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Social media off to war with propaganda posts

Disinformation campaigns will start with NSFW honeypots

By Simon Sharwood, 22 May 2012

Social media posts which lure readers with the promise of illegal, amoral or forbidden products and services may become a cold war cyber weapon, according to Kaspersky Labs CEO Eugene Kaspersky.

Speaking to The Register in Sydney yesterday Kaspersky said the usual suspects – Duqu, Stuxnet, whatever happened in Estonia and the regular data deletions apparently plaguing Iran – are all jolly good examples of cyberwar in action, but require a concerted effort.

Easier-to-execute, attacks, he believes, will be fought through dodgy posts to social networks.

Kaspersky’s theory is that states will create handles on social networks that initially post information about illegal (dodgy downloads or drugs), amoral (smut) or forbidden products (drugs again) in order to attract an audience. Once followers or friends have been won, the feeds will turn to dispensing propaganda. Messages of this sort won’t be explicit, Kaspersky said, but will instead represent an attempt at mass manipulation.

“A post could say ‘New Zealanders just killed several Australians,’” he said, reflecting the Antipodean location of his meeting with The Register yesterday. The cumulative effect of such posts, he feels, could demoralise or agitate a population in ways that advance international political and/or military agendas.

“You poison them, and little by little and you will have a huge conflict between countries,” he says.

All of which sounds very plausible, except for the fact that New Zealand doesn’t need disinformation to demoralise Australia: that’s what the All Blacks are for. ®