00 AM PST

Cyber Attacks, Threats, and Vulnerabilities

Researchers identify Chinese group behind cyberattacks on India (Republic World) Security researches have identified Chinese hacking group which had stolen confidential data from the government by attacking governments including India.

Amid NSA warning, attacks on Confluence have risen in recent weeks (CyberScoop) Attackers are using a vulnerability that Confluence warned about this spring, according to data from Trend Micro's TippingPoint technology.

US officials say lead up to 2019 election was hack-free (Fifth Domain) With one year to go until Election Day 2020, officials said the ability to tally votes has not been compromised.

Shadow Brokers data dump tipped researchers off to a mysterious APT dubbed DarkUniverse (CyberScoop) Clues about a hacking group that carried out attacks against targets in countries including Syria, Iran and Russia were included in files leaked by a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers, according to new findings.

New Android Threat: Google Confirms Malicious Apps Removed From Play Store—Uninstall Now (Forbes) Just as Google announces its App Defense Alliance, another warning has been issued for Android users to delete dangerous apps installed from the Play Store.

Kaspersky uncovers zero-day in popular web browser exploited in the wild by threat actor (IT Security Guru) Kaspersky's automated technologies have detected a new exploited vulnerability in the Google Chrome web browser.

Massive Web Defacement Attack in Georgia Raises New Concerns About Politically Motivated Cyber Attacks (CPO Magazine) Largest cyber attack in Georgia's history resulted in massive web defacement that affected nearly 15,000 websites and forced nearly 2,000 websites to go offline on 28 October.

This is how Google Analytics is abused by phishing scammers (ZDNet) Analytics markers can help fraudsters track victims and dupe them into visiting malicious domains - but can also light the way for defenders.


Influencers Pay Thousands to Get Back Into Their Hacked Instagram Accounts (Vice) A white hat hacker who used to help for free is now charging hacked influencers to help them regain access to their accounts.

Cybersecurity scam called 'formjacking' on the rise (WCNC) "Formjacking" is also known as e-skimming and leaves victims unaware of stolen information.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro Under the Scope (Bitdefender Labs) Bitdefender researchers have discovered an issue in Amazon's Ring Video Doorbell Pro IoT device that allows an attacker physically near the device to intercept the owner's Wi-Fi network credentials and possibly mount a larger attack against the household network. Vulnerability at a glance When...

Thousands affected by California DMV data breach | StateScoop (StateScoop) The personal information of about 3,200 people was made available to seven other federal and state agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.

Billabong and Quiksilver are hit by a crippling cyber attack (Mail Online) Boardriders Inc, the US company which owns Quiksilver and Billabong - both founded in Australia - was attacked by international hackers two weeks ago.

Heads-Up: Malicious Actors Want to Join Your Team! (KnowBe4) Malicious actors are trying every way to phish - including joining your organization. See how you can stay safe from the bad guys.

We can't resist the lure of getting rich quick (Times) Here's one for the Annals of Human Frailty. Like hundreds of thousands of other people, I've been listening to a BBC podcast series, The Missing Cryptoqueen, that ended this week. It's an...

St. James online government services impacted by cyber attack (WBRZ) Officials say a cyber attack over the weekend has interrupted government services in St. James Parish.

Ransomware attack at Brooklyn Hospital Center results in permanent loss of some patient data (FierceHealthcare) A ransomware attack hitting several computer systems at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City exposed patient data and caused permanent loss of some patients' information. The hospital discovered that malware had encrypted certain systems and disrupted the operation of certain hospital systems.

Cyber Trends

2019 Trust Report in Practice: Trust at Scale (Synack) With the quickening pace of cyber incidents, software delivery, and security alerts - and with limited resources - CISOs' 2020 imperative is scale.

SANS 2019 Threat Hunting Survey: The Differing Needs of New and Experienced Hunters (SANS Institute) The 2019 SANS Threat Hunting Survey gathered current industry data from 575 respondents predominantly from small/medium to medium/large organizations that are working in the field of threat hunting or working alongside threat hunters.

Defending Against Ransomware: The Growth of Targeted Attacks (Security Magazine) Cybercriminals are moving away from mass-volume, opportunistic ransomware attacks. Instead, they are focusing on enterprises they believe will pay their ransoms. What are some security best practices to protect against ransomware?

BeyondTrust announces its top security predictions for 2020 and beyond (Intelligent CIO Middle East) BeyondTrust, a worldwide leader in Privileged Access Management (PAM), has announced its top security predictions for the New Year and into 2025.

Parks Associates: More Than 50% of New Security System Owners Self-Installed Their System (PR Newswire) New research from Parks Associates reports that 51% of security system owners who acquired their security system in the...


2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study ((ISC)²) The (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2019 is downloadable here. The study is conducted annually to assess the cybersecurity workforce or skills gap and how to recruit, build and strengthen cybersecurity staff or teams.

Delays in security clearances hit IT vendors in capital region the hardest, report says (FedScoop) The backlog in federal security clearances has a disproportionate effect on digital technology companies in and around the nation's capital, according to a new report that gathers data on a process that has faced increased scrutiny from lawmakers, the Trump administration and industry.

How data breaches affect stock market share prices (Comparitech) A data breach incurs serious consequences no matter whether a company is big or small. Staff get fired, executives issue apologies, and entire systems are overhauled to ensure that it doesn't happen again. They instill doubt in consumers, damage the company's reputation, and the impact can last for years. A data breach can harm both …

This is Google's plan to rid Google Play of bad Android apps (TechCrunch) Google has partnered with mobile security firms ESET, Lookout and Zimperium to combat the scourge of malicious Android apps that sneak into the Google Play app store. The announcement came Wednesday, with each company confirming their part in the newly created App Defense Alliance. Google said it&#…

'Chronicle Is Dead and Google Killed It' (Vice) Chronicle, Google's moonshot cybersecurity startup that was supposed to completely change the industry, is imploding.

