Spies seen behind fake Facebook profile of senior NATO commander
March 12, 2012 6 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
A Facebook account bearing the name of a senior commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was set up by Chinese spies to siphon information from unsuspecting Western military officials, according to a British newspaper. The London-based Daily Telegraph said in an article that the fake Facebook account was discovered a year ago by NATO counterintelligence officers. It bore the name of United States Admiral James Stavridis, who serves as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and currently leads the Organization’s mission in Libya. The account was reportedly used to befriend Western military officials, primarily in Britain and other European countries, probably in an attempt to collect personal information found on their personal pages on the popular social networking site. This sort of practice is known as ‘spear phishing’, and consists of messages sent to carefully targeted individuals, seemingly sent from a trusted source. The operation involving Admiral Stavridis appears to have been purposely targeted at high-ranking Western officials, a technique sometimes known as ‘whaling’. The London-based daily says NATO officials have been “reluctant to say publicly who was behind the attack”. But the paper claims it has been told that declassified briefings from NATO point to a series of Internet protocol addresses belonging to Chinese government facilities. Organization officials insist —correctly— that the individuals or government agencies behind the operation to falsify Stavridis’ social networking identity are unlikely to have acquired any actual military secrets. However, the information collected from Western military officials befriended online by Admiral Stavridis’ fake Facebook account could aid the compilation of personal and psychological profiles of these officials produced by foreign intelligence agencies. Such profiles could be used at a later stage for purposes of surveillance, espionage, or even intelligence extortion. Ironically, says The Telegraph, the discovery of the fake profile prompted NATO to instruct its senior officials to register their personal social networking profiles online, so as to prevent foreign spies or hackers from exploiting Facebook in order to gather intelligence. Admiral Stavridis, says the paper, now has an official Facebook site, while the fake one was removed after Facebook was contacted by NATO.