Is someone abusing the internet? US Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to know about it.
Sessions said Tuesday that he's creating a cybersecurity task force to take on a huge variety of threats to the US presented by technology, from hackers to trolls spreading fake news to violent extremists. He said he wants a group of high-level officials from four federal agencies and several divisions of the US Department of Justice to put their heads together and assess the risks inherent in the internet.
The creation of the task force comes four days after an investigation run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three companies as conspirators in a plot to spread misinformation online prior to the US presidential election in 2016. The indictment increased pressure on the government and tech companies alike to make it harder for foreign entities to influence elections in the US using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google (which owns YouTube).
The task force is slated to present Sessions with a preliminary report at the end of June. The report might be quite lengthy, given the number of cyberthreats the attorney general wants covered. In a memo, he said "these threats include:
"efforts to interfere with, or disable, our critical infrastructure; efforts to interfere with our elections; use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; theft of corporate, governmental, and private information on a mass scale; use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement, or to mask criminal activity; and the mass exploitation of computers, along with weaponizing of everyday consumer devices (as well as of the very architecture of the Internet itself) to launch attacks on American citizens and businesses."
While that sounds like a laundry list, Sessions said in his memo that understanding these topics is vital to American prosperity.
"We must ensure that internet-based technologies remain sources of enrichment, rather than becoming forces of destruction and vectors of chaos," he said.