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Social media zombies: HBGary, USAF and the government

HBGary ownage has probably been the most prominent example of complete take over carried out by hackers in the Internet history. Not just for the data leakage in itself, but for the type of highly confidential and embarrassing data uncovered that caused the resignation of the CEO, Aaron Barr and an unrecoverable bad reputation for the whole company.
Unless you have been in North pole without Internet in the past couple of months, you’ve already heard of how the Anonymous group, the group of hacker defending the Wiki Leaks cause, had infiltrated HBGary’s CEO email and posted most of his conversation on the Internet (among the other things).
In the number of embarrassing relationships and secret projects between HBGary and US government agencies, there is one project that is yet to be uncovered. This project is about creating personas management software to be used on social networks.
Personas, according to a June 2010 USAF, project have to be “replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent”. Although the intelligence project is not new, the leaked emails reveal that Aaron Barr and other government contractors bid on a USAF, U.S. Air force, project to build such software.
The final goal of the software is not revealed in the emails. Nor is possible to determine whether HBGary actually won the contract.
According to USCENTCOM, the project is used to “counter extremist ideology and propaganda, and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard”. Regions being areas of the world where the highest concentration of “violent extremists and enemies” are present.
According to Anonymous group it is also possible to use this type of software to shift public opinion or bring good or bad reputation to companies/government. Basically a way to create multiple zombies with a consistent and proved background, to influence actual humans through social networks. Anonymous group has promised to dive into this topic to find out who is involved and for which goals.
By Armando Romeo

April 6, 2011

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