Rogue Device Mitigation Startup Sepio Systems Completes $6.5M Series A round led by Hanaco Ventures and Merlin Ventures (APN News) US and Israel-based cybersecurity company Sepio Systems, has raised a $6.5 million in Series A funding round led by Hanaco Ventures and Merlin Ventures, with the participation of existing investors Energias de Portugal (EDP), Mindset Ventures and Pico Partners.

Nightfall raises $20.3 million for AI that prevents sensitive data leaks (VentureBeat) Nightfall, a San Francisco-based startup developing an AI-powered platform that prevents sensitive data disclosure, has raised $20.3 million.

Huawei Founder Says Chinese Giant Doesn't Need the U.S. (Wall Street Journal) Chinese telecom giant Huawei can survive without the U.S., CEO Ren Zhengfei said, dismissing Washington's campaign against it as ineffective.

Bishop Fox acquires SoNeMo technologies; founder joins Barcelona, Spain office (PR Newswire) Bishop Fox, the largest private professional services firm focused on offensive security testing, announced today that it...

Cyxtera Technologies Announces Spin Out of Cybersecurity Business (BusinessWire) Cyxtera Technologies today announced its intention to spin out its cybersecurity business into a separate company to be called AppGate, Inc.

HP confirms approach from Xerox (CRN) Rumours of a takeover bid from Xerox emerged earlier this week

ESET Becomes Founding Member of App Defense Alliance; ESET to Proactively Protect Mobile Applications on the Google Play Store (BusinessWire) ESET Becomes Founding Member of App Defense Alliance; ESET to Proactively Protect Mobile Applications on the Google Play Store

Microsoft Lays Bare Cybersecurity Ambitions (Security Boulevard) Microsoft is securing Azure by extending its portfolio of cybersecurity offerings and enlisting the help of third-party security vendors.

VMware channel boss on why its 'antiquated' partner programme needed an overhaul (CRN) Programme changes will come into effect on 29 February 2020

Qualys Uses Free Products To Retain And Grow Subscribers (Seeking Alpha) Cloud-based security service provider Qualys continues to surge past market expectations.

Fortinet Is Winning Big in the Cybersecurity Wars (The Motley Fool) This legacy cybersecurity company is in a unique and enviable position.

Tenable is Number One in Zero-Day Research, Surpassing 100 Discoveries in 2019 (Yahoo) Tenable®, Inc., the Cyber Exposure company, today announced it is the first and only vulnerability management vendor to surpass 100 zero-day discoveries in a single year. Tenable Research leverages its deep vulnerability expertise to identify previously-undisclosed flaws to ensure organizations

Georgia business climate, Cyber Center attracting companies and jobs (The Augusta Chronicle) Georgia was named best business climate for a seventh year in a row by one magazine and Georgia Cyber Center's unique ecosystem is also attracting

Open-source software giants Tor and Python establish first New York City offices on NYU Tandon campus (West) The New York University Tandon School of Engineering announced today that pioneering open-source software nonprofits the Tor Project and Python Software Foundation (PSF) are the newest tenants at 370 Jay Street, a recently renovated addition to the University's engineering and applied sciences programs in Downtown Brooklyn.

Guardsquare Opens North American HQ (Yahoo) Guardsquare, the leading mobile application security platform, today announced the opening of its North American headquarters in Boston, Mass. The new office will serve as the global home of the company's sales and marketing operations and will be led by two new executives – chief revenue officer John

Vectra AI expands leadership team with addition of results-driven executives (PR Newswire) Vectra AI, the leader in network threat detection and response (NDR), today announced the addition of two...

Fast-Growing Network Security Startup Bricata Enlists New Chief Product Officer and Vice President of Sales (Bricata) Fast-Growing Network Security Startup Bricata Enlists New Chief Product Officer and Vice President of Sales Newest Additions to the Leadership Team Adds Decades of Experience in Product Innovation and

ThetaRay Appoints Moran Goldwein as SVP, Human Resources (PR Newswire) ThetaRay, a leading provider of AI-based Big Data analytics, today announced the appointment of Moran Goldwein to the...

vArmour Appoints Jeff Jennings as SVP of Engineering, Former Google VP and VMware SVP/GM (Yahoo) vArmour, the leader in centralized risk and control, today announced Jeff Jennings has joined the company as the new SVP of Engineering. With long-term roles at VMware and at Google for nearly the past two years, Jennings has been critical in helping

KnowBe4 Hires James McQuiggan as Security Awareness Advocate (PRWeb) KnowBe4, the provider of the world's largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, today announced the hiring of James McQuiggan a

IronNet Cybersecurity Appoints Donald Closser as Chief Product Officer ( News) IronNet Cybersecurity announced today that it has appointed Donald Don Closser as Chief Product Officer CPO reporting to Co-CEOs Bill Welch and GEN Ret. Keith B. Alexander, the former Director of the U.S. National Security Agency and Founding Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

AI expert joins Darktrace's advisory board (Information Age) Cyber AI company, Darktrace, has announced that Professor Nick Jennings, CB FREng, has joined the company's advisory board

Products, Services, and Solutions

Nozomi Networks Unveils Community Edition of its Cyber Security Platform (West) Helps security and risk management teams expand their security programs by providing visibility into OT and IoT assets

Leader in electronic components manufacture turns to Area 1 Security to reduce global cyber security risk (Area 1) Throughout the past 50 years, AVX Corporation has innovated, developed, manufactured, and supplied critical components and solutions for the global automotive, industrial, medical, military, consumer electronics, communications, and transportation markets, building a successful business with over $1.5 billion annual revenue.

