Anyone watching James Bond or 1950’s war documentaries may be led to believe that in order to receive useful intelligence, a foreign agency or home-grown threat needs a network of all-charming, ever-discreet spies. Well, you’d be wrong. The chances are – you’re already feeding them all of the information they need via your social media profiles.
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. This alarming wake-up call comes courtesy of Data Defender Ltd, a London-based data protection agency who are battling the war against cyber attacks.
Graeme Batsman, the company’s Security Director, explains how we’re all at fault:
“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”, says Graeme. He expands “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”.
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.
The point that Graeme Batsman and his team are trying to get across is 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”, says Graeme.