Articles about voting issues in Europe.

Lithuania: Meet the Elves, Lithuania’s digital citizen army confronting Russian trolls | Kim Sengupta/The Independent

When the dark acts of the trolls became particularly harmful, the Elves felt they had no choice but to get together and fight back, and the fierce battle which then began has since been waged with no sign of ending. Industrial-scale spreading of disinformation; manipulating elections; undermining democratic institutions; orchestrating racial and sectarian strife have become potent weapons of modern hybrid warfare. Lithuania is along the frontline in this conflict between Russia and the west. The European Union’s Cyber Rapid Response Force has its headquarters in the country and the region, with the other Baltic states, is a focal point for Nato strategy. Thus, it is not surprising that it was in Lithuania that the citizens’ online army of the elves started five years ago to take on the Russian trolls. It now has an international force of thousands of volunteers. The vast majority of them are based down the length of Russia’s border from the Nordic states to Armenia. But there is also rising interest from countries in the west, including Britain, as the arena of the internet warriors continues to spread.

Full Article: Meet the Elves, Lithuania’s digital citizen army confronting Russian trolls | The Independent.

Russia: Moscow Protesters Call Local Elections Rigged | Associated Press

Russian opposition leaders led a rally in Moscow of about 1,000 people Sunday to protest the city election commission’s decision that will keep several opposition candidates off the ballot in a local election. The unsanctioned rally was billed as a meeting between opposition leaders and voters after the Moscow election commission rejected signatures needed to qualify the candidates for the September city parliament election. Demonstrators chanted “We are the authority here!” and “Putin is a thief.” Police made no effort to intervene until later in the evening, after the protest crowd had largely dispersed and opposition leaders called for the remaining participants to stage an overnight sit-in at the election commission. Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was not seen at the protest. The demonstration was led, in various stages, by opposition figures Dmitry Gudkov, Ilya Yashin and Lyubov Sobol. “We were collecting the signatures under rain and in the heat,” Gudkov said. “And you know what (the election commission) told us yesterday? They told us that our signatures are fake. Many of the people who gave me their signatures are here today. Friends, do you agree?” The crowd responded: “No!”

Full Article: Moscow Protesters Call Local Elections Rigged.

Europe: EU struggles to pick next cybersecurity chief | Laurens Cerulus/Politico

Europe’s cybersecurity authorities are struggling to pick their next chief of the beefed-up EU Cybersecurity Agency — and time is running out. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity, formerly known as ENISA, got more powers under the new “Cybersecurity Act,” a landmark cybersecurity regulation that came into force at the end of last month. The agency will in coming years draft certification schemes to better protect internet-connected devices, boost the security of 5G telecom networks and raise security standards for cloud providers, among other things. Current executive director Udo Helmbrecht’s second term ends in mid-October and his replacement is chosen by the management board, which includes the national EU cybersecurity authorities as well as representatives of the European Commission. But a selection procedure that should have ended last March has run into trouble.

Full Article: EU struggles to pick next cybersecurity chief – POLITICO.

Italy: A Secret Recording Reveals How Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To Matteo Salvini’s Lega Party | Alberto Nardelli/BuzzFeed

Six men sat down for a business meeting on the morning of October 18 last year, amid the hubbub and marble-columned opulence of Moscow’s iconic Metropol Hotel, to discuss plans for a “great alliance.” A century earlier, the grand institution was the scene of events that helped change the face of Europe and the world: Czarist forces fought from inside the hotel as they tried and failed to hold the Bolsheviks back from the Kremlin in 1917, and it was here, in suite 217, that the first Soviet Constitution was drafted after the revolution succeeded. The six men — three Russians, three Italians — gathered beneath the spectacular painted glass ceiling in the hotel lobby last October had their eyes on history too. Their nominal purpose was an oil deal; their real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and shape a new, nationalist Europe aligned with Moscow. BuzzFeed News has obtained an explosive audio recording of the Metropol meeting in which a close aide of Europe’s most powerful far-right leader — Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — and the other five men can be heard negotiating the terms of a deal to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party.

Full Article: A Secret Recording Reveals How Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To Matteo Salvini's Lega Party.

Europe: Finland brings cybersecurity to the fore as EU presidency commences | Catherine Chapman/The Daily Swig

Finland is to hold exercises in cyber defense as part of the nation’s EU presidency term, which officially started this month. The so-called “hybrid exercises” will produce fictional cyber-attack scenarios for EU member states to participate in, with the aim of increasing awareness and cooperation between computer emergency response teams across the region. This includes activities to prepare for a wide range of threats directed at a country’s critical infrastructure or democratic processes, such as cyber-attacks, election interference, and disinformation campaigns. “Finland strives to build member states’ awareness of hybrid threats and of the existing EU instruments and policies to counter them,” reads the country’s presidency program.

