November 26, 2011

Espionage, Social Media Style

You are being watched!
Good guys and bad guys are tracking your movements, rants and raves, photos, and more online.
For example, The Atlantic reported on 4 November 2011 in an article titled How the CIA Uses Social Media to Track How People Feel that "analysts are tracking millions of tweets, blog posts, and Facebook updates around the world."
Further, in January 2009, "DHS established a Social Networking Monitoring Center (SNMC) to monitor social networking sites for 'items of interest.'"
And even more recently in August 2011, DARPA invited proposals for "memetracking" to identify themes and sentiments online and potentially use this for predictive analysis.
The thinking is that if you can use online information to predict stock market movements as some have attempted, why not criminal and terrorist activity?
Similarly, The Guardian reported on 16 March 2010 FBI using Facebook in fight against crime and cautions that "criminals dumb enough to brag about their exploits on social networking sites have now been warned: the next Facebook 'friend' who contacts you may be an FBI agent."
This is reminescent of the work of private sector, Dateline NBC in using Internet chat rooms to catch sexual predators online by luring them to a house where the predators believed they were going to meet up with a underage girl for a tryst.
While these efforts are notable and even praiseworthy by the good guys--assuming you can get over the privacy implications in favor of the potential to have a safer society to live in--these activities should be carefully safeguarded, so as not to infringe on the rights and freedoms of those who behave legally and ethically.
But the good guys are not the only ones using the tools of the trade for monitoring and analyzing social networking activities--the bad guys too recognize the implicit information treasure trove available and have you in their crosshairs.
For example, in the last years Arab Spring, we have nation states tracking their citizens political activities and using their power over the Internet to shut off access and otherwise surpress democracy and human rights. Further, we have seen their use for cyberspying and testing offensive cyber attack capabilities--only the most recent of which was the alleged infiltration of a SCADA system for a Illinois water plant.
Moreover, this past week, Forbes (21 November 2011) reported in The Spy Who Liked Me that "your social network friends might not be all that friendly."
From corporate espionage to market intelligence, there are those online who "steadfastly follows competitors' executives and employees on Twitter and LinkedIn."
In fact, the notion of online monitoring is so strong now that the article openly states that "if you're not monitoring your competitors activity on social media, you may be missing out on delicious tidbits" and warns that "it's easy to forget that some may not have your best intersts at heart."
Additionally, while you may not think your posts online give that much away, when your information is aggregated with other peoples posts as well as public information, it's possible to put together a pretty good sketch of what organizations and individuals are doing.
Forbes lists the following sites as examples of the "Web Spy Manual" with lots of information to pull from: Slideshare,, Quora, iSpionage, Youtube as well as job postings and customer support forums.
When you are on your computer in what you believe to be the privacy of your own home, office, or wherever, do not be deceived, when you are logged on, you are basically as open book for all the world to see--good guys and bad guys alike.
(Source Photo: here)


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