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An Ethical Hacker Explains How the Russian Government Used Disinformation and Cyber Warfare in the 2016 Election

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Cybersecurity experts in the US knew about Russian intelligence agencies' activities, but may not have had any idea how comprehensive and integrated they were – until now.


The Soviet Union and now Russia under Vladimir Putin have waged a political power struggle against the West for nearly a century. Spreading false and distorted information – called “dezinformatsiya” after the Russian word for “disinformation” – is an age-old strategy for coordinated and sustained influence campaigns that have interrupted the possibility of level-headed political discourse. Emerging reports that Russian hackers targeted a Democratic senator’s 2018 reelection campaign suggest that what happened in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election may be set to recur.

As an ethical hacker, security researcher and data analyst, I have seen firsthand how disinformation is becoming the new focus of cyberattacks. In a recent talk, I suggested that cyberwarfare is no longer just about the technical details of computer ports and protocols. Rather, disinformation and social media are rapidly becoming the best hacking tools. With social media, anyone – even Russian intelligence officers and professional trolls – can widely publish misleading content. As legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick put it, “it’s easier to manipulate people rather than technology.”

Two sets of federal indictments – one in February and another in July – allege in detail how a private company linked to Putin and the Russian military itself worked to polarize American political discourse and sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Cybersecurity experts in the U.S. knew that the Russian intelligence agencies were conducting these acts of information warfare and cyberwarfare, but I doubt they had any idea how comprehensive and integrated they were – until now.

Russia’s propaganda machine duped American voters

The operation was complex. What is publicly known now is perhaps most easily understood in two pieces, the subjects of separate federal indictments.

First, a billionaire Russian businessman and Putin associate allegedly assembled a network of troll factories: private Russian companies engaging in a massive disinformation campaign. Their employees posed as Americans, created racially and politically divisive social media …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Democratic Moderates Fear the 'Socialist Left' Will Wreck the Party — They Want to Keep That Gig

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

What’s behind all the concern-trolling over socialism? Too many Democrats don’t want to talk about core beliefs


No political organization in the recent history of the world has had a gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory quite like the Democratic Party. This is the party that has managed to lose three of the last five presidential elections, despite only once in that period getting fewer votes than the opposition. Although the Democrats nominally hold positions with broad majority support on a wide range of issues, following the heavy losses of the 2010 and 2014 midterms the party found itself in its worst nationwide position since the early 1930s.

For much of the 20th century, Democrats understood themselves to be the party of permanent hegemony on Capitol Hill, no matter who was in the White House: Between the Franklin D. Roosevelt election of 1932 and the Newt Gingrich election of 1994, the party held a House majority for 58 out of 62 years, and a Senate majority for 52 of 62. Sam Rayburn, a Democrat from an east Texas district that is now (of course) solidly Republican, was House speaker for more than 17 years, a record that will surely never be broken. That history has almost become a curse from the past, haunting the Democratic present; it’s like a lost paradise, and every few years a new messiah shows up to tell the faithful that (s)he knows the true path that will lead them back. Or it’s like the idyllic garden in “Alice in Wonderland,” which Alice knows she can reach if she can only squeeze through the door.

There is no garden, no path and no door. This mythic certainty that their kingdom will come again — expressed more recently in the mantra that “demographics is destiny” — has prevented Democrats from perceiving the true nature of their predicament. Over the last three decades, the party has been virtually wiped out in numerous states between the coasts where it was once competitive (or even dominant). It now holds a legislative majority in just 14 states. You …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Has Left Lying Behind and Now Wants to Deny and Erase History

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

We’ve met here before, and we’ll meet here again, because revelations of contacts between Trump and his people with Russians just keep on coming, as do the denials.


With Donald Trump, what isn’t is as important as what is.

It isn’t about France, or Germany, or Canada, or Portugal, or Burundi or even Iraq or Iran or Syria.

It’s about Russia.

According to a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning policy, research and advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C., there were 82 “contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives” during and after the campaign.

This story first appeared in Salon.

The Center for American Progress is hardly a neutral party. It’s current president and CEO is Neera Tanden, who worked in both the Clinton and Obama administrations and on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Its first president was John Podesta, who served as Chief of Staff for President Clinton, was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and whose emails were hacked by Russian military intelligence operatives during the 2016 campaign.

So if you think that liberals can’t be trusted, that listening to people who worked for the Democratic candidate in 2016 is useless, you needn’t read further. But if that’s the case, you may as well turn off whatever electronic device you’re using and tune into Fox News, because by paying attention to the mainstream media’s coverage of this story since it first bubbled to the surface of the swamp in 2016, you’ve been listening to the denials of their contacts with the Russians by everyone from Trump himself right down to the execrable and discredited Sean Spicer, currently out on the hustings pushing even more denials while pushing his error-packed book, “The Briefing.”

The Trump campaign and people working for Trump during the transition and in the White House have flatly denied having contacts with Russians at least 15 times, according to the Center for American Progress. But that total does not include the countless times Trump himself has tweeted “No collusion!” And it doesn’t address the manner by which Trump and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Rick Wilson Takes Trump defender Steve Cortes to the Woodshed in Off-the-Rails CNN Blow-Up

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

As host Cooper — once again — sat back and let the fireworks fly, the two touched on Trump’s birtherism about former President Barack Obama, with Cortes dismissing it as old news.


