Terrorists On Twitter?
Terrorists. In your closet, under your bed, on Twitter. And Army intelligence, your big brother, is watching closely. Be careful throwing the word “Hezbollah” around in your tweets.
A recent presentation by the Army’s 304th Military Intelligence Battalion (irony alert: the website’s security certificate has expired) details how terrorist cells could use mobile phones, VoIP, Twitter, Google Maps, and even Facebook to coordinate attacks. Unfortunately, they use American political protestors as examples effective users of counter-surveillance 2.0.
More on that in a bit.
The primary purpose of the presentation is to present “red teaming” strategies, a long used technique for illustrating various operational threats so that counter maneuvers can be developed. The author gleaned support for his scenarios via open source intelligence, or using tools readily available on the Web. Google Translate, for example, was used for translating Arabic—so all’s not perfect, the author concedes.
Terrorists could communicate with each other in near real time, in code, via Twitter, one leader sending a message to several subscribers. They could also use Twitter mashups for integrating geographic coordinates via Google Maps, all accessible via mobile phone, and “engage in rapid-fire group social interaction.”
The author warns Twitter is already used by Hezbollah extremists and sympathizers, which could evolve “over time to reflect tactics that are already evolving in use by hactivists and activists for surveillance,” such as the protestors at the recent Republican National Convention seeking to evade law enforcement.
Three scenarios are listed as follows:
Terrorist operative “A" uses Twitter with (or without) using a cell phone camera/video function 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 codeword for other members of 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.
Terrorist Operative “A” has a mobile phone for 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 real time movement and imagery that is being sent by "A."
CyberTerrorist operative "A" finds U .S. Army [soldier] Smith’s Twitter account. Operative "A " joins Smith’s Tweets and begins to elicit information from Smith. This information is 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 MySpace and/or FaceBook.
While it is always appreciated that our government, law enforcement, and military are on the lookout for new ways of thwarting terrorist operations, given recent constitutional breaches, the language in this report is enough to raise the hair on the back of one’s neck. The report makes it clear that authorities are (or should be) watching social networking sites very closely—but it also lumps in groups of law-abiding constitutionally protected Americans.
Before illustrating the ways terrorists could use Twitter, the author poses examples of Twitter-use by other (all undesirable?) groups:
“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 audience.”
Gotta watch out for those vegetarian atheists, huh?
Immediately following also are the numerous RNC references with the tone that some of those pesky political enthusiasts used Twitter to evade police looking to arrest them for exercising their right to free speech. The author either forgot to mention or was aware of the failure of the swaths of journalists also improperly arrested at the RNC. Pretty soon, everybody’s a terrorist, constitutionally protected or not.