January 18, 2023 | TCIL Technical Note

How A Digital Footprint Provides A Criminal Foothold

January 18, 2023 | TCIL Technical Note

How A Digital Footprint Provides A Criminal Foothold

Executive Summary

The threat to U.S. national security and economic prosperity from ransomware, cyber-enabled intellectual property theft, and malicious code inserted into key supply chains is rising. So too is the adversarial manipulation of American elections, America’s cultural divides, and the broader fundamentals of American democracy.

Billions of dollars and some of the nation’s brightest minds are working to shore up networks and infrastructure under attack. However, nearly all academic research on countering the effects of influence operations since the early 1970s has focused on fact-checking and other efforts to educate consumers so they do not fall victim to disinformation, according to a Harvard study.1 Little research has focused on interventions that undermine or disable the disinformation operation and its enabling infrastructure.

FDD’s Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab (TCIL) conducted a live-fire pilot demonstrating the similarities between offensive cyber operations and cyber-enabled influence operations. TCIL partnered with the Sports Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO)2 and its primary sponsor, the nonprofit Cyber Resilience Institute,3 to conduct the pilot. TCIL leveraged Sports-ISAO’s open-source threat hunting and analysis capability during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The project identified the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) malicious actors use to create operational infrastructure to spread disinformation, commit fraud, and compromise systems.

After assessing the commonality in the operational digital footprint, this study offers recommendations to obstruct cyber and influence operations by identifying the dangerous loopholes in internet infrastructure that allow criminals to find safe haven.

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How A Digital Footprint Provides A Criminal Foothold
  1. Laura Courchesne, Julia Ilhardt, and Jacob N. Shapiro, “Review of social science research on the impact of countermeasures against influence operations,” Misinformation Review, Harvard Kennedy School, September 13, 2021. (https://misinforeview.hks.harvard.edu/article/review-of-social-science-research-on-the-impact-of-countermeasures-against-influence-operations/)
  2. Sports-ISAO is a membership organization of industry and academic stakeholders committed to the physical and cybersecurity of sporting events. See: https://sports-isao.org/
  3. “About us,” The Cyber Resilience Institute, accessed January 4, 2023. (https://www.cyberresilienceinstitute.org/about-us/)
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Issues:

China Cyber Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare Disinformation