General Debate 21/02/11

The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage “fake people” on social media sites and create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues. The contract calls for the development of “Persona Management Software” which would help the user create and manage a variety of distinct fake profiles online. The job listing was discussed in recently leaked emails from the private security firm HB Gary after an attack by internet activist last week.

According to the contract, the software would “protect the identity of government agencies” by employing a number of false signals to convince users that the poster is in fact a real person. A single user could manage unique background information and status updates for up to 10 fake people from a single computer.

The software enables the government to shield its identity through a number of different methods including the ability to assign unique IP addresses to each persona and the ability to make it appear as though the user is posting from other locations around the world.

Included in HB Gary’s leaked emails was a government proposal for the government contract. The document describes how they would ‘friend’ real people on Facebook as a way to convey government messages. The document reads:

* “Those names can be cross-referenced across Facebook, twitter, MySpace, and other social media services to collect information on each individual. Once enough information is collected this information can be used to gain access to these individuals social circles.

* Even the most restrictive and security conscious of persons can be exploited. Through the targeting and information reconnaissance phase, a person’s hometown and high school will be revealed. An adversary can create a account at the same high school and year and find out people you went to high school with that do not have Facebook accounts, then create the account and send a friend request. Under the mutual friend decision, which is where most people can be exploited, an adversary can look at a targets friend list if it is exposed and find a targets most socially promiscuous friends, the ones that have over 300-500 friends, friend them to develop mutual friends before sending a friend request to the target. To that end friend’s accounts can be compromised and used to post malicious material to a targets wall. When choosing to participate in social media an individual is only as protected as his/her weakest friend.”

Other documents in the leaked emails include quotes from HB Gary CEO Aaron Barr saying, “There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas… 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.”

Additional emails between HB Gary employees, usually originating from Barr, discuss the vulnerability social networking causes.

One employee wrote, “and now social networks are closing the gap between attacker and victim, to the point I just found (via linked-in) 112 females, wives of service men, all stationed at Hurlbert Field FL – in case you don’t know this is where the CIA flies all their “private” airlines out of. What a damn joke – the U.S. is no longer the super power in cyber, and probably won’t be in other areas soon.”

Barr also predicted a steady rise in clandestine or secret government operations to stem the flow of sensitive information. “I would say there is going to be a resurgence of black ops in the coming year as decision makers settle with our inadequacies… Critical infrastructure, finance, defense industrial base, and government have rivers of unauthorized communications flowing from them and there are no real efforts to stop it.”


22 thoughts on “General Debate 21/02/11

  1. Wow. Not surprising, though. Connect this with your other post on how Communists used information on people to decide who needs to be eliminated when regime change occurs.

    Anyway, I hide my identity, but anyone who really wanted to find out who I am could do so. Only the garden variety rock through the window people won’t be able to find me. Based on my family’s history, I’ve always been aware of that, but it hasn’t shut me up. And it won’t.

    Life is dangerous, and as Our Lord says, anyone who seeks to save their life will lose it.


  2. I don’t really bother to hide my identity online – I probably should…

    I figure anyone with half a brain who really wanted to figure out who I am could via IP addresses, etc…


  3. Jeremy,

    As far as I can tell, you appear to be just a commenter, not a blogger, as your name doesn’t link back to any particular site. And I’ve never really noticed you, either.

    It’s only when your opinions are noticeable, against the mainstream, and you have a spouse and children you want to protect from the potential consequences of your online political activity that it gets to be an issue.


  4. True, I am a commentor…

    I bet I’m a more memorable for those communistic posters on The Standard and Red Alert who howl whenever I post and resort to cheap insults and deridements… They are also those who I’d worry about knowing where I live…


  5. This is why I’m not a big fan of social media such as Facebook, twitter, and MySpace. And while I blog this is about the extent of online exchanges I’m involved with (apart from email, obviously).

    The fact that it is primarily the younger generation (18-35) who use the above mentioned social media would tend to indicate that it will likely be these individuals most compromised and swayed by such fake personas.

    Of course we’ve had our fair share of recent “Obamabots” contributing here (and on CR; often the same ones) as genuine personas. I’m sure these Obamabots use multiple personas as they spread their misinformation throughout the blogosphere.

    And isn’t it comforting to know that it’s our taxes paying for such unscrupulous activities …


  6. Well I’ve noticed you, Jeremy 😉

    I think you under play the roll of commenters, Lucia – whether or not they have their own blog/site. I think having good commenters highlights what the author of particular blog articles is trying to say. Commenters can tease out different aspects that may have been missed or not highlighted in the parent article.
    Bottom line: commenters add GREATLY to the discussion; and I often get just as much out of what fellow commenters say as I do the main article (as I’m sure those who mainly just read blogs do). Even our ideological enemies know the value of commenters; just look at all the Obamabots who have been flooding conservative blogs (here and at CR, for example) recently.

    And I’m sure Red places high value on the contributiuons regular commenters make.

    PS Surely you don’t just comment on blogs with the PRIMARY aim of advertising your own blog?! Well at least I hope not.


  7. Kris,

    I’ve noticed you.

