Engaging the public via proper and effective communication as it relates to the vaccine and public health;
Distributing “vaccines immediately upon granting of Emergency Use Authorization/ Biologics License Application and once CDC has made vaccine recommendations, using a transparently developed, phased allocation methodology”;
Ensuring “safe administration of the vaccine and availability of administration supplies”; and
Collecting and maintaining vaccination program data “through an information technology (IT) system capable of supporting and tracking distribution, administration, and other necessary data.”
Operation Warp Speed, announced May 15, 2020, was developed to speed up the COVID-19 vaccine process. OWS is intended to increase rates of development, production, and distribution for the vaccine with an ultimate end goal of delivering “300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021.”
In September 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence (CTTV Framework) outlining the Department’s approach to address increasing threats of targeted violence and terrorism. Now in September 2020, they have released the corresponding Public Action Plan which represents the public version of the Department’s internal Implementation Plan. The Public Action Plan “provides an overview and examples of our work in order to be transparent with the American people and to underscore the Department’s commitment to fulfilling the goals and objectives outlined in the CTTV Framework.”
The Public Action Plan is organized into four main sections, each describing one of the four overarching goals of the CTTV Framework:
Goal 1: Understand the Evolving Terrorism and Targeted Violence Threat Environment, and Support Partners in the Homeland Security Enterprise Through Specialized Knowledge.
Goal 2: Prevent Terrorists and Other Hostile Actors from Entering the United States, and Deny Them the Opportunity to Exploit the Nation’s Trade, Immigration, and Domestic and International Travel Systems.
Goal 3: Prevent Terrorism and Targeted Violence.
Goal 4: Enhance U.S. Infrastructure Protections and Community Preparedness.
The Human Rights Watch has recently released ‘Video Unavailable’: Social Media Platforms Remove Evidence of War Crimes, a report detailing how social media outlets go about removing violent or unacceptable content from their platforms and the impact it has on criminal investigations. Photographs and videos deemed to be in violation of a social media’s platforms or standards are often removed, which can help curb additional violence and aid in maintaining national security. However, there appears to be no over-arching standards regulating what happens to removed content after it has been taken down. While Facebook states that it maintains “content for 90 days” pending ” receipt of a valid request,” the company has been known to hold on to removed for longer and, much like Twitter, seems to retain ” different types of information for different lengths of time.” This can cause problems for criminal justice systems as investigations may not even begin until years after the alleged crimes.
What specific content is removed also seems to differ across platforms, though most are concerned about “terrorist and violent extremist content (TVEC).” Removed content also varies across platforms because of how content is flagged and taken down. Some companies rely more heavily on user reports, while others place much of the responsibility on content reviewers. However, most social media platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, are moving towards an increased reliance on automated flagging systems, that at times are being used without additional human oversight.
Another issue with removed social media content is the variance law enforcement faces when requesting access to these materials. For instance, while many law enforcement agencies on the national level can manage to access content via “the use of warrants, subpoenas, and court orders,” international investigators “cannot rely on subpoenas and search warrants to access privately held information.” That being said, there have been several instances of national and international criminal cases being heavily aided by social media content, leading to actual convictions.
The Atlantic Council’sScorcroft Center for Strategy and Security has released Future of DHS Project: Key Findings and Recommendations, a report designed to address issues within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A key recommendation of the report is to have the DHS refocus its main mission to nonmilitary threats. Recent events, such as the coronavirus pandemic and foreign election interference, have highlighted the need for increased concentration on nonmilitary national security threats. Suggested enhanced priorities would include pandemic response, heightened cybersecurity measures, and international and domestic terrorism prevention with the goal of maintaining physical, economic, and democratic protections.
However, to address these needs, the DHS should also consider updating organizational operations and management strategies to increase productivity, morale, and intra- and inter-agency work flow.
According to the report,
When large cabinet departments are ranked by overall morale, DHS has occupied last place every year since 2010.
Low morale threatens the overall goals and mission of the department by lowering employee loyalty and trust in leadership. While DHS has had past success in improving morale within certain departments, more improvements are still needed, specifically within the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies. In addition to this, DHS can strengthen its efforts by modernizing public-private sector partnerships and by making “threats against critical infrastructure a priority across the Intelligence Community.”