Ostendio Launches MyVCM Auditor Connect (PR Newswire) Ostendio Inc., a leading provider of integrated risk management software, today announced the launch of a...

NordVPN Has Completed an App Security Audit (Economywatch) World, US, China, India Economy, Investment, Finance, Credit Cards

The Financial Data Exchange Reports Strong First-Year Growth; Now Protecting Online Financial Data for Five Million Consumers, Including Business Customers, Through 72-Member Network (PR Newswire) On the first anniversary of its launch, the Financial Data Exchange (FDX) is announcing widespread adoption of the...

Communiqué de presse - SafePost: A 100% confidential encrypted messaging service that puts an end to spam and fraudulent emails (24PRESSE) With the ever-present risk of personal data breaches on social media, not to mention the systematic analysis of the contents of our emails for advertising purposes and scams, SafePost offers a new way to exchange messages safely and confidentially.

Orca Tech and Brace 168 simplify cybersecurity (CRN Australia) Distie and MSP team to provide clients with defensive edge.

Place and Trace, a New Portable GPS Device, Offers Early Theft Detection, 24-7 Monitoring with Smartphone Notifications for Vehicles, and More (PR Newswire) Smart Chain Accelerator, (, a division of Irvine-based Procon Analytics, is...

GNC Selects Kount's Advanced AI-Driven Fraud Prevention Solution to Expand and Support Omnichannel Growth Strategy (Yahoo) New Customer-Centric Shopping Experience Will Enable New Revenue Channels and Minimize Fraud Losses

Brand Top-level Domain Owners Can Secure Company and Customer Data (PR Newswire) A new network security service protects enterprise data and keeps customers safe using the control capabilities and trust authority of a Brand Registry....

VMware bolsters security with in-house, Carbon Black tech ( VMware is moving quickly to meld its recently purchased Carbon Black technology across its product lines with an eye toward helping users protect their distributed enterprises. VMware just closed the $2.1 billion (€1.9 billion) buy of cloud-native endpoint-security vendor Carbon Black in October and in the process created a new security business unit that will target cybersecurity [&hellip

DataVisor and Experian Team Up to Help Businesses Reduce Digital Fraud Exposure (Yahoo) DataVisor, the leading fraud detection company with solutions powered by transformational AI technology, announced today it has teamed up with Experian to integrate its unsupervised machine learning powered transactional risk assessment capabilities into Experian's CrossCore™ platform. The addition

NMU updates cyber product (Insurance Age) Product launched earlier this year also now includes cover for court attendance costs, service providers' extensions and operational error.

The Best Cybersecurity Podcasts in 2019 (ClearanceJobs) With the rise of identity theft, data leaks, and financial breaches, cybersecurity is more important now than it ever has been. The problem with podcasts - there are a lot out there. So how do you separate the great ones from the ones you'll want to turn off right away? To make it easy, here's a list of what I believe are the best cybersecurity podcasts to listen to in 2019 and beyond.

Technologies, Techniques, and Standards

CISA Releases New 'Cyber Essentials' to Help Small Businesses, SLGs (MeriTalk) The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) today released its Cyber Essentials guide, which it describes as "a starting point for small businesses and government agencies to understand and address cybersecurity risk as they do other risks."

Cyber Essentials (CISA) Your success depends on cyber readiness. Both depend on you. CISA's Cyber Essentials is a guide for leaders of small businesses as well as leaders of small and local government agencies to develop an actionable understanding of where to start implementing organizational cybersecurity practices.

Fugue Releases Best Practices Framework to Protect Against Advanced Cloud Misconfiguration Attacks (Fugue) Policy-as-code ruleset identifies critical cloud resource misconfigurations that have been exploited in recent data breaches

Phishing detection via analytic networks (Akamai) As mentioned in previous Akamai blogs, phishing is an ecosystem of mostly framework developers and buyers who purchase kits to harvest credentials and other sensitive information. Like many framework developers, those focusing on phishing kits want to create an efficient...

Inside the Microsoft team tracking the world's most dangerous hackers (MIT Technology Review) From Russian Olympic cyberattacks to billion-dollar North Korean malware, how one tech giant monitors nation-sponsored hackers everywhere on earth.

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Political campaigns are flocking to encrypted messaging apps. But they're not a panacea. (Washington Post) Wickr is providing its services to qualifying campaigns for half price.

Cyber security monitored closely during election night (WOLF) State and federal officials closely monitored cyber security across Pennsylvania yesterday. The department of homeland security helped reassure all voters it's working to make sure the integrity of this election is in place. With concerns over foreign interference it's important for voters to get their information from the secretary of state or their local election office. "Our mission, our goal, is to ensure that American elections are decided by Americans free of foreign interference.

Election security in Pennsylvania (WDVM 25) State officials in Pennsylvania are monitoring Tuesday's election and assuring everyone that their votes are secure.

Election results from Texas' largest county were delayed for hours. What happened? (The Texas Tribune) All Harris County election results had to be driven to downtown Houston with police escorts after state election officials objected to the county's practice of uploading memory cards through an encrypted network.

