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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All

The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All

by Happy Rockefeller, Daily Kos, February 16, 2011

As I  wrote yesterday, there is a leaked email that has gotten surprisingly little attention around here. It's the one where Aaron Barr discusses his intention to post at Daily Kos -- presumably something negative about Anonymous, the hacking group. But that's not the email I'm talking about here.
As I also mentioned yesterday, in some of the emails, HB Gary people are talking about creating "personas," what we would call sockpuppets. This is not new. PR firms have been using fake "people" to promote products and other things for a while now, both online and even in bars and coffee houses.
But for a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA -- whose enemies are labor unions, progressive organizations,  journalists, and progressive bloggers, a persona apparently goes far beyond creating a mere sockpuppet.
According to an embedded MS Word document found in one of the HB Gary emails, it involves creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated "persona management" software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.
Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content.  It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona.  For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona.  This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.
And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here's the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters  and otherwise "real" people to smear enemies and distort the truth.
This is an excerpt from one of the Word documents, which was sent as an attachment by Aaron Barr, CEO of HB Gary's Federal subsidiary, to several of his colleagues to present to clients:
To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter,‭ ‬blogs,‭ ‬forums,‭ ‬buzz,‭ ‬and myspace under created names that fit the profile‭ (‬satellitejockey,‭ ‬hack3rman,‭ ‬etc.‭)‬.‭  ‬These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds,‭ ‬retweets,‭ ‬and linking together social media commenting between platforms.‭  ‬With a pool of these accounts to choose from,‭ ‬once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name,‭ ‬lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected‭ ‬#‭ ‬of previously created social media accounts,‭ ‬automatically pre-aging the real accounts.
Yes!!! That's how democracy and the first amendment are supposed to work.
In another Word document, one of the team spells out how automation can work so one person can be many personas:

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