    I’ve been blogging a long time, and one of my major aims a number of years back was to increase the contribution from commenters, even if they felt they had nothing much to say. To that end, I started up the regular Friday Night Free For All just for general comments about anything (with Murray Hitting Metal with a Hammer). It was the first of it’s kind in the NZ Blogosphere, and pre-dates KiwiBlog’s General Debate.

    As for advertising my blog, there’s not much there to advertise right now. I don’t have the time to put into serious blogging. The occasional post and comments here and there is as much as I can manage for now. You should see my abandoned blog post graveyard of half to three quarter finished posts .. it’s sad.


  8. “I think having good commenters highlights what the author of particular blog articles is trying to say. ”
    Absolutely. A blog without good commenters would be pointless. Far as I’m concerned, at least, the posts are just a catalyst for commenters to hold a conversation–and that conversation is what really matters.


  9. I’m not entirely sure you got the point I was making, Lucia. Let’s just say I feel it’s important to encourage each other (commenters and bloggers alike), and especially those who we agree with ideologically. We are in a battle of ideas; a battle for “hearts and minds”. Each of us have our roles to play. And much of what we say, and the ideas we express, will have impact on wider society (and perhaps even eternity). This is important stuff.

    And by the way, I view “commenters” as “bloggers” just as much as those who may run a particular blog site.


  10. Kris,

    Yes, I got it. And moved a couple of paces forward. As I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m a ground-breaker, people follow in my footsteps.


  11. Lucia, I’m not sure whether you intended it this way or not, but your comment

    you appear to be just a commenter, not a blogger, as your name doesn’t link back to any particular site. And I’ve never really noticed you, either.

    smacks of condescension, elitism and arrogance. Much of what Jeremy has had to say I have found enlightening and insightful, certainly much more so than some of the dross bloggers put out there (like this, for example). I don’t see any difference between bloggers and commenters. The initial blog post starts a conversation which a lot of times commenters greatly enhance. It is the essence of “citizen journalism” and one of the key reasons why the MSM is an endangered species.

    Who knows, perhaps Jeremy doesn’t have the time, energy or patience to maintain his own blogsite. I certainly don’t and am extremely grateful that KG lets me have a corner of his site when I feel the need to scream at the walls. For all that, it doesn’t make what Jeremy says, or I say, or you say, or Red says, any less relevant.


  12. Gnatt,

    Yeah, I can see how it comes across that way – it wasn’t intended.

    I can react badly sometimes when people tell me they don’t feel the need to be anonymous, as if there is something wrong with me wanting to be so. Not that he did directly, but it was implied.


  13. Cool LM I understand. Obviously, I agree with the desire for anonymity (The Gantt Guy isn’t my real name, but please don’t tell anyone). It isn’t hard to find out my IRL identity – I don’t hide and if someone really wanted to they could find me, but several companies I do business with have leftards running them and for me to deliberately “out” myself would mean the loss of income.



  14. … His real name is Mr O. Kiwi 😉

    PS Lucia, words are important – choose them carefully. I didn’t think you intended it the way it came out, but nonetheless that’s the impression you gave.

    Just as I’m sure you don’t think of Gantt as a “Gnatt” 😉


  15. No apologies needed Lucia, I wasn’t trying to imply anything, after seeing some of the vitriol and hatred sent the way of right-wing bloggers I can completely understand the desire to remain anonymous… Somewhat unlike Gantt Guy I do see a slight distinction between Bloggers and Commentors as one has a record of a “physical” online location and a focal point of content to be hated, whereas commentors have the luxury of moving throughout the sphere… I take criticism as an opportunity to improve…

    Let’s just say I feel it’s important to encourage each other (commenters and bloggers alike), and especially those who we agree with ideologically.

    I think this is very important, that a record (for searches) of such non-mainstream, yet valid ideas exists for people to uncover and then join likeminded people…


  16. Thanks, Jeremy. Hey, at least you are on my radar now!


    Darn it! Of course, it should have been Gantt. My brain just automatically “fixed it”.

    I decided today to finish my editing of Hilaire Belloc’s chapter on The Crusades from his book The Battleground. Have to be careful when posting about war not to become overly aggressive myself.

    And Gantt, you are correct about me. I am condescending, elitist and arrogant. Just, most (some?) of the time I can control it.


  17. LM: “And Gantt, you are correct about me. I am condescending, elitist and arrogant. Just, most (some?) of the time I can control it.”

    Nah that’s what struck me LM; mostly you’re not. Apart from that little bit of the time when we all are. Like when we know we’re just a little bit better than the person with whom we’re conversing – I live in Australia, so I get that a LOT… 🙂


  18. Hi team, who is the bigger goon – silly Robot Goff or John No Balls Key? The politicial scene in this country is sewer material!


  19. Hi ya, Dad. Have you given up on “New Zealand’s Premier Rightwing blog” yet?
    And regarding the political scene in this country; Jeremy suggested starting a party going by the name of “The Pakeha Party” on another thread. I think it has definite possibilities!

    Alternatively perhaps we could call it “The Trueblue Pakeha Party” – Red for El Presidente.


  20. “Red for El Presidente.”

    I agree Kris and Lucia the “entertainment for the masses” is rather sickening. How thick do our so called leaders think we are? I have watched this country go backward for the last 50 years. It’s really sad!


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