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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Social media and the Surveillance Culture

Living as I do right in the heart of D.C., things like this happen: I had lunch the other day with a friend who is very knowledgeable about the hacker world within in the so-called "intelligence community".

This is a world where it's common to get your secret clearance before you are old enough to buy a beer. And a sizable crew of these young folks are deployed to monitor - and participate in on behalf of the agency - all sorts of social media activity. Our conversation focused on Facebook, Second Life, and Skype.

"The Agency is deeply involved in Facebook," I was told. This includes both developing techniques to pierce the Facebook's security, and active communication with persons of interest. "Security and Privacy are non-existent on Facebook" my informant told me. The same with Second Life. Organizations hold meetings on Second Life, I put on a sexy female avatar with my breasts hanging out, and I'm just accepted. All the guys have learned to use female avatars and personae on the sites. People will tell you anything" More ominously, I was told they have had some success accessing the computers of people connected to Second Life.

As for Skype, the e-bay owned internet phone service: "There is basically no security employed by Skype. You can use an ordinary packet-sniffing software like any network engineer might buy to detect calls from a specific IP address and reassemble them. We've been working on editing them on the fly to change the content of an active conversation."

Just something to bear in mind, eh?

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