U.S. Military Launches Secret Spy Operation Using Social Media
HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - The U.S. Military has purchased software designed to create and control false online personas in an attempt to use social media and other websites to counter anti-U.S. messaging.
According to the contract between US Central Command (Centcom) and California company Ntrepid, the software would let each user control 10 personas, each "replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent." The software would also be able to let personas "appear to originate in nearly any part of the world" and interact through "conventional online services and social media platforms," while using a static IP address for each persona to maintain a consistent online identity.
These false online personas, also known as "sock puppets," would be equipped to seem like real people while entering online discussion through blogs, message boards, chats, and more. With a false persona, a user could discredit opponents, or create the semblance of consensus.
Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian that the software "supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."
The technology would not be used in America, or by American owned companies--which include major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. "We do not target U.S. audiences, and we do not conduct these activities on sites owned by U.S. companies," Speaks told the Washington Times.
At a senate hearing March 1, Centcom commander James N. Mattis said, "Our enemies operate within cyberspace (and its associated relevant physical infrastructure) to plan, coordinate, recruit, train, equip, execute and garner support for operations against the U.S., its allies and interests. Clearly, in the information age, our military must adapt to this new domain of warfare."
The online persona project is thought to fall under the domain of Operation Earnest Voice, which oversees Centcom's Information Operations, and in the words of Mattis, "seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda."
The users controlling the personas would be hidden in a variety of ways, including randomizing the IP addresses they accessed the software with, and "traffic mixing," or blending web traffic with that outside of Centcom to provide "excellent cover and powerful deniability."
The strategy may sound familiar. Last month, hacker group Anonymous unloaded a batch of 50,000 emails from security firm HBGary, where documents indicated that the firm was in the process of developing their own persona management software. The document outlined some of the proposed strategies for creating verisimilitude:
Using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example. There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas.
Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>
KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho - A 13-year-old boy is recovering after he was hit by a car on Seltice Way near State Line. The victim said moments after he was hit, the driver fled the scene. The boy's dad told KHQ's Hayley Guenthner that Saturday night around 9:00, his son went to grab a snack from the gas station about a block from their home. He said the car veered off the road and into the parking lot where his son was. When a woman came to>>
KHQ.COM - Most mothers can only hope by the time their children grow up and move out of the house, they've learned all the necessary things to be a successful adult, including the basic knowledge that a turkey must be cooked in an oven, or perhaps in a smoker... NOT in a microwave. For this reason a new prank-challenge going around on Facebook is resulting in some hilarious text conversations between mothers and their grown children.>>
VAN HORN, Texas (AP) - The FBI is investigating after one U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent died and another was seriously injured while on duty in South Texas. Border Patrol spokesman Douglas Mosier says Agent Rogelio Martinez and his partner were taken to a hospital Sunday after they were hurt while responding to activity in the Big Bend area. The 36-year-old Martinez died at the hospital.>>
SPOKANE, Wash. - Friday marked two years since windstorm 2015 knocked down trees, caused massive damage and left thousands of people without power in and around Spokane. Just a few days later marks another historic weather-related anniversary in the region: Ice Storm 1996.>>
KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho - The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office has arrested a man they believe hit a 13-year-old boy with his car over the weekend near the state line. Billy B. Swift of Newman Lake was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and inattentive driving. The boy's father said his son went to grab a snack from the gas station near their home Saturday night when a car veered off the road.>>
ATLANTA (AP) - Two nurses lost their licenses after a television station persuaded courts to unseal a video secretly recorded by the family of a man who died in their care. The video shows the World War II veteran repeatedly calling for help, saying he can't breathe. It also shows the nurses failing to take life-saving measures, and laughing as they try to start an oxygen machine.>>