Social Media and the Military – keeping secrets keeps getting harder

I work with a group of fantastic Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) analysts.  One of them, who both reads this blog and knows I’m a pilot/airplane junkie, sent over this link under the heading of “Digital Water in China?”.  It talks about how, days before it ever made the Western press, the first confirmed sighting/evidence for a Chinese fifth generation fighter came not from the massive US intelligence apparatus but from a cell phone camera hung out a car window and posted to a Chinese military fanboy forum.

Now I recognize that China has an infamous, massive and essentially limitless-budget Web censorship program, which might well lead one to conclude that this evidence was found online because it was allowed to stay online. China decided it was time to let the world know so they intentionally let the drip-drip-drip start ahead of the (blatant thumbing-of-the-nose) first flight while Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in town.

Still, I happened to get this email the same week that linkedin discussions introduced me to both (a naval OSINT blog maintained by, of all people, a physician) and, a blog both discussing and analyzing publicly available geospatial intelligence.  There are many more like these of course, but it’s still amazing that on any given day you can now read posts by people who (for free by the way) identify ships, spot aircraft and analyze other military assets from Google earth or satellite imagery. We can learn about ship construction from employee’s blogs, twitpics from dog-walkers and minutes from town meetings.  And let us not forget the first person to (albeit unknowingly) inform the world about the raid that killed Bin Laden – a Pakistani programmer up late writing code who Tweeted about the ruckus happening a few hundred yards away.

Look down the road another ten years at everything from augmented reality goggles to the questions raised for Law Enforcement and espionage by Facebook’s facial recognition.  I don’t know exactly what will and won’t be possible, but it certainly seems to me that keeping ANYTHING, from Special Ops that last an hour to weapons programs that run decades, secret is going to get a lot harder.  From the intentional  wiki-leaking to the inadvertent disclosure, the Digital Water is pushing and probing, finding its way out the cracks and crevices.  I suppose I take some comfort from the J-20 Stealth Fighter story at least in knowing our likely adversaries will have to tangle with the same problems.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are mine alone, and do not represent the views, policies or positions of Cyveillance, Inc. or its parent, QinetiQ-North America.  I speak here only for myself and no postings made on this blog should be interpreted as communications by, for or on behalf of, Cyveillance (though I may occasionally plug the extremely cool work we do and the fascinating, if occasionally frightening, research we openly publish.)


2 Responses

  1. […] that Chinese hackers are just workin’ stiffs like the rest of us.  Then I had a quick piece that even here in the West we see increasing indications they face some of the same concerns we do […]

  2. […] exactly the kind of world I have been trying to noodle over with this blog.  Here’s the “can’t anybody keep a secret any more?!” meme hat trick for this one little Web page.  […]

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