RIT gives tips, hints, and tricks to keep you safe in cyberspace (RochesterFirst) Computer security at home and at work is an on-going battle in cyberspace. Illegal hacking is an expensive endeavor nowadays, according to Robert Olsen with the Rochester Institute of Technology…

Design and Innovation

WSJ News Exclusive | Google Weighs Changes to Political Ad Policy (Wall Street Journal) Google is in discussions about changing its political ad policy, about a week after Facebook and Twitter publicly diverged on how to handle those ads.

Microsoft Aims Quantum-Computing Effort at Developers (Wall Street Journal) The tech giant has unveiled cloud-based quantum-computing tools that companies can use to speed up calculations on classical computers, among other things.

Here's how the Army plans to visualize cyberspace (Fifth Domain) The Army wants companies to provide a tool for commanders in the tactical space to be able visualize and understand the cyber component to their battlespace.

Should the military treat the electromagnetic spectrum as its own domain? (C4ISRNET) Understanding and utilizing the electromagnetic spectrum is key to every branch of the military, but military experts are skeptical about the need to declare the electromagnetic spectrum a separate domain of warfare.

Research and Development

Google Unveils OpenTitan Secure Chip Project (Decipher) The OpenTitan chip project launched by Google and several partners will produce open-source designs for secure root of trust hardware.


NTT Research Partners with Simons Institute at UC Berkeley (Yahoo) NTT Research, Inc., a division of NTT (9432.T), today announced that it has entered into a three-year Industrial Partnership with the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley. A celebratory partnership signing event took place this morning at 11:15 a.m.

NJ high school girls encouraged to consider a cyber-security career (94.3 The Point) Jersey high school girls encouraged to consider a cyber-security career. An online competition will soon begin that offers fun, prizes and college scholarship money.

Legislation, Policy, and Regulation

How AI and human rights became embroiled in US-China tech war (South China Morning Post) The US move to blacklist China AI champions threatens to cleave global technology into rival US and China camps.

The National Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union (Analytics Insight) The European Commission proposed the Network and Information Security Directive (NIS Directive) in 2013, designed to enhance the EU Member States' national cybersecurity capabilities, improving the cooperation between the Member States, the public and the private sector, while also requiring companies.

Ethiopia Needs Legal Cyber Security Auditing Framework: Expert (Walta Media) Ethiopia needs to develop a well-organized legal framework to tackle the ever-increasing cyber-attacks at the...

To Stop Fake News, Online Journalism Needs a Global Watchdog  (Foreign Policy) Without regulations that push search engines and social media companies to prioritize reliable and truthful sources of information, propaganda and censored content will dominate digital…

Germany's Online Crackdowns Inspire the World's Dictators (Foreign Policy) An anti-hate speech law written in Berlin has been copy-pasted by authoritarian regimes from Caracas to Moscow.

Study: Russia's web-censoring tool sets pace for imitators (Star Tribune) Russia is succeeding in imposing a highly effective internet censorship regime across thousands of disparate, privately owned providers in an effort also aimed at making government snooping pervasive, according to a study released Wednesday.

Mozilla says ISPs are lying to Congress about encrypted DNS (Naked Security) Mozilla on Friday posted a letter urging Congress to take the broadband industry's lobbying against encrypted DNS within Firefox and Chrome with a grain of salt.

Lawmakers Question Need to Renew Shelved Surveillance Power (1) (Bloomberg Law) A Trump administration push to renew its dormant authority to collect U.S. call detail records is running into bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill.

Germany could ban Huawei from 5G build-out, says defence minister (Euronews) Germany's defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Tuesday that it still hadn't ruled out whether to block Huawei from the country's 5G build-out.

China's ZTE open to setting up a cybersecurity lab in India to allay security fears; calls for strong regulation (Economic Times) Chinese telecom gear maker ZTE said that it is open to set up a cybersecurity lab in India similar to its European labs to address the concerns raised..

Securing Our 5G Future (CNAS) Developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies.


Letter from Senator Marco Rubio to Secretary of Defense Esper (Senator Rubio) Dear Secretary Esper: The threat of malicious Chinese technology to the United States...

New bill wants to map out federal cyber career paths (Fifth Domain) Congress has taken notice of the cybersecurity workforce shortage.

Nearly eliminated a year ago, now DISA has more responsibility (C4ISRNET) DISA will be responsible for running IT for several Fourth Estate agencies.

The National Guard's new job? Dealing with ransomware (Fifth Domain) Responding to ransomware across states is a new mission for the National Guard and it doesn't show signs of going away anytime soon.

Litigation, Investigation, and Law Enforcement

Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics (Washington Post) The case raises concerns about the ability of tech firms to protect users' data from repressive governments.

U.S. Charges Former Twitter Employees With Spying for Saudi Arabia (Wall Street Journal) Federal prosecutors charged two former Twitter employees and a Saudi national with spying on users of the social-media platform who were critical of Riyadh and providing that information to the kingdom's officials.

Three charged in US with spying on Twitter users for Saudi Arabia (AFP) Two former Twitter employees and a third man were charged in San Francisco Federal Court Wednesday with spying on Twitter users critical of the Saudi royal family, the US Justice Department announced.

No 10 'fears embarrassment of report into Russian influence' (Times) Downing Street is suspected of suppressing a parliamentary report into Russian interference because it contains "embarrassing" disclosures about the Kremlin links of wealthy Russian donors to the...

If Russia meddled in the Brexit vote we need to know – before the election (Guardian) Boris Johnson should not delay the intelligence committee report. It risks undermining trust in our democracy, says Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff

California Probing Facebook's Privacy Practices (Wall Street Journal) California is investigating Facebook's privacy practices, the state's attorney general revealed in a lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of failing to adequately comply with information requests that the company said it has satisfied.

