Reports & Papers

20 Items

Voters mark their ballots during early voting at the Park Slope Armory in Brooklyn, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Report - Defending Digital Democracy

Beyond 2020: Policy Recommendations for the Future of Election Security

February 2021

The 2020 election presents a paradox. Despite dramatic changes to the election process due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasingly complex threats since the 2016 election, 2020 is widely regarded as “the most secure [election] in American history.” Operationally, it was also one of the smoothest. State and local election officials overcame unprecedented challenges and scarce resources to administer an election with fewer incidents of cyber compromises, technical failures or long lines than anticipated. After Election Day, recount procedures functioned as designed. Yet, amidst these successes, officials from both parties faced a barrage of mis- and disinformation about the election process that served to undermine confidence in the result.

Though the election security ecosystem survived the triple threat of cybersecurity, physical security, and mis- and disinformation in 2020, this success will prove to be hard to replicate in future election cycles without proper investment and reinforcement.

Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci

AP/Alex Brandon

Paper - Centre for International Governance Innovation

US Intelligence, the Coronavirus and the Age of Globalized Challenges

| Aug. 24, 2020

This essay makes three arguments. First, the US government will need to establish a coronavirus commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, to determine why, since April 2020, the United States has suffered more coronavirus fatalities than any other country in the world. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic represents a watershed for what will be a major national security theme this century: biological threats, both from naturally occurring pathogens and from synthesized biology. Third, intelligence about globalized challenges, such as pandemics, needs to be dramatically reconceptualized, stripping away outmoded levels of secrecy.

In this April 22, 2020 photo, Gerard Bakulikira, right, and captain Tim Daghelet, left, both wear a Romware COVID Radius digital bracelet, which flashes red when people are too close to each other and creates a log of contacts. 

AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Paper

Considerations for Digital Contact Tracing Tools for COVID-19 Mitigation: Recommendations for Stakeholders and Policymakers

Many are looking to digital contact tracing to assist reopening efforts, especially in light of reports that the U.S. could expect as many as 100,000 more deaths due to the virus by this Fall. This report focuses on how the U.S. might consider various proposed solutions.

We believe there are real benefits, challenges, and even potential harms in using digital solutions in the fight against COVID-19, but we must also acknowledge that the promise of any technology and associated systems to assist manual contact tracing efforts is largely hypothetical in the United States. There is not one catch-all answer; the truth is that technology is not a panacea, but it may be able to assist official efforts at an unprecedented time. However, no technological solution can succeed without two specific factors: public trust and buy-in, and rapid, widespread testing for everyone living in the U.S. To achieve the first, a number of factors must be addressed by officials in the states looking to implement digital solutions, and by technology developers.
 

A young boy walks past a wall with graffiti urging people to wear face masks in Harare, Thursday, May, 28, 2020.

AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Paper

Three No-Regret Decisions for the Next Three Months: How Partners Can Assist Africa’s COVID-19 Fight

| June 2020

Covid-19 has been described by the Head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention as “an existential threat to the Continent.” Updated forecasts by the World Health Organisation (WHO) warn that up to 190,000 people could die from Covid-19 in Africa, and notwithstanding continuing epidemiological uncertainty, it is already clear that Covid-19 threatens fragile health and economic systems across the continent. This paper considers the latest economic forecasts and assesses those now most at risk by highlighting potentially devastating “secondary effects” of the pandemic. Recognizing the leadership already shown by many African governments, and the steps already taken by the international community, the paper looks ahead and highlights three “no regret” decisions, which could and should be taken by the international community in the next three months to assist Africa’s Covid-19 fight.

Advocacy groups display a thousand signs that read #GetUsPPE, along images of health care workers, in a call for personal protective equipment for frontline health workers during the coronavirus outbreak, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Washington.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Paper

Coronavirus as a Strategic Challenge: Has Washington Misdiagnosed the Problem?

| April 2020

With reservations about venturing into territory outside our normal wheelhouse, and in full certainty that some of what we write here will in retrospect turn out to have been wrong, a team of researchers at the Belfer Center and I have been collecting all the data we have been able to find about coronavirus, analyzing it to the best of our ability, and debating competing answers to the fundamental questions about the challenge this novel virus poses to our nation.

What follows is our current first-approximation of a work in progress. We are posting at this point in the hope of stimulating a wider debate that will include a much larger number of analysts beyond public health professionals and epidemiologists—including in particular intelligence officers, financial wizards, historians, and others.

Voters line up in voting booths to cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The mural in the background was painted by 3rd and 4th graders at the school in preparation for Veterans Day.

Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Paper

The Elections Battle Staff Playbook

December 2019

Our previous Playbooks have focused on the threats posed by cyber attacks and information operations. This Playbook has a broader scope, and equips you with strategies to operationalize the guidance from past Playbooks through effective preparation, communication, incident tracking, and team organization. By compiling best practices from private and public sector actors, we hope to enhance the capacity of your election team, regardless of your staff or jurisdiction size. It will better prepare you to identify issues and respond to incidents of all types during election operations.

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Geopolitics of Information

| May 28, 2019

To compete and thrive in the 21st century, democracies, and the United States in particular, must develop new national security and economic strategies that address the geopolitics of information. In the 20th century, market capitalist democracies geared infrastructure, energy, trade, and even social policy to protect and advance that era’s key source of power—manufacturing. In this century, democracies must better account for information geopolitics across all dimensions of domestic policy and national strategy.

Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow and the 28 Permanent Representatives to the North Atlantic Council visit NATO’s cyber defence centre at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium on Friday, 23 January 2015.

NATO

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

National Counter-Information Operations Strategy

| February 2019

While nation-state competitors have employed propaganda and information operations (IO) targeting the United States for decades, in recent years their efforts have changed dramatically. The rise of the Internet and social media as mechanisms for disseminating news has made our country both more globally interconnected and simultaneously more vulnerable to foreign efforts to destabilize our democracy. There is now clear evidence that Russia used influence operations designed to undermine U.S. democracy and citizens’ trust in its integrity in both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles. Adversaries are actively using information as a weapon to attack the United States, our political system, and citizens’ trust in it.

People vote on the first day of early voting in Miami-Dade County, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Defending Vote Casting: Using Blockchain-based Mobile Voting Applications in Government Elections

    Author:
  • Irene Solaiman
| October 2018

Threats to U.S. elections, including undermined trust in election infrastructure and vote casting accessibility, necessitate innovation in voting security and accessibility.

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Catching Swedish Phish: How Sweden is Protecting its 2018 Elections

    Author:
  • Gabriel Cederberg
| Sep. 07, 2018

Alarmed by Russia’s brazen interference in the 2016 US Election, Sweden began preparing for its September 2018 election in earnest. Over the past year and a half, Sweden has created a comprehensive strategy based on a clear understanding of the threat; it has learned lessons from other targeted elections; and it has developed a whole-of-society defense—mobilizing not just the government, but also the Swedish media and Swedish citizens.