March 12, 2012

Fake NATO Commander Facebook Pages Used In Spying Attempt

A fake Facebook account set up in the name of NATO's supreme allied commander was allegedly used by spies in an attempt to swipe personal information from military personnel and various other top secret information, according to multiple news reports published over the weekend.

According to Nick Hopkins of The Observer, falsified social networking pages supposedly belonging to Admiral James Stavridis is believed to have been coordinated by Chinese espionage agents who had hoped to trick his friends and family members into revealing private information -- either about him or about themselves.

Telegraph Investigations Editor Jason Lewis reported Saturday that senior British military officers and members of the UK Ministry of Defense are believed to have been among those to accept "friend requests" from a fake Stavridis Facebook account.

"They thought they had become genuine friends of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander -- but instead every personal detail on Facebook, including private email addresses, phone numbers and pictures were able to be harvested," he continued, adding that while officials are "reluctant" to identify the source of the espionage attempt, that the Telegraph "has learned that in classified briefings, military officers and diplomats were told the evidence pointed to 'state-sponsored individuals in China.'"

Lewis added that it is "unlikely" that any military secrets were gained by those behind the Facebook accounts, that the incident was "highly embarrassing" and that senior NATO officials are being asked to launch their own social networking accounts in order to prevent something like this from happening again.

MSNBC.com reports that the incident occurred late last year, and that while China has not been officially confirmed as the source of the attacks, that "concerns are growing about Chinese cyberwarfare."

"A report delivered to Congress said China's cyberwarfare would pose a genuine risk to the U.S. military in a conflict," they said, adding that that report, which created by Northrop Grumman Corp. and released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Thursday, claimed that "operations against computer networks have become fundamental to Beijing's military and national development strategies over the past decade."

A similar operation, codenamed 'Night Dragon,' was carried out last year by Chinese cybercriminals, Hopkins said. That operation involved a team of hackers posing online as American, Taiwanese and Greek business executives in the hopes of acquiring corporate secrets.

Facebook officials told Lewis the falsified profiles were removed as soon as it was reported to them.

"There have been several fake supreme allied commander pages. Facebook has cooperated in taking them down," an unidentified NATO official told the Telegraph, adding that he was "not aware" whether or not they were Chinese in origin. "The most important thing is for Facebook to get rid of them. First and foremost we want to make sure that the public is not being misinformed."


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