Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Social Media A Playground For Intelligence

Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) has became a norm in secret entities to utilize timely massive data. 
While Big Data holds some crucial importance in the current generation of Information Technology (IT),with applications ranging from Financial, Industrial, Marketing, Academic to Defense sectors like Cyber security. With the exponential rise of vast open sources available where Opves harvesting information for profiling from social media and internet which afford government's secret agencies to deploy monitoring tools and plant misleading placements in digital advertisements. Nowadays most major Big data analyzing firms are either direct or indirect linked with national security, and subsequently to the intelligence community. In this blog article I review a small dent how intelligence community have piked a hole and created a back-doors in all social media's platforms. Social media intelligence (SOCMINT) is modern as a collective toolkit that comprises of multiple software and solutions for data harvesting that allow secret organizations to monitor directly social channels,conversations, respond to social signals and synthesize entire social data points into meaningful trends and analysis based on the user's needs and weakness.

"When a person monitors a database, it's a small data, and when a database monitors a person, it's called Big Data. The IC has a routine work of collection, processing, exploitation, misleading, blackmailing,dissemination; the analysis of data is still largely organized on the Cold War model of seeking out secret information." -- Arzan Tarapore​

We live in a knowledgeable society that battling one another for economical survival, the more data you processing to produce relevant information, the rich you are.  Data in 12th century represents new currency and the same time a weapon that can be use against any person or state. The amount of data interpreted per day through an average smartphones and social media users exceeds the repository of several literature and libraries. Data has been central to the physical sciences, which progressed through painstaking analysis of controlled experiments. Most of the standard data analysis had been invented in the process of solving a complicated numerical problem (example: Monte Carlo). The analysis of large, complex data sets in academic world has led to discovery of Higgs Boson and other fascinate algorithms that use by CRN in decoding the hidden nature of the Dark Matter. In business industry, data mining has increased eCommerce revolution.  

Intel Data Mining

With the Internet, through various sites, serving as a virtual meeting and debating forum for 100s of millions of users; it has become a treasure-trove for information on individuals, either directly posted on indirectly referred to. Intelligence agencies have been quick to use this information to extend their intelligence-gathering network. There are a couple of approaches to leveraging the Internet for intelligence-gathering. IT giants such as (Google, Facebook,Twitter,Whats-app and others) have became the playgrounds thrived by the intelligence organizations.   Data harvesting has gone beyond intelligence and now the academia and business are doing the same trade like IC for marketing analysis purpose to increase more sales example Email Marketing and doing industrial espionage on their competitors. For a nation’s Intelligence Community (IC), data and its analytics have been central for its mission to anticipate unsuspected surprise from adversary enemies and stay ahead of most anti-social and disorderliness. In past counter intelligence used conventional approach of IC and most rely on human judgement and physical behaviors (HUMINT) and collect information from various sources. 
Image result for social media and intelligence collection

The boom social media such as Facebook and other open sources that recently used by Cambridge data mining firm, "Cambridge Analytica" has revealed that Facebook in particularly is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we are talking about the world’s most comprehensive database more than 50 billion people including their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives all over the world that accessible to intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo all these major organizations have built-in interfaces specially for intelligence.

Recently, Facebook has suspended the Chief Excutive Office of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) who sold 50 billion Facebook profiles to a third party, which was hired by several political parties and candidates data firm and Cambridge Analytica from Facebook, following after University of Cambridge's Neural Analytica that harvested about multiple million profiles which leaked to the public. But Cambridge Analytica has not only targeting Americans and Britons. The firm claims to have worked in a wide range of countries, including Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Malaysia and Mexico. Politicians in several countries are calling for proper investigations of the company's work and some local partners who worked together are distancing themselves.  During meetings over four months, Cambridge Analytica employees touted their work worldwide. One commentator said " social media is politically weaponized’ against US voters from the industries since last decade"

Data harvesting technology has led the IC to aggressively to recruit front business and revamp its new infrastructure as well as tools to be at par with the technical age. 

The applications of big data to Intelligence Community (IC) and subsequently National Security is evident emanated from hacking and Cybernetic attacks to steal top seceret infromation from the government servers and corporate digital archives. The level of access to user data, usually done through the deployment of sophisticated mining tools which are available with IT giants like Google and IBM. Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) has became a norm in many secret organizations to utilize timely massive data on social media, that needed to address the past , present events and catch up with the future challenges that ushered by various sectors like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human interaction computational.

