How Easy Is It To Spy On Armies Using Social Media? Uh, Very

In an age of people posting on social media with the kind of openness and honesty better reserved for a unicorn-bedazzled diary, it has never been easier to dig up dirt and exploit the lonely and dumb. But for those internet-savvy people who reckon that those badly spelled phishing emails will never affect them, NATO wants to remind everyone that there are far more dangerous things than your divorced uncle's credit card info that people can get their hands on.

Recently, a NATO research group published a study on just how easy it is to target soldiers online and squeeze them for military intelligence. Posing as the enemy, the group was tasked with finding out as much as they could about an upcoming military exercise using nothing more than social media. Posting targeted Facebook ads as bait, they managed to lure dozens of soldiers into fake Facebook groups.

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While impostor accounts squeezed them for info, other researchers simply used Facebook's "Suggest Friends" feature to get information on their entire units. Having their names and details, the group could track them over other social platforms and mine for dirt -- like how one soldier was happily married on Facebook, but single and ready to mingle on several dating apps.

<i>General Vasily Petrov has checked into Crimea.</i>Wikimedia Commons General Vasily Petrov has checked into Crimea.

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The con only cost the group four weeks and $60. In return, they reeled in personal info on 150 soldiers, the exact locations of their battalions, and even detailed troop movements. They also managed to convince/trick/blackmail several targets into ignoring orders and leaving their posts when they wanted it. And it's terrifying to think an army can be left so exposed just because of one incredibly poorly judged dick pic.

But the research group doesn't just put the blame on chatty soldiers, but on social media as well. According to one of the study's authors, social media can be exploited "for the detriment of national security" far too easily. This shines a particularly embarrassing light on Facebook. After the "fake news" uproar of 2016, the site promised to crack down on scammers, but it can apparently still be exploited by people using nothing more than some patience and their weekly Doritos budget.

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