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article imagePrediction: How best to manage disinformation in 2021? Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 15, 2020 in Technology
The major security threat to businesses in 2021 is likely to be disinformation - false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive. Jamil Jaffer from IronNet looks into the key threats.
Cybersecurity predictions made in 2019 proved to be way off the mark due to the massive disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Now that businesses are learning to live with the 'new normal' it is time to turn attention to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks and the challenges this poses to all businesses.
Continuing our series looking at 2021's major cybersecurity challenges, this time we learn from Jamil Jaffer, SVP for Strategy, Partnerships & Corporate Development at IronNet and former WH executive, about the challenges that disinformation poses.
According to Jaffer, at present disinformation is mainstream but addressing this is not well managed. Speaking from the perspective of the U.S., he explains: "Our enemies have not been effectively deterred. After the 2016 election, we learned about the very real threat posed by Russian disinformation."
These threats have continued during the Trump presidency, according to Jaffer: "Yet over the past four years, including during this election cycle, we continued to fall prey to it, and our elected officials (and those running for office) amplified these efforts through their own conduct."
There have been other disruptions too: "The COVID pandemic as well as this most recent election cycle –while largely unaffected by actual direct electoral manipulation –demonstrated that other key players, including the Chinese and the Iranians, are also entering the ring to engage in active disinformation efforts. There will almost certainly be another reckoning coming out of this election cycle and its aftermath, including the ongoing judicial challenges to ballots, as confidence in our electoral system, our elected officials, and our rule of law institutions continues to be undermined."
The key issue arising from this state of affairs is: "The question is to what end? Given that the election outcome remains indeterminate and it is shown, down the road, that foreign influence played a role in undermining confidence in the system (as it undoubtedly will), there will continue to be very difficult conversations about how to address these threats. The last thing that ought to be done, however, is short-sighted regulation targeted at America's most innovative sector or ham-handed efforts at speech suppression."
In terms of solutions, Jaffer says: "We ought to identify concrete ways to make our population more resilient to such covert influence operations as well as encouraging platforms and popular media sources to provide more information on who is speaking out and access to reliable information when facts are in dispute. To effectively address these threats, we must come together to collectively defend as a nation against these threats instead of falling prey to the very division our adversaries hope to sow within our population."
More about Information, Disinformation, Data, Cybersecurity
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