In recent years world governments have placed highest importance in developing national strategies both to exploit social media and counter its problem. There are many privacy issues and cyber policy that needed in formulating proper law to tackle thing like cyber bullies,identity thefts and big data across the bigger spectrum. 

The complementary intelligence approach designed to leverage the Internet for intelligence-gathering uses through hard data gained from Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Data Intelligence (SIGINT, IMINT, MASINT) operations that search several on-line links and various references acquired for data capture. The data will be entered into special program like Kali Linux, metasploit project,backtrack,hydra, SNA software, and visualizing toolkit. Typically, these penetration and searches will involve surfing the entire Internet and social networking sites to map-out the fresh connections and news feed of information available via vast networks. This cycle of refinement and profiling of information has resulted in the achievement of the intelligence objective; and tracking down of several Jihadists and terrorists. 

SNA software provides a complementary sources of information, which could be useful for tracking a known suspect (individual or organisation).  Given the silo-style "operational secrecy"of insurgents or terror groups whom these days spread their ideological message through social mrdia, it is so imperative to identify and mark the potential sources of trouble before the trouble erupts. It is here that social networking sites provide the most valuable information: Joining on-line discussion groups,site incognito dedicated to specific causes or ideologies, and befriending potential trouble-makers, are ways to identify incipient plots and terror-threats. Some of the primary usages for data mining in context of defense and national security are:
  • Maritime Security 
  • Cyber Security 
  • Money Laundering (Financial Intelligence) 
  • Multi-INT Analysis 
  • Space Situational Awareness.
In 2006 United States's Intelligence Community has officiated the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the same cousin of DARPA . The entity was established with two main aims to inspire technical innovations while still countering what considered as “High risk and high payoff”. The IARPA focuses on anticipate surprise, forecasting, incisive analysis ( ​maximizing insights from dynamic data sets ), ​threat detection and quantum computing, which is a very rare subject in  conventional intelligence community, IARPA heavily collaborates with business industry, academia and media. Two of the most successful programs of IARPA in the open source sector has been.

FOREST: (Forecasting Science and Technology)​, initiate crowd-sourcing, forecasting tournaments to predict disruptive technologies and cyber bullies. OSI: (Open Source Indicators), ​is the analyzing of entire social media environment to predict warnings about real world events. This program has been credited for predicting political,natural and economical events much before the out frogging. 

The Islamic State (IS) has been very active in using social media (Twitter) and YouTube to carry forward their agenda. Using such open source intelligence, along with the surveillance and intelligence from ground, in principle big data can correlate their possible location and resources. During the Arab Spring, social media played a very important role in spreading on the movement across the region. However, with all the information at hand, none of the big data analysis available to IC at the time could predict the trajectory of the protest from Tunisia to Egypt, neither could have predicted the unrest following a ‘successful’ revolution of taking down authoritarian regimes. An expert instead could have predict the fate of these nations knowing about the politics and the history of the region.The ethical standards of the IC versus that of the public has always remained a historic tussle .

Ethical Issues

Recently the leaks by Edward Snowden on the NSA surveillance of 18 large scale public data of the US citizens came under strong criticism and reinforced debates on privacy laws. Big data practices in IC cannot be viewed separately from the ethical standards that has been warranted in these debates. Eventually the IC will be compelled to uphold, what is being mentioned in literature as, Big Data Ethics: “—a social understanding of the times and contexts when big data analytics are appropriate, and of the times and contexts when they are not.

- Identity: ​When faced with unverifiable source of information, IC will rely on big data analysis to uncover the identity of the source. But this very much threatens the identity, as the analysis can lead to absurd correlations of an identity with criminal intentions. This will end up forcing people to remain anonymous.
- Power: ​The information from big data is prone to be misused for manipulation. Governments and dictatorial regimes will allow open source data to flourish so as to covertly restrict individuals that tend to be anti-establishment.  During the Arab Spring, the Syrian government lifted the ban on social media sites, simply because it was easier to locate individuals and movements using the open source data and and analytics.

The big data in intelligence organizations affects the decision making process that required accurate information. It is quite important to reaffirm the role of intelligence community leaders, analysts and experts with domain knowledge for efficient usage of big data. Also, it is important to have a policy and framework put in place so that future issues of big data mining (social engineering) and artificial intelligence algorithm can be sufficiently addressed.


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