Weaponizing Information: Its Effects and How to Counter It

Dr. Richard Forno
CSEE Department

Friday, September 20, 2019
ITE 227


Some believe ‘cyberspace’ is an operational environment that involves aspects of physical, informational, and cognitive. In recent years, we have seen how these environments can be targeted, attacked, and/or exploited for nefarious purposes by adversaries ranging from criminals to foreign nations. Although some argue this represents a new form of warfare, it actually has its roots deep in history and simply is the latest example of adversaries using all available tools to achieve their goals.

From social media, so-called ‘fake news’, partisan echo chambers, marketing, dark patterns, disinformation, and good old fashioned hacking, this talk discusses the three-dimensional construct of cyberspace and how technology helps blur the lines between the digital and physical. In addition to the usual considerations of ‘cyberwarfare’, we will discuss how adversaries, both foreign and domestic, use these constructs in combination to disrupt the social fabric of both userdom and citizenry to influence political, commercial, and/or cybersecurity outcomes.  Additionally, how the media frames ‘cyber’ concepts present a challenge toward not only understanding the cyber/technical environments but effectively addressing the problems within them. After all, the human mind is the most complicated information system in the world—but sadly one of the most exploitable ones, too.

This talk incorporates elements of a 2018 seminar given at Virginia Tech, a 2016 SIGDOC keynote, and preliminary
follow-on research into dark patterns within the context of cybersecurity and resiliency.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Richard Forno is a senior lecturer in the UMBC Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, where he directs the UMBC Graduate Cybersecurity Program and serves as the Assistant Director of UMBC’s Center for Cybersecurity. His twenty-five-year career spans the government, military, and private sector, including helping to build the first formal cybersecurity program for the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as the first chief security officer for Network Solutions (operator of the InterNIC), and co-founding the CyberMaryland conference. Dr. Forno also was one of the early thought leaders on the subject of “cyberwarfare” and he remains a longtime commentator on the influence of Internet technology upon society.

He is an affiliate of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (CIS) and from 2005-12 was a visiting scientist at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, serving as an instructor for the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC). His interdisciplinary research and professional interests include information age conflict, cybersecurity operations, risk communication, and the social shaping of technology—specifically, issues related to resiliency and autonomy in networked societies.

Email: rforno@umbc.edu


Alan T. Sherman, sherman@umbc.edu

Support for this event was provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant DGE-1753681.