Full Article: Finland brings cybersecurity to the fore as EU presidency commences | The Daily Swig.

Europe: The EU’s election interference alert system isn’t working properly | Jon Fingas/Engadget

The European Union was quick to report online interference in its recent elections, but the system designed to catch that interference apparently needs some improvement. The New York Times has learned through records and interviews that the EU’s Rapid Alert System hasn’t been very effective in aggregating meddling data or transmitting alerts. Most member states haven’t contributed to its database, and what data is there tends to be a “mishmash” that may go unanalyzed. Disagreements over the seriousness of interference attempts have also led officials to avoid issuing alerts. The political landscape is a significant problem by itself. Russia frequently exploits European websites and far-right political parties to further its agenda, but EU analysts aren’t allowed to send warnings or debunk campaigns when they come from European outlets. The restriction is billed as an attempt to protect free speech, but ultimately limits Rapid Alert System users to either monitoring official Russian outlets or running generic myth-busting initiatives. And then there are the disagreements between countries. When Hungarian leadership repeats Russia’s false claims about the Ukraine, for example, how does the EU go about chastising one of its own?

Full Article: The EU's election interference alert system isn't working properly.

Switzerland: Three cantons seek damages for failed e-voting system | SWI

Three Swiss cantons that were preparing to use a new e-voting system this year say they will seek financial compensation after it was unexpectedly withdrawn and put on ice. Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Thurgau will seek compensation after spending money on making the system ready to voters in the October elections. Fribourg told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA that it had invested CHF150,000 ($151,000). A fourth canton, Basel City, said it was considering its options on suing Swiss Post, the state-owned postal service that had developed the system. The Swiss government recently suspended efforts to enshrine electronic voting in the law. Swiss Post followed this announcement by suspending its e-voting platform, to which the four cantons had already subscribed.

Full Article: Three cantons seek damages for failed e-voting system - SWI

Europe: Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling. | Matt Apuzzo/The New York Times

The European Union launched an ambitious effort earlier this year to combat election interference: an early-warning system that would sound alarms about Russian propaganda. Despite high expectations, however, records show that the system has become a repository for a mishmash of information, produced no alerts and is already at risk of becoming defunct. Indeed, even before the European Parliament elections this spring, an inside joke was circulating in Brussels about the Rapid Alert System: It’s not rapid. There are no alerts. And there’s no system. Europe’s early struggles offer lessons for other nations, including the United States, where intelligence officials expect Russia to try to interfere in next year’s presidential election. In many ways, the European Union has been more aggressive than Washington in demanding changes from social media companies and seeking novel ways to fight disinformation. But doing so has pushed the bloc into thorny areas where free speech, propaganda and national politics intersect. Efforts to identify and counter disinformation have proven not only deeply complicated, but also politically charged. The new Rapid Alert System — a highly touted network to notify governments about Russian efforts before they metastasized as they did during the 2016 American elections — is just the latest example.

Full Article: Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling. - The New York Times.

Switzerland: No e-vote option for the Swiss parliamentary election | SWI

Swiss Post has suspended its e-voting system effectively spelling the end of the online trials with the current technology for the October parliamentary elections. The state-owned company said it took the decision after the government announced last week  that it will drop plans to introduce e-voting as an official voting channel for the time being. However, Swiss Post pledged to develop a new, updated version with universal verifiability available from 2020, according to statementexternal link on Friday. The current system of Swiss Post has been in use in four cantons on a trial basis, notably the registered expat Swiss community living around the world. Last month, a rival system developed by canton Geneva and used by three other cantons, was also withdrawn with immediate effect. The moves come amid increasing opposition against e-voting for data security reasons.

Full Article: No e-vote option for the Swiss parliamentary election - SWI

Estonia: IT minister convenes inaugural e-voting working group | ERR

Minister for Foreign Trade and Information Technology Kert Kingo (EKRE) is convening an e-voting working group for the first time on Thursday. Kingo says that the group’s main aim is to assess the effectiveness of Estonia’s e-voting system in the light of both cybersecurity concerns, and electoral regulations, ERR’s online news in Estonian reports. Tarvi Martens, one of the people behind the e-voting system, has said he regards the move as a political statement. Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) members have in the past been critical of e-voting, principally on security issues. For instance, following the 2017 municipal elections, the party mounted an appeal to the Electoral Committee, questioning why the e-vote had gone ahead in October of that year, despite a recently-detected security risk that could have potentially affected up to quarter of a million Estonian ID cards.

