China’s cyber armies likely to include social battalions

9 Nov 2011

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Forget the Cold War, the Social War is already happening judging by the sheer volumes of data available to the world’s emerging cyber armies and, according to one security expert, nations like China are likely to create entire military divisions devoted to scouring social media for knowledge.

Foreign Governments and terrorist cells no longer have a need to hack into secure systems for information, as they – and you for that matter – can get everything they need completely legally, according to Graeme Batsman, security director at Data Defender.

“Let me give you an example – say a foreign Government want details on the numbers, skills and location of a certain aspect of the British Military. All they need to do is get onto Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter”, Batsman explained.

“For example, on LinkedIn there’s a group dedicated to Royal Marine Personnel – from that you can get a list of names as well as their rank, where they studied, their unit and photo. The next stop is over to Facebook to find out their location, religious beliefs, political party memberships and spouse’s name, often without being a friend.

“When you’re armed with this, a quick search for them on Twitter is likely to reveal exactly what their up to – as members of the Armed Forces are known to regularly post their location, even while on a foreign tour of duty”.

Cyber armies of night and day

Batsman believes that it’s highly likely that foreign authorities have teams that are dedicated to sifting through and researching such information on social media websites to enhance their foreign military statistics.

“It’s all laid out in front of them, has no cost and is one hundred percent legal; so why not? One example is China, with over 2 million military members – and huge teams dedicated to cyber intelligence and rumoured to engage in cyber warfare.

“However, the other worry is terrorists, both in the UK and abroad. Many have already been shut down for using social media to find and target soldiers for kidnapping. As soon as they have their name through LinkedIn they can head to the free online BT Phone Directory to get their home address. That’s all that they need, and they got it free, legally and in less than 30 minutes.”

Batsman warns that anyone should think twice before posting even the most minor of details online, particularly if they hold a Government or Defence-based job.

“It takes just the smallest clues to help contribute to their wider plan. Even a name or a company address is fodder for these guys to advance and find out more. We urgently advise everyone to practise vigilance and integrity when using social media”, Batsman warns.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com