Sunday, February 20, 2011

Identity, sockpuppets and you

There's been a lot of blog activity recently about "identity" and "transparency" online. Here's something you might want to think about regarding these issues and the effects that may result...

The trove of emails released by Anonymous from the HBGary Federal just keeps revealing more convergence between government, the military and corporations in the slow-motion data war to cripple, pollute and control the net.

HBGary Federal is of course the company that got its pants pulled down by Anonymous after making bombastic and ludicrous claims that it had "uncovered key leaders and figures in Anonymous" (a claim later ridiculed, shown to be a complete lie and resulting in the electronic pantsing that is revealing so much information lately). Some of the emails Anonymous has leaked also include discussing black-hat hacking at the request of Bank of America. HBGary Federal is a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA...

The newest bombshell is the release of key emails between HBGary and a Federal job solicitation site ( discussing creating software that would field an an army of sockpuppets to suborne, distort and pollute commentators, bloggers and online sites. - i.e. astroturfing.

Before you start talking to me about paranoia, tinfoil hats and the like, you should take a few minutes to read the discussion and posted emails at DailyKOS. You should also read the posted Federal job opportunities page soliciting this kind of software.

HBGary email quote:

"To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter,‭ ‬blogs,‭ ‬forums,‭ ‬buzz,‭ ‬and myspace under created names that fit the profile‭ (‬satellitejockey,‭ ‬hack3rman,‭ ‬etc‭)‬.‭ ‬These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds,‭ ‬retweets,‭ ‬and linking together social media commenting between platforms.‭ ‬With a pool of these accounts to choose from,‭ ‬once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name,‭ ‬lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected‭ ‬#‭ ‬of previously created social media accounts,‭ ‬automatically pre-aging the real accounts."

Quote from the soliciting this software:

"Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user's situational awareness by displaying real-time local information. "

So how, exactly, is this any different that "hackers" managing huge botnets of zombies... or stealing your identity... or breaking the TOS of each of these sites (deliberately falsifying information)... or ballot-box/poll box stuffing. All of which are of course illegal. For now. So... the government is... advocating black-hat hacking, social manipulation and falsifying online presence for political purposes. Which is... exactly what the "we need total online transparency now!" people claim is the reason for needing total online transparency! *whoosh*

If you think that a government/corporation that would resort to this kind of deceptive, illegal and underhanded tactic would protect your personal information/identity online (just like the banks... who rant and rave about "hackers" and yet will sell me anyone's personal info I want for 25USD)... then I am sorry for you. There's a reason anonymous speech is/was/used to be protected by constitutional rights.

My data & identity must be transparent, but a corporation working for the government (or anyone else for that matter) can create false records, break TOS, engage in replicating fake "identities" and use those "social manipulation points" to attempt to drown and stifle debate, criticism or news? I think not.

This is gloves-off infowar. It's real and it's now.

"The social body constrains the way the physical body is perceived. The physical experience of the body, always modified by the social categories through which it is known, sustains a particular view of society. There is a continual exchange of meaning between the two kinds of bodily experience so that each reinforces the categories of the other. As a result of this interaction, the body itself is a highly-restricted medium of expression...

To be useful, the structural analysis of symbols has somehow to relate to a hypothesis about role structure. From here, the argument will go in two stages. First, the drive to achieve consonance in all levels of experience produces concordance among the means of expression, so that the use of the body is co-ordinated with other media. Second, controls exerted from the social system place limits on the use of the body as medium."

Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols.


sororNishi said...

Great post, and, allegedly, The New Boss is all for us deciding the degree of privacy we want in SL.... unlike the FB fool.

Miso Susanowa said...

teehee "allegedly"
I forgot my favorite buzzword!

Glyph Graves said...

Yeah its interesting how people underemphasise/underestimate the the way this sort of thing can be so easily automated.
Now as far as tinfoil hats are concerned may I suggest an origami style.. in fact we could do a collab with this in mind.

Now to the real reason Im here ... you forgot a contact miso email link so I can send all my ideas personally

Iggy O said...

Geek T-shirt idea:

"Transparency is more than an alpha layer"

Someone kick me, please.