Full Article: IT minister convenes inaugural e-voting working group | News | ERR.

Switzerland: Control-Alt-Delete? Swiss government puts the brakes on e-voting | James Walker/The Daily Swig

The Swiss Federal Council has suspended its plans to bring electronic voting (e-voting) into regular operation in Switzerland. Concerns surrounding the security and integrity of one online voting system were cited among the reasons for the U-turn. In December 2018, the Federal Council launched a consultation into proposed amendments to Switzerland’s Political Rights Act that would effectively make e-voting a third regular voting channel, alongside in-person and postal votes. This consultation is now over, and although a “clear majority” of the cantons and political parties were said to support the introduction of e-voting in principle, the Federal Council said it has decided to “provisionally forgo” the introduction into regular operation. “The political parties which support e-voting in principle consider that now is not the right time to take that step,” a statement reads. “The Federal Council has therefore decided not to proceed with the partial revision of the Political Rights Act at the present time.”

Full Article: Control-Alt-Delete? Swiss gov’t puts the brakes on e-voting | The Daily Swig.

Europe: How Europe’s smallest nations are battling Russia’s cyberattacks | Jenna McLaughlin/Yahoo News

Earlier this year, the country of Berylia came under a coordinated cyberattack. For two days, hackers targeted the island nation’s power grid and public-safety infrastructure, while cyber experts from across Europe worked to counter the attacks. Of course, the island nation of Berylia is imaginary, but the threat is not, and the exercise, known as Locked Shields, involved real network infrastructure provided by companies like Siemens and water-treatment systems from South Korea. Major Gabor Visky, a Hungarian researcher working for the NATO Center in Tallinn, Estonia, where the exercise took place, told Yahoo News during a tour last month that the simulation aims to get “as close as possible to real life.” It’s not surprising that a NATO cyber defense exercise would take place in Estonia, which has long been at the forefront of the digital revolution. The country took many services online years ago, including the 2002 introduction of its now famous digital ID card for accessing government services.

Full Article: How Europe's smallest nations are battling Russia's cyberattacks.

Switzerland: E-voting suffers another setback amid expat Swiss concerns | Urs Geiser/SWI

The government has decided to suspend efforts to enshrine electronic voting in Swiss law, but it plans to continue trials using improved systems. The expatriate Swiss community is alarmed by the announcement. A consultation among political parties and the 26 cantons, as well as a series of technical flaws in the current systems, has led the government to review its policy on e-voting, according to the Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr. “Opinions are clearly divided. The cantons have come out in favour, but the parties are against,” he told a news conference on Thursday. “This means there is not sufficient support at the moment for the introduction of e-voting on a legal basis.” Thurnherr added that the series of limited e-voting trials underway since 2004 will continue unless “citizens or politicians decide otherwise”, though he also acknowledged that public opposition has grown since the tide started turning against e-voting two years ago. Recently, a committee launched a people’s initiative for a five-year e-voting moratorium amid the controversial discovery of technical problems in the two e-voting systems currently in use.

Full Article: E-voting suffers another setback amid expat Swiss concerns - SWI

Russia: Russia’s trolling tactics are getting more elaborate | Shannon Vavra/CyberScoop

Facebook’s early May takedown of a Russian political disinformation operation was much larger than previously thought, according to research published this weekend by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. The Russian-linked actors behind the campaign went well beyond just amplifying political narratives on Facebook, and in fact began much earlier by planting false stories and then later amplifying these fake stories using fake accounts. In one case, these Russian-linked actors impersonated Sen. Marco Rubio’s Twitter account in a tweet that made it look like he was disparaging Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters. Then-Defense Secretary of the UK Gavin Williams was also victim to a similar photoshop effort. One of the false stories that the Russian trolls created and amplified through fake accounts includes a storyline that a Spanish intelligence agency rooted out an anti-Brexit pilot to assassinate Boris Johnson. Johnson is now in the running to serve as the UK’s next prime minister.

Full Article: Russia's trolling tactics are getting more elaborate.

Switzerland: Swiss Delay Plans for Nationwide e-Voting, Citing Flaws | Associated Press

Swiss officials are delaying plans to introduce electronic voting across the Alpine country, saying it’s “premature” because of problems testing the security and reliability of the system. The Federal Council said there is support for e-voting in addition to mail-in and in-person balloting. Some Swiss cantons, or regions, have already used e-voting systems, and the federal government has supported work on a nationwide system.

