You know how people say that a smart person learns from his own mistakes but a genius learns from those of others, the French have just demonstrated this in their latest election. In a report named Successfully Countering Russian Electoral Interference by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), steps and lessons are outlined in how the 2017 French presidential election was able to withstand foreign interference despite suffering from gigabytes of data leak from Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign team known as the Macron Leaks.
Chief among all was to learn from the mistakes of the 2016 United States presidential election, which included an underestimation in the effect of disinformation campaigns, or more bluntly, an overconfidence in the people in critical and reflective thinking, in spite of our identified tendency to search for, interpret and focus on information that confirms our beliefs, that we rely on information that comes easily to mind, and that we are, unbeknownst to ourselves, driven by emotions rather than reason, as well as a lack of preparation and anticipation for a cyber attack resulting in a data leak and a reluctancy in a prompt and proper response.
The most interesting among the lessons outlined was perhaps how Macron’s presidential campaign team was able to minimise the damage of the Macron Leaks by combining, in anticipation of a cyber attack, real email correspondences with forgeries that were created by the campaign team itself, with contents that are beyond the widest imagination to the point of ridiculousness, such as confession to detailed accounts of untoward sexual practices or buying cocaine, that when leaked together with the real email correspondences instilled doubt in the legitimacy of the leak and shifted the burden of proof from Macron’s campaign team to the leakers. Beating the hackers at their own game was how CSIS names it, and of course it only worked because the people were engaging in at least some degree of critical and reflective thinking.