The IZA Institute of Labor Economics has released The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019], a discussion paper detailing the impacts of a possible COVID-19 “super-spreader” event. A “super-spreader” event occurs when “a single mass gathering has the potential to generate a large number of cases,” as was the case at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. This event hosted nearly 500,000 local and non-local attendees from August 7 to August 16, 2020. While attendees seemed unconcerned with social distancing and wearing masks, they city tried to ensured that event workers, emergency responders, local businesses, hospitals, and public facilities were prepared for the possible health hazard. All event workers and emergency resonders received COVID-19 testing and the city “performed daily health screenings on such personnel.” Personal protective equipment was stockpiled and made available to local businesses. Widely used public areas were sanitized and “hospital staging was increased.”
However, even with the precautions taking by the city, there was still an increase in COVID-19 cases, likely due to a lack of public rules and regulations as the only requirement imposed on attendees was that a mask be in their possession. According to the report, “counties that contributed the highest inflows of rally attendees experienced a 7.0 to 12.5 percent increase in COVID-19 cases relative to counties that did not contribute inflows.” Assuming all COVID-19 cases generated by this event were non-fatal cases, this event still incurred an estimated “public health costs of approximately $12.2 billion.”
TikTok and WeChat, two social media platforms run by Chinese companies, are using censorship and heavy content moderation to help further the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agenda worldwide according to a new report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Titled TikTok and WeChat: Curating and Controlling Global Information Flow, the authors shed light on how these platforms are controlling the information flow related to various political and social issues, including topics like Tibetan independence and LGBTQ+ rights.
This report recommends (on page 50) that governments implement transparent user data privacy and user data protection frameworks that apply to all social media networks. If companies refuse to comply with such frameworks, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate. Independent audits of social media algorithms should be conducted. Social media companies should be transparent about the guidelines that human moderators use and what impact their decisions have on their algorithms. Governments should require that all social media platforms investigate and disclose information operations being conducted on their platforms by state and non-state actors. Disclosures should include publicly releasing datasets linked to those information campaigns.
But achieving this across all social media may be difficult. As the report points out, Chinese companies are required by law to promote CCP propaganda, and the Chinese government enforces strict regulations over the content published on these platforms. Considering also that the technology being utilized is still advancing, the authors conclude that the capacity for these companies to control the flow of information will only continue to grow.
The report looks at previously documented tactics, techniques, and procedures used by conspiracy groups and anti-government groups to interfere in the 2016 and 2018 elections, which include attacking candidate credentials and political party domain registrations, distributing polarizing content on social media, spearphishing, performing “hack-and-leak” operations, and using targeted intrusions to deploy malware.
Despite being more prepared than ever in an election year, the report expresses concern about direct Russian threats, but also indirect threats from non-state actors (such as QAnon) being amplified by Russian entities due to the large following they already have, and the ease of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories via social media. As awareness of these types of channels increases, the subterfuge with which they operate does as well- primarily targeting social media due to the platforms’ difficulty with accurately detecting false personas.
While many organizations are preparing for Russian hack-and-leak operations as well as non-state threats in the months leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, experts understand that they will not be able to stop every entity determined to corrupt the election, or prevent the spread of misinformation among the electorate.
September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). Especially as the United States continues to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ready Campaign’sgoal of promoting family and community disaster planning is especially important this year.
The theme of National Preparedness Month 2020 is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.”
In addition to informational videos and graphics, the webpage lays out 4 key elements of disaster preparedness, one for each week of the month:
The overarching theme of National Insider Threat Awareness Month 2020 is “Resilience.” As the Nation grapples with unique risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of resilient tools to combat insider threats becomes of paramount importance. As suggested by the NCSC Director, William R. Evanina, resilience “helps individuals harden the target and develop behaviors, thoughts, and actions that promote personal wellbeing and mental health.” Similarly, Insider Threat awareness initiatives help promote personal and organizational resilience against exploitation of authorized access with a sole purpose of causing harm.
Trusted insiders commit intentional or unintentional disruptive or harmful acts across all infrastructure sectors and in virtually every organizational setting.
Responding to the importance of detecting, deterring, and reporting insider threats, the DCSA Center for Development of Security Excellence created a dedicated platform with suggested activities that can assist in developing tools against insider threats. Among the selected aids are games and videos, graphics, as well as case studies and real-world scenarios aimed to promote awareness and educate organization stakeholders.
According to the report,2019 which saw nearly 8,500 attacks that killed more than 20,300 people,was the 5th consecutive year of declining global terrorism, since the peak in 2014. In addition to a general overview of the state of global terrorism in 2019, the report explores key regional developments and variation among perpetrators.
The report highlights:
Heightened terrorist violence in Afghanistan amidst peace talks between the Taliban and the UnitedStates;
The decline in Islamic State violence in Iraq, even as the group has expanded its influence globally; and
A significant increase in racially and ethnically motivated terrorism.