Full Article: Swiss Delay Plans for Nationwide e-Voting, Citing Flaws - The New York Times.

Europe: Election voting problems ‘were evident five years ago’ | Jennifer Rankin/The Guardian

Problems that denied EU citizens their vote in last month’s European elections were evident five years ago, according to a leaked letter from the European commission. Many EU nationals were unable to vote in the European elections on 23 May, through a series of bureaucratic muddles and mistakes that experts decried as a fiasco that a democracy should not tolerate. A letter sent on Friday to the constitution minister, Chloe Smith, shows that some of the chaos at polling stations was foreshadowed in previous European elections in 2014. “The commission notes that the difficulties encountered were largely recurrences of the incidents and deficiencies that had previously arisen during the 2014 elections and which the United Kingdom had undertaken to remedy in time,” states a copy of the letter seen by the Guardian.

Full Article: European election voting problems ‘were evident five years ago’ | Politics | The Guardian.

Switzerland: Most Swiss expats to lose e-voting access in parliament elections | SWI

Swiss citizens overseas registered for e-voting in the cantons of Geneva, Bern, Aargau and Lucerne will not be able to vote electronically in the national parliament elections in October. The canton of Geneva has decided to accelerate the phasing out of the voting platform used by these cantons until now.  Geneva had earlier announced that it was shelving its CHVote platform (developed in 2003) due to cost reasons. However, it said that it would keep the platform going until February 2020.  But it has now decided to deactivate CHVote earlier than originally anticipated, leaving some users unable to vote electronically in the parliamentary elections in October. This decision was taken in agreement with the cantons of Bern, Aargau and Lucerne, which have been using CHVote since 2010.

Full Article: Most Swiss expats to lose e-voting access in parliament elections - SWI

Europe: Trump Invited New Russian ‘Information’ About Opponents. Europe Knows Where That Leads. | Michael Weiss/Daily Beast

In his much-commented 60 Minutes interview this week, Donald Trump breezily dismissed the idea that accepting information on political rivals from foreign sources was untoward. “It’s not an interference, they have information,” he said. “I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI.” Thus the man who routinely indulges in the fantasy that a collective of American spies is arranging his downfall has no compunction about letting foreign spies arrange the downfall of his opponents. It all depends on what gifts they come bearing. But the trouble with inviting foreign countries into your political system is that once they accept the invitation they never leave. A new study I’ve co-edited, published by the Free Russia Foundation, offers a chilling tour d’horizon of how the Kremlin has walked right into the judiciaries, interior ministries, ballot boxes, campaign coffers and even spy services of Europe, all because domestic politicians initially waved them in. The broad conclusion of “Misrule of Law,” as the report is titled, is that instead of a Europe whole and free, we’ve got one partly subsidized and dangerously subservient to Vladimir Putin.

Full Article: Trump Invited New Russian ‘Information’ About Opponents. Europe Knows Where That Leads..

Europe: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat | Lauren Bishop and Jacopo Barigazzi/Politico

European leaders are expected to call for a tougher “security culture” in the bloc to counter cyber threats, according to draft European Council conclusions dated Monday and seen by POLITICO. Days after news broke of a cybersecurity breach at the EU delegation in Moscow, the draft says that the EU needs more cooperation with international actors and institutions and a “coordinated response” to cyber threats. It backs the creation of a new strategy to deter and respond to cyberattacks. Earlier this month, news broke that the EU was investigating an apparent hack of its IT networks in its delegation offices in Moscow. An EU spokesperson said then it had “observed potential signs of compromised systems connected to our unclassified network.” Buzzfeed News reported on a leaked analysis of the hack that said information was stolen from at least two computers.

Full Article: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat – POLITICO.

Europe: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections | Irene Kostaki/New Europe

The European Commission revealed that Russian sources attempted to suppress turnout and influence voters during last month’s EU elections that employed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russia that covered a broad range of topics ranging from challenging the European Union’s democratic legitimacy to exploiting divisive public debates on issues such as migration and political sovereignty. Online platforms will need to do more to combat disinformation, including sharing data, which will assist in tracking even more suspected attempts by a Russian or Chinese attempt to influence the democratic processes both in the EU and the US, particularly after Western intelligence agencies continue to uncover evidence of a sustained effort by Moscow to promote extremist views and polarise local debates through disinformation.

Full Article: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections.