Sean Kerrigan-The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage "fake people" on social media sites. Private security firms employeed by the government have used the accounts to 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 HBGary 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 HBGary'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 classmates.com 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 HBGary 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 HBGary 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."
The creation of internet propoganda software is only one of HBGary's controversial activities. According to Wikileaks competetor and occasional collaborator Cryptome.org, several other progressive organizations were intended to be targeted including anti-war activist, anti-torture organizations and groups opposed to the US Chamber of Commerce.
The emails also include a number of other embarrasing entries including the purchase of the book "The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know" from Amazon for $6.76.
via FAKEBOOK: US Gov. Creates Software for ’Fake People’ Pushing Propoganda on Social Networks.
According to a spokesperson for US Central Command, Persona Management Software is not being used by the US government inside the United States and that the program is limited to “foreign, non-English speaking” websites.
Lt. Cmdr. Bill H. Speaks, spokesperson for US Central Command, said the program “supports classified activities outside the [United States]” on “non-English speaking websites.”
When asked if the program could be used by private security firms for domestic operations, Speaks declined to comment, saying only that the program did not exclusively belong to the US government.
According to Speaks, the contract was awarded in August of 2010 to software and contracting companies, not HBGary as previously insinuated by other outlets. HBGary Federal was one of the parties interested in applying for the contract in July of last year. The private security firm HBGary Federal was attacked by internet hacker group Anonymous earlier this month in which over 70,000 emails were copied and posted to the internet. The posted emails seemed to indicate that the company was planning to use “fake people” on social media sites to infiltrate and discredit their perceived political enemies.
- CentCom: Government Not Using Persona Management Software in Un
Not sure why the multi-O for men book is embarrassing, unless they are spending company money for personal uses. I read the book years ago and it works.
More importantly, be on the look out for the fake people on social web sites. US Central Command may be right about the government not creating fake people on US sites pushing a pro war agenda. Has anyone found one? I'm not sure that Obama is spending a lot on war propaganda to convince us of anything. I'm not hearing it anyway. Countries can get around laws about messing with their citizens by messing with each others citizens and sharing the data. This has been going on for years with spying.
Many of us know that industry pays billions to marketing firms to get us to believe certain things to influence buying habits, but we just don't know how much of what we hear is the result of lies for hire. For example, $4.2 billion was spent by the fast food industry in 2009 to get Americans to buy unhealthy foods according to grist.org. What did that money buy? Just commercials on TV and radio? Or do they slip a huge amount of money to Rush Limbaugh to talk about ribs and to connect good healthy foods with worthless things like cardboard and tree bark. To me, that's a psyop, it is vile propaganda, a paid lie disguised an attack on absurdity by a disgruntled everyman:
"I'm sure you're aware that nutritionist-at-large Michelle Obama is urging, demanding, advocating, requiring what everybody can and can't eat. She is demanding that everybody basically eat cardboard and tofu. No calories, no fat, no nothing -- gotta stop obesity. "
All you have to do, Rush, is say "roots and berries and tree bark" and "tofu and cardboard", and you get paid. Because marketers paid by the junk food industry already did a million dollars worth of research to figure out how to turn people against fresh foods, and in their focus groups, these phrases worked.
A $4.2 billion marketing budget in 2009, a year characterized by a brutal economic slump, is the sign of an extremely profitable industry. Corporate fast food is what is known as a "countercyclical" industry -- it tends to thrive when the economy goes to hell. When money is tight, McDonald's dollar menu looks like a bargain -- and stuff like Domino's now-infamous eight-cheese Wisconsin Pizza seems like a reasonable indulgence.
How well are these companies doing? The stock market gives us a clue. Over the past two years, shares of Yum! Brands (owner of owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver's) and McDonald's have both more than doubled. Meanwhile, the overall stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 index of the nation's largest publicly traded companies, has flat-lined. In other words, investors are quite bullish on junk food corporations.
Follow the money... and at least start to get a clue that ... oh no, I'm getting a fast food craving. Weird. I will fight it and eat cardboard and tree bark tonight... because those are the only alternatives to McDonalds.