As the world grows more technologically advanced and complicated, so do the threats facing the United States from abroad. Many of these new, emerging threats are included for the first time in the latest edition of the biennial National Counterintelligence Strategy. The report is issued by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center every two years to outline the latest national security threats to the U.S. The latest strategy goes beyond threats like cyber or power grid attacks to list things like "hacktivists," "leaktivists" and even social media manipulators among the top intelligence threats.
Specifically, the report warns of "ideologically motivated entities" and foreigners who would "conspire to steal sensitive data and intellectual property."
Christopher Copeland, criminal justice professor at Tarleton State University, tells KTRH the federal government is wise to take these types of threats seriously. "We've had these hacktivists breaking into systems and taking classified data since the early 2010s," he says. "So I think this just realigns national critical infrastructure policy with the realities of the world that we live in."
The report warns not only about hacking and theft of private or classified information, but about "malicious influence campaigns" designed to spread misinformation on social media to "sow divisions in our society, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions, and weaken our alliances."
"There are two things going on," says Copeland. "One, you have people actively trying to grab classified data and then leaking it---such as Wikileaks---the other is media manipulation."
The strategy also cautions about the spread of advanced technology used by bad actors---domestic and foreign---for hacking and surveillance. Copeland warns that containing this type of threat won't be easy. "It's technology, so it can be circumvented quite quickly and it probably will be," he says. "So it will be a cat-and-mouse game."