By Emma Goldberg and Chris Tebsherany
Hey there, Emma Goldberg and Chris Tebsherany here.
We’re disinformation analysts at Alethea and in November we had the opportunity to attend Cyberwarcon 2022. Check out our thoughts and reflections from what was an amazing event with an amazing community.
Alongside hundreds of other researchers, analysts, government officials, and journalists in Arlington, Virginia and online, we attended Cyberwarcon 2022 to hear about emerging and ongoing cyber and disinformation threats to democracy and national security. As a company, Alethea understands the importance of investing in the growth and professional development of its employees and we were thrilled to be provided the opportunity to attend Cyberwarcon. And, of course, we got to fill our swag bags with the coveted Warcon socks, hats, stickers, pins, and patches!
The threat of disinformation is constantly evolving and therefore it's critical that Alethea stay on the cutting edge of the security field by attending conferences like Cyberwarcon. As intelligence analysts, it’s important for professional development to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices and learn new skills from colleagues in the disinformation and cyber community. It’s also important that we give back by sharing the trends that we’re seeing.
We listened to presentations ranging from investigations on information and psychological operations to attacks on critical infrastructure to updates on ongoing cyber operations in Ukraine. Adam Rawnsley of Rolling Stone taught us about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ use of fake Mossad websites and fake film studios to catch moles within the Iranian government, and he didn’t miss a beat despite a building-wide power outage interrupting his presentation. There were presentations on the evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) from the pro-China network of accounts referred to as “Spamouflage Dragon” (APT 41), highlighting similar behavior identified by the Alethea analysis team in late October.
Not only did researchers present the technical details of their findings, but they situated these events within the larger strategic goals of the respective threat groups and communities to highlight the importance of continued research and collaboration in the cyber community. We listened to research on Russia and China’s attacks against edge infrastructure, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) deployment of secret surveillance tools through fake app stores, and how Chinese phishing operations by Leviathan (APT 40) were likely exploited by the Chinese Coast Guard to harass energy projects in the South China Sea. While these topics are adjacent to the threat we work on – identifying and mitigating disinformation – oftentimes disinformation threats occur alongside cyberattacks, so having this perspective gives us the chance to think outside the box.
CISA Director Jen Easterly’s keynote address, which highlighted the enormous strides that both governments and businesses have made in cyber since the 2016 election, reverberated throughout the day. Director Easterly’s statements about the importance of cyber hygiene, disinformation education, and the need for Americans to regain trust in our electoral system hit home for us at Alethea, as achieving these goals are central to our mission. We left the conference with a renewed sense that our work protecting customers from malign influence campaigns and reputational attacks is more important than ever. Ahead of the 2024 election – which is expected to be the most complicated ever from a cybersecurity and disinformation perspective – and alongside the ever-changing social media and tech landscape, Cyberwarcon reminded us of the importance of our collective commitment to identify, understand, and mitigate the growing threats in the cyber and information spaces.
We really enjoyed the positive and collegial atmosphere that John Hultquist has fostered to make Cyberwarcon one of the best conferences around. The reception at Crystal City’s Highline RXR brought together friends and colleagues, old and new, over drinks and food in a fitting end to a fun, enlightening, and informative day. We at Alethea, as always, are looking forward to next year’s Cyberwarcon.
If you’re interested in joining our fast-growing, scrappy, and hard-working team, check out our open roles across data science, engineering, marketing and sales, and analysis. We think doing the hard things that matter is exciting. And we’d love to have you on our team.