Facebook executives planned 'switcharoo' on data policy change: court filings (Reuters) Facebook Inc began cutting off access to user data for app developers from 2012 ...

Attorney General Becerra Petitions Court to Compel Facebook to Comply with Outstanding Investigative Subpoena Issued by California (State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General) California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a petition in the San Francisco Superior Court requesting that the court order Facebook Inc.

Hacking fears: Before Pegasus, there was Galileo (Telegraph) Indian govt agencies were in talks with Italian spyware firm

Opinion | Whatever You Think of Facebook, the NSO Group Is Worse (New York Times) WhatsApp's lawsuit against the spyware company NSO Group is a smart move for Facebook and an important defense of privacy and civil liberties.

Hacked Moroccan lawyer urges action against cyber spies (Reuters) A Moroccan human rights lawyer, who fled into exile after his phone was hacked, called for urgent international action to protect activists from the growing threat of cyber spies.

Morrisons: £55m payout over 2014 'grudge' leak of payroll data 'grossly unjust' (Computing) Morrisons tells Supreme Court that it should not be held vicariously liable for payroll data leak by senior IT internal auditor Andrew Skelton

Founders of 'worthless cryptocurrency' ATM Coin fined over $4.25m scam (Naked Security) Invest in "binary options," they said, neglecting to mention the software set up to rig transactions so that customers lost the gamble.

Social media is amplifying Trump's rants and disinformation more than ever - Salon

Posted: 09 Nov 2019 11:00 AM PST

As 2020 nears, disinformation — intentionally false political propaganda — is increasing and getting nastier. Central to this disturbing trend is President Trump, whose re-election campaign and allies revel in mixing selected truths, half-truths, knowing distortions and outright lies, especially with messaging sent and seen online.

Trump's rants about impeachment, Ukraine, the Bidens, Nancy Pelosi, the media, and any opponent abound: On Twitter, in statements to the press, at rallies, he sets the angry tone. His White House staff, right-wing media, 2020 campaign and surrogates embellish his cues. Hovering above this cultivated chaos is a larger goal, propaganda experts say, to create an omnipresent information operation driving news narratives.


Thanks to Trump, Americans have been subjected to a crash course in propaganda. When Russia used similar tactics in the West in recent years, its goals were to increase polarization, destabilize society, and undermine faith in democratic institutions, as noted in a 2019 report by Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center. When Trump and his supporters propagandize, it is to assert themselves, smear critics and rivals, and manipulate "unwitting Americans," according to NYU's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

With the continuing rise of online media, there is no end in sight to the trend of escalating disinformation. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are the most direct way to target and reach any voter. They share an architecture built to elevate, spread, and track provocative content — designed to push impulse sales. When used by political operatives, these tools favor inflammatory material and its most aggressive purveyors, namely figures like Trump and the messaging that promotes him.

Today's presidential campaigns, led by Trump, are spending more online than on television, exacerbating disinformation's spread. Making matters worse is that the biggest online platforms, led by Facebook and YouTube, have inconsistent standards on blocking ads containing clear lies.


Facebook will leave up political ads containing lies if they are posted by candidates. Google says it will not post dishonest ads, but ads with false claims have stayed up. Twitter will not sell political ads after this fall, but Trump's tweets violating its rules banning abusive content will remain. In contrast, many television and cable networks won't run the same ads. (Fox News is an exception, as its clips continue to be edited in ways that mangle the speech of Trump critics like Pelosi. His most loyal base watches Fox.)

But there's more going on than pro-Trump forces creating ugly content that plays to partisan bias and goes viral online. Because online media platforms spy on and deeply profile every user—so their advertisers can find audiences—Trump's campaign has used online advertising data and tools to find traumatized people and target them with intentionally provocative fear-based messages. (Its merchandise sales have similar goals.)

"This isn't about public relations. It isn't about online advertising. This is about information warfare," said Dr. Emma L. Briant. The British academic and propaganda expert has documented how U.S. and UK spy agencies, militaries and contractors developed, tested and used such behavioral modification tactics — exploiting online platforms — in national elections in the U.S., in the UK, and overseas.


Briant has detailed how Trump's 2016 campaign used personality profiles of voters (derived from Facebook data stolen) to identify anxious and insecure individuals in swing states. They were sent Facebook ads, YouTube videos, Instagram memes (photos or cartoonish images with mocking text) and Twitter posts to encourage or discourage voting. Her new book describes this effort amid a growing global influence industry.

"They were targeting people who are the most fearful in our society," Briant said. "They were deliberately trying to find those people and send them messages, and measuring how much they would be scared by it… We are pretending that this is advertising for the modern day. It actually is a hybrid system that has fused intelligence operations with public relations."


What Briant described about 2016 has only deepened in 2019 as more of our lives are lived and traceable online. Internet privacy has largely vanished. Digital devices record and share ever more revealing details with marketers. What worries Briant are not the sizeable numbers of people who can and will ignore propaganda screeds, but those individuals who are susceptible to the politics of blame and grievance and who might heed dark cues—such as white supremacists, whose leafleting has increased, or people taking guns to the polls.

The Democrats have not yet joined a 2020 disinformation arms race. Some media analysts have suggested that they must do so to effectively compete with Trump, especially on Facebook where the audience is now trending older and more pro-GOP than it was in 2016 (as younger people have moved to other socializing apps, including Facebook-owned Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger).

One leading Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has gone beyond criticizing Facebook's recent policy to leave up demonstrably false political ads. Warren posted her own false ad—saying that Facebook has endorsed Trump — to underline her point: that online media operates under looser standards than TV.


