Could You be Friending the Taliban?
Say you're browsing Facebook and you get a friend request from an attractive looking woman. You might think your luck's in. You might think it's a spammer and stay well clear. What you probably won't think is that this person is actually a Taliban member trying to find out military secrets from you.
Yet that's precisely what's happening to troops in Australia. Wired reveal that the Taliban have been posing as pretty girls on Facebook so as to befriend Australian troops. The aim was to lure the soldiers into revealing details about their work.
That's just one finding into a recent Australian government review into social media usage by the military.
A local Australian news website revealed that this was going on back in March, and even more worryingly that many soldiers were not aware they were being honeytrapped.
Soldiers “did not recognize that people using fake profiles … could capture information and movements,” the review found.
The US Army had similar problems with social media way back in 2007. Back then troops were uploading photos of army equipment, including Apache gunship helicopters. The problem was that each photo included embedded GPS data, so the enemy were able to determine their exact location inside the bases. After a mortar attack destroyed four of the helicopters you could say the troops learned a very hard lesson about what and what not to share online!
“Many individuals who use social media are extremely trusting,” the Australian report concluded. Soldiers approve friend requests from strangers, “overtly” relying on the privacy settings to protect them. The settings, which do not remove all useful data and in any event can change unannounced, create “a false sense of security,” the report stated.
Earlier this year Facebook admitted that 8.7% of its users are in fact fake. Whilst most of those were employed for spamming or boosting likes, it seems that some are employed for yet more nefarious means.
The morale of the story is that you should really be very careful who you friend, even if they are attractive.