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Thursday, March 24, 2011

U.S. military using fake online IDs in ‘sock puppet’ operation

Double agents used to live deep-cover secret lives. Now the U.S. military is doing it online.
U.S. Central Command has launched its first online “sock puppet” operation to plant hundreds of fake identities across social-media sites in the Middle East.
The $2.7 million contract for “commercially available software” from Ntrepid Corporation in California, awarded in August 2010, gives U.S. Central Command 50 user licences, with 10 fake identities per user, 50 static IP address management licences, and “virtual private servers,” the contract said.

“These are for overseas acts,” U.S. Central Command Cmdr Bill Speaks told the Star on Friday. “They are not directed at domestic U.S. audiences and not in English.”
The “sock puppets,” a term for fake online identities, will operate at the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, where U.S. Central Command operates, and in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.
The cyber double agents will use social media and other websites, but “not Facebook or Twitter,” said Speaks. “This is not for use on U.S.-based websites. They are American companies.”
Each of the fake personas uses the Ntrepid software to create “cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent,” each with their own background, history, supporting details and “real-time local information” to fool their new-found online friends.
One person could be pulling the strings on 10 “sock puppets” at one time “from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries,” the contract said.
Rotating the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses daily should help shield them from discovery.
“This traffic blending provides excellent cover and powerful deniability,” the contract says.
The software also creates an online history for them so that over time the picture is fleshed out.
Speaks wouldn’t say where the sock puppetmasters will be, but he did say this is the first time U.S. Central Command has launched this kind of operation
thestarLesley Ciarula TaylorStaff Reporter

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