Digital Authoritarianism, Data Protection, and the Battle over Information Control

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 9:00 am9:30 am

Andrea Little Limbago, Virtru


Authoritarian regimes increasingly integrate automated bots, digital trolls, and cyber warriors to achieve a broad range of objectives, including data theft, destruction, and manipulation. This strategy for information control and dominance is no longer limited to major power nation-states. It is increasingly diffusing to smaller states as well as a range of non-state actors, and has impacted international events ranging from multi-state economic boycotts to election interference across the globe. As it proliferates this modern authoritarian playbook is also restructuring global regimes and defining global norms pertaining to security and privacy in the absence of a strong and resilient democratic model. To counter the proliferation of this authoritarian model, a major, strategic overhaul of information security within democracies is required. It is time for a strategic renaissance in information security. This requires the removal of the stovepipes that divide information operations and cybersecurity, avoiding conceptual stretching in favor of greater specificity in the terminology and strategy to modernize the democratic playbook. Importantly, this reimagination must be in sync with technological and social changes, and provide a democratic alternative to the authoritarian model that is increasingly taking a global stronghold. I will first provide an overview of the major innovations across bots, trolls, and warriors, including specific use cases of their integration as a holistic strategy. Next, I will address how this authoritarian model is restructuring the international system, shaping global norms, internet standards, and redefining acceptable behavior in war and peace. Finally, I will offer recommendations for the path ahead given this shifting international landscape, and what the private and public sectors within democracies should do as the digital defenders of security, privacy, and individual freedoms.

Andrea Little Limbago, Virtru

Dr. Andrea Little Limbago is a computational social scientist specializing in the intersection of technology, national security, and society. She currently is the Chief Social Scientist at Virtru, an encryption and data privacy software company, where she researches and writes on the geopolitics of cybersecurity, global data protection trends, and usable security. Her writing has been featured in numerous outlets, including Politico, the Hill, Business Insider, War on the Rocks, and Forbes. Andrea frequently presents on a range of cybersecurity topics such as norms, attacker trends, computational propaganda, data protection, and workforce development. Andrea is also a Senior Fellow and Program Director for the Emerging Technologies Law and Policy Program at the National Security Institute at George Mason, and contributes to numerous security conference program review committees. She previously was the Chief Social Scientist at Endgame. Prior to that, Andrea taught in academia and was a technical lead at the Department of Defense, where she earned a top award for technical excellence. Andrea earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

@conference {226325,
author = {Andrea Little Limbago},
title = {Digital Authoritarianism, Data Protection, and the Battle over Information Control},
year = {2019},
address = {Burlingame, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jan

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