Several technology giants huddled Friday in San Francisco to share their security preparations and actions to date as the 2018 midterm elections move into high gear.
The meeting was called by Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, who invited Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Snapchat.
“As I’ve mentioned to several of you over the last few weeks, we have been looking to schedule a follow-on discussion to our industry conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges,” Gleicher wrote in a memo that was published by Buzzfeed.
The meeting is part of the response to concerns that social media organizations, particularly Facebook and Twitter, were manipulated by foreign governments during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Conservatives have reason to be concerned about coordination among social media giants involving politics, but the reports indicate the focus of the meeting was foreign intervention.
“Impromptu, secret, public, doesn’t matter, It matters that we’re talking, it matters that we’re coordinating, it matters that we’re all trying to stop this stuff from happening,” said Mike Murray, vice president of security intelligence at the cybersecurity firm Lookout, according to KGO-TV in San Francisco.
“No one smart person is going to solve this. We need a lot of smart people to get together to solve these problems,” Murray said.
“We want to be secretive, but often it’s the ability to share that information quickly and effectively that makes it easier for everyone to stop these attacks from spreading,” he said.
Murray said the 2016 elections amounted to a wake-up call for technology companies.
“I don’t think anyone saw what happened in 2016 coming in the way that it happened, If we had we would have stopped it,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Microsoft announced that it shut down web domains registered by Russian sources to use as part of a phishing operation. Shortly after, Facebook and Twitter said they took down sites and blocked users trying to support Iran.
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI met with election officials and Facebook and Microsoft to discuss actions taken by both companies “to combat foreign threats,” a DHS statement said, according to CNN.
“The revelations are evidence that Russia has not been deterred and that Iran is following in its footsteps,” wrote former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos in his blog on Wednesday, saying that the American response had not been sufficiently tough. “This underlines a sobering reality: America’s adversaries believe that it is still both safe and effective to attack U.S. democracy using American technologies and the freedoms we cherish.
“In some ways, the United States has broadcast to the world that it doesn’t take these issues seriously and that any perpetrators of information warfare against the West will get, at most, a slap on the wrist. While this failure has left the U.S. unprepared to protect the 2018 elections, there is still a chance to defend American democracy in 2020.”
Stamos urged action to safeguard elections.
“The attacks against U.S. political discourse aim to undermine citizens’ confidence, create chaos and jeopardize the legitimacy of the American government. With the right political will and cooperation, the United States can demonstrate that 2016 was an aberration and that the U.S. political sphere will not become the venue of choice for the latest innovations in global information warfare. The world — including America’s enemies — is watching,” he wrote.
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