Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the Tweet Where You Live

First it was Second Life that a government report warned could serve as a training ground for terrorists. Now it seems that the microblogging service Twitter is also a Web 2.0 enabler of terrorist acts. The report, published on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, includes "a Red Teaming Perspective on the Potential Terrorist Use of Twitter" along with a number of presentations about how mobile communication and ubiquitous computing technologies are supposedly an unrecognized threat that could be exploited by jihadists. This equation of technology with terrorism is something that I discuss in more detail in the forthcoming Virtualpolitik book, and the details of this particular case, revealed at "Terrorist 'tweets'? US Army warns of Twitter dangers" underscores the silliness of some of the chains of associations in the document:

"Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences," the report said.

The report presents the following scenarios, which could be used to justify future surveillance operations of civilian citizens' communications or -- at the very least -- lead to more limitation of access to social computing technologies by members of the military.

Scenario 1:

Terrorist operative "A" uses Twitter with (or without) using a cell phone camera/video functionto to send back messages, and to receive messages from the rest of his cell. Operative "A" also has a Google Maps Twitter MashUp of where he is under a code word for other member so his cell ( if they need more in-depth directions) posted on the WWW that can be viewed from their mobiles. Other members of his cell receive near real time updates (similar to the movement updates that were sent by activists at the RNC) on how, where, and the number of troops that are moving in order to conduct an ambush.

Scenario 2:

Terrorist operative "A " has a mobile phone or Tweet messaging and for taking images. Operative"A" also has a separate mobile phone that is actually an explosive device and/or a suicide vest for remote detonation. Terrorist operative "B" has the detonator and a mobile to view "A's" Tweets and images. This may allow "B" to select the precise moment of remote detonation based on near realtime movement and imagery that is being sent by "A."

Scenario 3:
CyberTerrorist operative"A" finds U.S. Army Smith's Twitter a count. Operative"A" joins Smith's Tweets and begins to elicit information from Smith. This informatioins then used for a targeting package (targeting in this sense could be for identity theft, hacking, and/or physical.) This scenario is not new and has already been discussed for other social networking sites, such as My Space and/or FaceBook.

And if this story isn't enough for you, the Virtualpolitik blog has also pointed out the nefarious threat to national security that is YouTube. Be afraid! Be very afraid!

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