Defending the information space from cyber-enabled influence operations

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Cyberspace has become a new battleground for nation-state actors, including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, who use cyberattacks to further their national interests. These attacks have increased in frequency, intensity, and sophistication in recent years, including efforts to disrupt critical infrastructure, conduct cyber espionage, or seed disinformation.

In this #TechTalk edition, we are joined by Clint Watts, head of Microsoft’s Digital Threat Analysis Center (DTAC), for a conversation on recent cyber-enabled influence operations, the most challenging aspects of his work, and the latest trends in the evolving cyber threat landscape.

Clint discusses his passion for improving the integrity of the internet, protecting democracies and maintaining free speech while defending against online harms from malign authoritarian regimes. This passion has led him to the helm of DTAC, where he helps realize the team’s mission to detect, assess, and disrupt digital threats to Microsoft, its customers, and democracies worldwide every day. This is in close collaboration with other teams, including the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) offering deep threat detection and analysis capabilities, and the AI for Good Lab using the power of AI to provide actionable insights to governments, partners, and customers to help them understand what is happening in the information space.

According to Clint, Europe is both directly and indirectly affected by targeted nation-state cyber operations. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is testament to that, where missile strikes are coordinated with cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, in parallel with hack-and-leak operations against individuals or planted false or manipulated narratives targeting Ukrainian refugees and others designed to be spread to different communities around the world, including countries in Europe. Other nation-states, such as Iran, are also turning to cyber-enabled influence operations for greater effect, as seen by attacks against the Albanian government or hacks to fuel  intimidation campaigns against Iranian citizens living in exile or target the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

With AI increasingly becoming the next frontier, Watts also touches on the main challenges he and his team encounter, namely authenticity and attribution, what the medium shift from text to video and audio means for their ability to detect false or inauthentic information, and how the use of AI will become a game changer to automate and speed up routine tasks and detect malicious cyber activities.

Watch this #TechTalk in full here:

YouTube Video

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