During his press conference on January 10, President-elect Donald Trump responded to a salacious report about him in the media that was attributed to a former member of Britain’s intelligence service. Because it was leaked to the press, Trump wondered aloud whether it was the American intelligence community that had leaked the unsubstantiated allegations against him that are linked to Russia. The report contended that Russia has a video of Trump supposedly cavorting with two prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
At the press conference, Trump issued a warning that new technology, including tiny hidden cameras and microphones, lodged in hotel rooms and elsewhere, can lead to embarrassing revelations. An investigation into the possible involvement of American intelligence in the release of file published by Buzzfeed, and mentioned in an article by CNN, is now under investigation.
An example of the effective democratization of espionage was recently announced by the Israeli intelligence community. It was revealed that the Hamas terrorist organization has hacked dozens of cell phones of Israeli soldiers in an effort to obtain valuable intelligence on Israel’s military posture along the dangerous border of the Gaza Strip. Assuming the identities of attractive young women, Hamas operatives used virtual “honey pots” to make contact with through Facebook with soldiers in the field and in reserves. Israel’s Shin Bet and the military’s Information Security Department and Cyber Defense Unit ferreted out the hack wherein Hamas agents engaged in intimate virtual relationships with Israeli soldiers to induce them to download an electronic application to allow video chats.
Above are some of the photos used to entice IDF soldiers
Hamas’s gained access to Israeli soldiers’ cell phones through seductive come-ons for months on social media, thus showing how rapidly cyber espionage is advancing and its threat to the national security of the United States and Israel. Approximately 3,000 unofficial Facebook groups were discovered by Israeli intelligence. Israel has now put into place safeguards and new requirements on Facebook groups in which its military members are engaged.
During the Second World War, the adage “Loose lips sink ships” was often repeated to warn service members and the public about unwarranted talk that could spill military secrets and affect national security. which went on for many months, bear witness to the great dangers to information security and national security posed by the Internet, smartphones, social networks and all forms of digital communication.
This is not a new phenomenon.
But the use of “honey pots” to seduce soldiers into revealing classified information shows how far espionage has come. Espionage has long been carried out by inducing foreigners, in and out of government, to act as agents of the American intelligence community to provide information that is otherwise beyond reach. Russia, for example, has used attractive young women in the past to exchange sexual favors with Americans for classified information. Such was the case with Marine Sgt. Clayton Lonetree in the early 1980s. Seduced by a Russian woman, he was blackmailed into turning over blueprints and the names of Russians working for American intelligence.
Recruiting these agents is costly and difficult and fraught with the danger that they may be double-agents. Modern cyber espionage requires fewer and fewer agents, but more and more sophisticated technology and tactics. Intelligence can now be produced through Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other platforms.
Just as Trump’s election may signal a sea change in American politics, and not just for the Republican party, the use of social media and apps signals a new era of espionage and political chicanery. Trump has not only signaled that an era of the democratization of espionage is upon us but also that Americans must be ever more vigilant about how they view media, and how they use it.
In an era when celebrities and politicians leap frog over the press to communicate with the public via Facebook and Twitter, the security of these platforms becomes ever more important. Yesterday, following a 10-minutes interruption of C-SPAN coverage of the proceedings in the House of Representatives by a transmission from RT -- the online media outlet controlled by the Russian government -- a post emerged on Twitter that was falsely attributed to Trump. A faked screenshot had Trump purportedly calling Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) “a pig.” It stirred online outrage until it was proven to be false by the evening. All the same, several Twitter users, including a correspondent for The Nation, gave credence to the image. The doctored tweet read: “Overrated Maxine Water [sic] cut-off by RT because she’s so unfair and terrible,” the faked tweet read. “C-SPAN made right call. Much improved viewing without that pig!” Walters was speaking from the well of the House when the RT transmission interrupted her.
Yesterday's confusion that could have besmirched the president-elect's prudence, and political legitimacy, was dangeorus because of the volatile racial and political environment of the moment. Foreign agents and provocateurs need to go no further than social media to access not only classified information, but to also stir the pot as Trump begins his years in office.