More widely, Democrats have turned to new tools and tactics to detect and to counter false online narratives—without embracing Trump's playbook. These higher-minded tools are being used by groups like Black Lives Matter to identify, trace and respond to attacks in real time. Top party officials also believe that they can draw on the relationships between Democrats across the nation with voters in swing states to counter pro-GOP propaganda.

Whether the Democrats' countermeasures will work in 2020 is an open question. But it is possible to trace how propaganda has grown in recent months. The formats and shapes are not a mystery; the disinformative content is a mix of online social media posts, personas and groups, memes, tweets and videos—real and forged—that feed off and often distort the news that appears on television. Like Trump's media presence, this noise is unavoidable.

New propaganda pathways


Today's disinformation, and what will likely appear next year, is not going to be an exact replica of 2016's provocations — whether by any candidate, allied campaigns or even foreign governments.

In September, NYU's Stern Center issued a report predicting the "forms and sources of disinformation likely to play a role during the [2020] presidential election." Domestic, not foreign, "malign content" would dominate, it said, citing the growth of domestic consultants selling disinformation services. The Center predicted that faked videos, memes, and false voice mails (sent over encrypted services such as WhatsApp) would be the most likely pathways. Increasingly, this content has more visual elements. Reports of disinformation tactics recently used abroad affirm this forecast and add other details, such as programs that "emulate human conversation" or "outsourcing" efforts to local groups, including activists who may be unaware of their role. (Also domestically, right-wing think tanks are creating "faux-local websites" posing as regional news outlets.)

The Center's 2020 list contrasts with 2016's avenues, which, in addition to right-wing media epicenters such as Breitbart and Fox News, were dominated by Facebook's pages, groups and posts, by Instagram's images and memes, and by tweets on Twitter, including those that were robotically amplified. The Center also distinguishes between disinformation, which is knowingly false, and misinformation, which involves mistaken but still inaccurate narratives.

For the public, these distinctions may not matter. As a German Marshall Fund analysis of Russian "information manipulation" has noted, a lot of its disinformation "is not, strictly speaking, 'fake news' [overt lies]. Instead it is a mixture of half-truths and selected truths, often filtered through a deeply cynical and conspiratorial world view." Examples of intentional but nuanced distortions have already surfaced in 2019. As one might expect, Trump's allies began with his potential 2020 rivals. They smeared his opponents as part of an overall effort to rev up their base, start fundraising and shape first impressions.


Before former Vice President Joe Biden announced his bid, the most-visited website about his 2020 candidacy was put up by Trump's supporters to mock him. Made-up sexual assault allegations were thrown at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is gay. Donald Trump Jr. asked if California Sen. Kamala Harris was really an "American black."

By fall, a story Elizabeth Warren told (about how "her 1971 pregnancy caused the 22-year-old to be 'shown the door' as a public-school teacher in New Jersey… [leading to] an unwanted career change that put her on the path to law school and public life") was smeared in a "narrowly factual and still plenty unfair" way, the Washington Post's media columnist said, in a piece that noted "how poisoned the media world is."

All these online attacks were just early salvos in a deepening information war where appearances can be deceiving, information may be false, and much of the public may not know the difference—or care. That last point was underscored by another trend: the appearance of faked videos.

A high-profile example of this troubling trend was the posting of videos on social media last spring that made Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appear to be drunk. The doctored footage came from a speech in Washington. The videos, called "cheapfakes," raced through right-wing media. Few questions were asked about their origin. They were presented and apparently believed. One version pushed by a right-wing website garnered a purported 2 million views, 45,000 shares and 23,000 comments. Trump tweeted about the fake videos, which had appeared on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. After protests, Facebook labeled the videos false and lowered their profile. YouTube removedthem. But Twitter let them stand.


While those viewer numbers might be inflated, that caveat misses a larger point. Online propaganda is becoming increasingly visual, whether crass memes or forged videos. Apparently, enough Trump supporters reacted to the doctored videos that Fox News revived the format in mid-October. After Pelosi's confrontation with Trump at the White House on October 17, Fox Business News edited a clip to deliberately slur her voice—which the president predictably tweeted. (This is propaganda, not journalism.)

NYU's Stern Center report forecast that doctored videos were likely to resurface just before 2020's Election Day when "damage would be irreparable." That prediction is supported by evidence in this fall's upcoming elections. In Houston's November 5 mayoral election, a conservative candidate known for flashy media tactics used an apparently faked video in a 30-second ad to smear the incumbent by alleging scandalous ethics.

The Pelosi videos are hardly the only distorted narrative pushed by the GOP in 2019. By August, the Washington Post reported that Trump had made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims in office. One narrative concerned Ukraine and the Bidens — the former vice president and his son Hunter Biden.

The same right-wing non-profit that had tarred Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation in 2015 was pushing a conspiracy about the Bidens and Ukraine. Four years ago, it prompted the New York Times to investigate a uranium deal with Russians that "enabled Clinton opponents to frame her as greedy and corrupt," as the New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported. The Ukraine accusations had not gained much traction in mainstream media, although right-wing coverage had captivated Trump. In July, he pressed Ukraine's president to go after Biden if Ukraine wanted military aid.


That now-notorious phone call, in addition to provoking an impeachment inquiry, has ended any pretense of partisan restraint. Subsequently, the Trump campaign has put out a knowingly false video on Facebook saying "that Mr. Biden had offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid if it killed an investigation into a company tied to his son," as the New York Times put it. That video was seen 5 million times.

But pro-Trump propaganda had already been escalating. In recent months, the ante kept rising, with the use of other tools and tactics. Some were insidious but transparent. Some were clear hyperbole. But others were harder to trace and pin down.

