Is the internet safe? | Harvard Kennedy School


And the attacks can come from all directions. “When you think about a critical infrastructure that connects people, then you have to worry about power,” he noted, recalling the hours-long blackout that Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms suffered this month. “So, I’m Instagram,” he continued, “a massive, massive commerce tool. That’s where a lot of small businesses market their goods and how they conduct daily business operations. That was a significant outage for a lot of infrastructure, and we don’t always see those connective tissues. We just think about goofy dog tapes and beach pictures, but there’s a lot of commerce that rides behind that.”

Krebs also highlighted something he has viewed for some time: a foreign adversary getting on a platform and amplifying or manipulating information, disrupting the intelligence community. “I honestly don’t think we know enough about how the platforms operate right now to make meaningful regulation, meaningful legislation, to then inform regulation,” he said.  Donovan agreed. “We have to have more required disclosures from the platforms, much more research on the harms caused by these platforms, like financial fraud or personal injury. And then of course there are collective social injuries, like the January 6th insurgency,” she said.

Trying to explain how misinformation leads to divisiveness, the CISA team launched the “war on pineapple campaign,” an internet test to increase awareness on how disinformation campaigns influence operations work. Why pineapple? “It was in the wake of 2016, looking at the techniques that the Russians used to amplify a kind of social discord. We needed an issue to test where people were clearly on one side it of or the other. It couldn’t be political—that turns off 50% of people. As we discussed what that issue could be over a pizza lunch, there it was: whether you liked pineapple on your pizza or not. It actually was a coordinated behavior campaign to drive home the idea that Americans will argue over simple things, like a pizza topping.”

Despite all the work Krebs and his team at CISA did to authenticate the 2020 elections and disprove the…

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