As we get closer and closer to the 2020 primaries and general election, Craig Newmark has been getting increasingly worried. “I’ve seen that our election and its integrity are being attacked by foreign adversaries and their domestic allies,” the Craigslist founder tells Fast Company. “I feel that I should tell people who are smarter than me: Defend the election, and thereby defend the country.”
And when he gets concerned about an issue, Newmark lays out some of his considerable fortune to make a difference. In recent years, marked by the rapid decline of local newspapers (partly due to the loss of classified ad revenue since the birth of Craigslist), he has donated over $100 million to news nonprofits such as the City and Consumer Reports, as well as the City University of New York’s journalism school.
Earlier this year, he gave $1 million to the Global Cyber Alliance, supporting its initiative that provides cybersecurity toolkits to election officials, journalists, and community organizations. And tomorrow he’s set to donate another $750,000, via his Craig Newmark Philanthropies, to build on that work. The online toolkits are focused on teaching cyberhygiene—turning on two-factor authentication, automatic updating for software, antivirus capabilities, automatic backups, etc.
So far, it’s been used by election officials all over the country, from New York to Washington State, and in countries such as Peru, India, the U.K., Brazil, Germany, and Spain.
Newmark outlined his own recommendations, which he imparts to journalists and elected officials: “When it comes to phishing, basically don’t click on anything where you don’t know where it came from. And frankly, I suggest to everyone, unless you need a full Mac or Windows notebook, to use a Chromebook, which is probably the most secure notebook you can carry around.”
He also warns journalists about hacking and “social engineering,” in which bad actors try to plant disinformation with reporters.
And finally, as if we needed anymore convincing about the importance of strong cybersecurity, while I was doing research for this story, I got hit with an impromptu warning from Chrome to change my passwords due to a data breach.