Cambridge Analytica scandal. Military minds started to think about just how much sensitive information soldiers might potentially reveal online and set up the special team to see what could be learned during a regularly scheduled exercise. The special team used a variety of tactics: impersonation, honeypot pages, social engineering, regular monitoring, and search engines. They started by setting up fake pages on Facebook and Instagram, then bringing the soldiers into closed Facebook groups where the fake accounts then asked them an array of questions about the military exercise they were involved in.
In just one month, the special team had snared 150 soldiers. Some of the details gleaned during the exercise included phone numbers, email addresses, and the location (within one kilometer) of the catfished soldiers. In addition, they also collected pictures of the unit’s military equipment and their movement in the field.
The goal was more than just collecting static information. They also wanted to see if social media activity could change real behavior by getting soldiers to leave their positions or not fulfill their details. The report did not give out any details on this, other than to state that “the level of personal information we found was very detailed and enabled us to instill undesirable behavior during the exercise.”
The team found not all social media was created equally, at least for harvesting military data. Instagram provided the most timely information. Facebook was the best for identifying individuals and their connections with its suggested friends feature. On the other hand, Twitter was rarely used.
Facebook had limited success in shutting down part of the operation. The team’s pages which impersonated other pages were suspended within hours as were some of the profiles impersonating other people. However the closed groups and the fake profile were left untouched by Facebook.
As the report concluded: “The privacy features and settings of social media platforms cannot be trusted to not leak information to other layers of the social media platform, or to other users and companies with an interest in such information.”