In a carefully crafted social engineering scheme, NATO troops were persuaded to abandon their posts and reveal sensitive details about military maneuvers.
According to reports, the clandestine social media operation that ensnared some 150 personnel was launched by their own side.
A secret “Red Team” was assembled in NATO’s Stratcom Centre of Excellence in Latvia. Their mission was to target unwitting NATO troops as they took part in a scheduled military exercise in an unnamed “allied country.”
One NATO official who helped organize the Red Team explained that the goal of the operation attempted to answer important questions about the vulnerability of soldiers to being manipulated via online mediums. “The first question is, What can we find out about a military exercise just from open source data? What can we find out about the participants from open source data? And, can we use all this data to influence the participants’ behaviors against their given orders?” explained the NATO software engineer.
Stratcom’s report detailed how Red Team operatives set up fake social media pages, luring soldiers into closed Facebook groups, where fake accounts then asked them sensitive questions about the military exercise they were involved with.
The campaign succeeded not only at extracting sensitive information from troops, but even compelled service members to engage in “undesirable behavior.” This included influencing them to leave their positions against orders.
The details of the NATO operation and Stratcom’s findings have been delivered to administration officials in Washington.
The news highlights the ever present risk of information compromise when it comes to military personnel. With any luck, operations like these will help drive home this danger to troops on the ground. Hopefully, personnel will be more vigilant when it isn’t just a drill.