For the second time on Friday night, CNN host Anderson Cooper hosted a knock-down drag-out fight between a defender of Donald Trump and a detractor of the president, as former Trump adviser Steve Cortes and GOP consultant Rick Wilson traded insults and heaped abuse upon each other.

As host Cooper — once again — sat back and let the fireworks fly, the two touched on Trump’s birtherism about former President Barack Obama, with Cortes dismissing it as old news.

As Cortes attempted to defend Trump’s lies, saying he was “…not prepared to say he [Trump] lied, ” about paying off a Playboy Playmate, Wilson pounced.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, Anderson, Steve, look, brother, you are living in an entirely separate linguistic universe if you believe that Donald Trump does not lie out his ass every single day,” Wilson ranted. “He is infamous. These are not just lies of omission. These are lies of assertion. This is a guy who lies about everything constantly.”

“Here’s the real lie,” Cortes shot back. “The real lie is that Russia somehow won this election for Donald Trump, that Russia somehow convinced voters in Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan that they were duped somehow into voting for Donald Trump. That is the actual grand lie that is being told in Washington, D.C. And in mainstream media all day, every day. It’s a damnable lie.”

 

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Animal House at 40: Why the 'National Lampoon' of White Male Tribalism Is Still Relevant in the Trump Era

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Randy Laist, Salon

The infinite cynicism with which “Animal House” pronounces the failures of post-war America remains unparalleled


When “Animal House” was released 40 years ago on July 28, 1978, the low-budget, guerilla-style tale of campus anarchy struck a nerve with audiences, becoming the highest-grossing comedy in Hollywood history and exerting a powerful influence on the culture. While it is remembered mostly for its comedy, “Animal House” is also a political satire in the tradition of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and “The Simpsons,” and its raucous, episodic narrative pokes a finger in the eye of America’s self-image.

Animal House’s most visible and immediate influence was the development of an entire sub-genre of raunchy coming-of-age movies, from first-generation imitators such as “Porky’s,” “Police Academy” and “Revenge of the Nerds” to second-generation iterations such as “American Pie,” “Old School” and “Van Wilder.” All of these movies reliably echo situations and characters from “Animal House,” but, more fundamentally, they tend to emulate the party ethos at the heart of “Animal House.”

Off-screen, the film's iconic images of riotous party-going have provided a model of social behavior for generations of young men. Although “Animal House” did not invent campus party culture, it helped to codify it and to elevate it into a way of life. The real-world campus epidemic of binge drinking and rape culture is one indicator of the movie’s social impact.

The running meta-gag at the heart of “Animal House” is that, although the members of Delta house are all so different — the lady’s man Otter, the failed romantic Boone, the politician Hoover, the human black hole Bluto Blutarsky — they are all united by a single philosophy that the basic purpose of human life is to indulge as frequently and as single-mindedly as possible in the most immediate gratification presently available. The characters who share this consensus are the movie’s in-crowd, the ones who “get it,” and the movie’s villains are the characters who sublimate their biological urges into sadomasochistic regimes of order, like the elite Omega fraternity, or into the maintenance of their own power, like Dean Wormer, or into the militaristic discipline of Niedermeyer’s ROTC …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here's Why Our Food Systems Are a Central Feminist Issue

July 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Melissa Kravitz, Independent Media Institute

Three out of four American vegans are women. So is food a feminist issue?


Seventy-four percent of American vegans are female, but is there any link between veganism and feminism? Superficially, one could look at decades of mass marketing meat, grills and other fire-and-flesh fueled products to men, infusing these inanimate culinary products with gender—but, speaking as a woman who loves steak (eating it, cooking it, all of it) and as a person with common sense, foods in and of themselves should not appeal to one gender identity or another. One could point to the surge of female-led steakhouses and butcher shops—like New York’s White Gold Butchers—as exemplary evidence that women of all kinds love meat, but veganism (for many) isn’t necessarily about a like or dislike of animal products. So why are three out of every four vegans female?

“For some feminists, especially those who might identify as ecofeminists, veganism is inextricably linked to feminism,” explains Deborah Cohan, associate professor of sociology at University of South Carolina-Beaufort. “From this perspective, the oppression of women is tied to other forms of oppression, particularly the abuse of the environment and non-human animals.”

Some of this ideology stems from Carol Adams’ 1990 landmark book, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, which links not eating animal products to opposing the patriarchy. “In the book, Adams makes the case that eating an animal for food involves first seeing the animal as an object, as something that is inferior and of little value and that this is a violent form of objectification, akin to how women are also objectified, sexualized, animalized, degraded, hurt and sometimes killed,” Cohan explains. “Feminists who are vegan generally regard their decisions around food to be a certain kind of protest and resistance to all forms of violence and cruelty.”

The concept of animal rights and environmental conservation also historically, and ideologically, overlaps. “Both the animal rights movement and the environmental movement were established by women who strategically employed stereotypes about women’s proper role in nurturing and caring,” explains sociologist Corey Lee …read more

Source: ALTERNET