In July, Trump brought right-wing media producers to the White House to laud their creation and promotion of conspiratorial and false content. "The crap you think of is unbelievable," Trump said. Afterward, some attendees began attacking reporters who are critical in their coverage of the administration, personalizing Trump's war on the press. (In October, one attendee recycled a video mash-up he made last year that depicted a fake Trump killing his critics, including reporters, for a GOP forum at a Trump-owned Florida hotel.)

Fabricated concern

The rampaging president video drew coverage and was seen as another sign of our times. But less transparent forms of disinformation also appeared to be resurfacing in 2019, including harder-to-trace tools that amplify narratives.

In the second 2020 Democratic presidential candidate debate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, went after California Sen. Kamala Harris. Social media lit up with posts about the attack and Google searches about Gabbard. Ian Sams, Harris' spokesman, made a comment that raised a bigger issue.

Sams tweeted that Russian bots magnified the online interest in Gabbard. Bots are computer code, acting like robots online. Their goal is generating viewers and with it, purported concern or even outrage. Sams' tweet was the first time a presidential campaign made a comment about bots. Social media, especially Twitter, is known for bot activity that amplifies fake and conspiratorial posts. Estimates have said that 15 percent of Twitter shares have been automated by bots—or faked.

Sams' tweet came after speculation from a new source that has become a standard feature of 2020 election coverage: an "analytics company" that said that it saw the "bot-like" characteristics," as the Wall Street Journal put it. Their experts said that they saw similar spikes during the spring. What happened next was telling.

Harris' staff and the Journal may have been correct that something was artificially magnifying online traffic to wound her campaign. But when tech-beat reporters tried to trace the bots, the evidence trail did not confirm the allegation, backfiring on her campaign.

That inconclusive finding highlights a larger point about online disinformation in 2020. Attacks in cyberspace may not be entirely traceable, eluding even the best new tools. The resulting murkiness can cause confusion, which is one goal of propagandists: to plant doubts and conspiracies that eclipse clarity and facts while confusing voters.

Sometimes, those doubts can resurface expectedly. In mid-October, Hillary Clinton said during a podcast that pro-Trump forces were "grooming" Gabbard to run as a third-party candidate, including "a bunch of [web]sites and bots and ways of supporting her." (In 2016, a third-party candidate hurt Clinton's campaign. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, received more votes than the margin separating Trump and Clinton in the closest swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin. That was not the case in Pennsylvania.) Gabbard rejected Clinton's assertion that she was poised to be a 2020 spoiler, saying that she was only running as a Democrat. Trump, predictably, used their spat to smear all Democrats.

But bot activity is real whether it can be traced overseas or not. In October, Facebook announced that it had taken down four foreign-based campaigns behind disinformation on Facebook and Instagram. One of the targets of the disinformation campaigns was Black Lives Matter, which told CNN that it had found "tens of thousands of robotic accounts trying to sway the conversation" about the group and racial justice issues.

Three days after Facebook's announcement, Black Lives Matter posted instructions for activists to defend "against disinformation going into 2020." It asks its activists to "report suspicious sites, stories, ads, social accounts, and posts," so its consultants can trace what's going on — and not rely on Facebook.

Dirty campaigning is nothing new. Deceptive political ads have long been used to dupe impressionable voters. But online propaganda differs from door flyers, mailers, and campaign ads on radio and TV. Online advertising does not aim at wide general audiences, but instead targets individuals that are grouped by their values and priorities. The platforms know these personal traits because they spy on users to create profiles that advertisers tap. Thus, online platforms invite personal narrowcasting, which, additionally, can be sent anonymously to recipients.

The major online platforms created their advertising engines to prosper. But government agencies that rely on information about populations—such as intelligence agencies, military units, and police departments — quickly grasped the power of social media data, user profiling and micro-targeting. More recently, political consultants also have touted data-driven behavioral modification tactics as must-have campaign tools.

Thus, in 2016, these features enabled Trump's presidential campaign to produce and deliver 5.9 million customized Facebook ads targeting 2.5 million people. This was the principal technique used by his campaign to find voters in swing states, Brad Parscale, his 2016 digital strategist and 2020 campaign manager, has repeatedly said. In contrast, Clinton's campaign had 66,000 ads targeting 8 million people.

Television advertising never offered such specificity. TV ads are created for much wider audiences and thus are far more innocuous. As Emma L. Briant, the British academic and propaganda expert who unmasked the behavioral modification methods deployed on online platforms, noted, these systems can identify traumatized people and target them for messages intended to provoke fragile psyches.

"What they have learned from their [psychologically driven online] campaigns is that if you target certain kinds of people with fear-based messaging — and they know who to go for — that will be most effective," she said, speaking of past and present Trump campaigns, pro-Brexit forces and others.

"This is not just about Facebook and Facebook data, but about a surveillance infrastructure that has been married together with marketing techniques, with lobbying firms, with intelligence contractors," she said. "But these firms deploy as P.R. [public relations or campaign] contractors."

Everything can be traced, tracked

As 2020's elections approach, many voters may not realize the extent to which they will be in the digital targeting crosshairs.

The big difference between 2016 and now is that today virtually everything that passes through one's digital devices—computers, tablets, phones—can be tracked, traced and answered in real time or soon after it appears, by commercially available tools. This level of scrutiny and interaction is not new in cyberspace's black-market world. But it is now in the tool kits being used in political campaigns to send, track and counter disinformation.

