The US government has been caught red-handed in the war against public opinion. Leaked emails reveal how the United States Government hired private contractor HBGary to create an army of fake social media profiles with the sole intention of swaying public opinion on controversial issues.
Facebook users who protect their accounts by only adding the friends they know were also at risk. Redacted News found that among the emails were clear instructions on how to compromise a user’s social network by pretending to be an old friend from school for example:
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.
In earlier times, the propaganda machine relied heavily on newspaper, radio and television mediums to mould public opinion. However, the phenomenal increase in social media use has made it easier for Government departments to hide behind sub-contractors, given the EFF's warning in October 2010 that revealed the extent of Big Brother's presence online and their many attempts to befriend us.
It’s all fairly common sense, but next time you think someone is acting strange online or is trying to get access to your Facebook Friends list, spare a second thought for who that person might or might not actually be. [Redacted News and DailyKaos]