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Thursday, 29 October 2020 09:02

With US poll six days away, ASPI warns of attacks on foreign elections

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With US poll six days away, ASPI warns of attacks on foreign elections Pixabay

The defence industry lobby group Australian Strategic Policy Institute has issued a research paper claiming that state-backed actors are launching more and more online attacks and disinformation campaigns to interfere in foreign elections and referendums.

The ASPI claim, contained in a paper issued on Wednesday night, and coming six days before the US presidential election, said four countries — Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — were the most prolific when it came to indulging in these activities.

Coincidentally, these are the same four countries which have been mentioned frequently by the US when it comes to claims about interference in the 2020 poll.

The research was funded by a grant of US$100,000 (A$141,841.6) from Twitter provided to the organisation's International Cyber Policy Centre in 2019.

In 2019, ASPI issued a similar study, titled Hacking democracies, funded by the Australian Computer Society, in which it claimed that only Russia and China interfere in elections in other countries.

ASPI has numerous other sponsors for its cyber policy centre: auDA, the Australian Government department Services Australia, the Australian Signals Directorate, AWS, Facebook, AddAxis, Cisco, CyberCX, Cyber Security Co-operative Research Centre, Fortinet, Google,Jacobs, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Property Council of Australia, Splunk, Thales, and UpGuard.

There was no mention in the report, authored by Sarah O’Connor, Fergus Hanson, Emilia Currey and Tracy Beattie, of interference in foreign elections by the US, though it is well-known that Washington has been a consistent presence when it comes to interfering in polls across the world.

"This research identified 28 elections and six referendums over the past decade in which online information operations were used for interference purposes," the study claimed.

It said there was "increasing cohesion among foreign state actors, notably China and Iran learning and adopting various techniques from Russia, has made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the different foreign state actors.

"This has been further complicated by the adoption of Russian tactics and techniques by domestic groups, in particular groups aligned with the far-right for example."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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