For example, the Dewey Square Group, a Washington political consulting firm allied with Democrats, has a new service called "Dewey Defend." They scan the fire hose of unfiltered data from the big online platforms to see whether the firm's clients, such as Black Lives Matter, or client adversaries, such as Blue Lives Matter, are cited or contain key words. What then unfolds is yet another dimension of information warfare in what Silicon Valley has labeled as the "social media listening" space.

Dewey Square says that it can trace a message's origin back to as early as the tenth time that it appears. That operation can involve piercing efforts to hide or mask the real sender's identity. It also traces the recipient's engagement. Was the content deleted, read or shared? And, more critically, who received it? They can identify recipient devices so that countermeasure content can be sent back — via a spectrum of channels and not just a single social media account.

Dewey Square's tools are at the cutting edge of a growing industry of players specializing in online information warfare. There are other iterations of this level of tracking technology in play, such as the ability of campaigns to create an electronic fence at rallies. Here, unique IDs are pulled off attendees' smartphones to follow them home. Attendees — via their devices — are subsequently sent messages: anything from donate to get out and vote. Campaigns can also trace their friends, family and contacts.

Security researchers discovered the basis for such spying — called "fingerprinting" — in 2012. Only recently has it been more openly discussed and marketed. If you use the web, your browser sends out information about your device so apps can work and content can appear correctly on the screen. This activity opens a door to online surveillance and information warfare, experts say.

What is new in 2019, however, are the tools and efforts to call out what is happening behind users' screens — including the range of deceptive communications such as doctored videos; bot-fed traffic; fake personas, pages and groups; and hijacked hashtags.

Today's cyber detectives will report malfeasance to the platforms, hoping that it will be removed. They will share findings with the journalists to spotlight bad actors. They will give clients addresses of disinformation recipients' devices to send counter-messages. This is a far bigger battlefield than 2016.

The Democrats' strategy

The Democrats are doing other things that they hope will counter disinformation. The DNC has rebuilt its data infrastructure to share information between candidate campaigns and outside groups, said Ken Martin, a DNC vice-chair, president of the Association of State Democratic Party chairs, and Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman.

Martin, who helped lead this data redesign, said there are many independent voters in the swing states—perhaps a better term is ambivalent voters — whom party officials will seek to reach. These are people who voted for Trump in 2016, but, come 2018, voted for Democrats, he said. They helped to elect Democratic governors, retake the U.S. House majority, and elect Doug Jones as U.S. senator from Alabama. Martin is hoping to outsmart online micro-targeting — the crux of Trump's early re-election effort — by relying on what's called "relational organizing."

Starting after the 2016 election, activist Democrats in tech circles started creating companies and apps for the party and candidates. Instead of relying on Facebook to identify likely voters at the zip code or district level, the overall idea was that Democrats across the country had friends and family in key contests with real prior relationships.

Democrats are hoping that people will share social media contacts and other lists, which, once analyzed, would identify voters in key locations, Martin explained. This strategy, relying more on peer pressure than online profiling, is seen as being potentially effective with fundraising, organizing and turning out voters.

Martin wants to believe that appeals from "trusted messages and validators" will work. Inside the party, however, there is a debate about using disinformation, he said. In fall 2018, a few tech executives experimented with online disinformation in Jones' Senate race, raising questions about whether some in the party would do so in 2020.

What can voters do?

The political consulting profession is not known for unilateral disarmament — one side holding back while the other prepares to attack. Any effective tactic tends to be quickly embraced by all sides. By mid-2019, the caustic contours of Trump's messaging and disinformation were clear.

In the first six months of 2019, Trump's campaign spent more than $11.1 million on Facebook and Google ads, the platforms reported. Trump put forth thousands of ads attacking factual media as "fake news," citing an "invasion" at the Mexican border and attacking an unfinished special counsel investigation of 2016 Russian collusion as a "witch hunt." By November, his campaign has spent more on finding supporters than the top three Democratic candidates combined. As 2020 approaches, the topics in his messages might change, but their tone and overall narrative will not.

The Trump campaign's common thread is not just to create doubts about Democrats and to demonize critics, but also to reinforce tribal lines. Trump is defending white America against the "undeserving outsiders and the Democrats who represent them," the New York Times said in early 2019, describing his playbook and its GOP copycats.

By Labor Day, Trump was telling crowds that they have no choice but to vote for him — contending that voting for the Democrat will mean economic collapse. His team knows what they are doing by fearmongering. In recent years, political scientists have noted a trend where voters are both more partisan while more skeptical of their party. "Americans increasingly voted based on their fear and distrust of the other side, not support for their own," the Times noted in March 2019.

Fear-based politics is not new, but online psychological profiling and micro-targeting are more powerful than ever. Any swing district voter identified as traumatized is likely to be caught in a crossfire. Whether or not people seen as tipping 2020's election will fall victim to online provocations is the open question. When asked what advice he had for such voters, Martin said, "Do your research."

Emma Briant, the British academic and propaganda expert, is less optimistic. The platforms are "lawless" and won't turn off their surveillance and targeted advertising systems, she said, even if top platforms like Facebook are outing foreign influence operations.

But her big worry is that the Democrats will try to match Trump's shameless disinformation — and civil society will further unravel.

"If you imagine a scenario where both sides decide to weaponize targeting certain kinds of people with fear-based messaging — and they know who to go for — this will cycle out of control," she said. "We are all being made fearful of each other. There's no way on earth that we can handle this, psychologically, and deal with the important issues, like climate change, when we are being turned against each other."

But that is what disinformation is designed to do. And all signs suggest that there will be more of it than ever in 2020 as the presidential election, congressional elections, state races and impeachment proceed.


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