Fake Profiles Used for Spying, Cyberstalking, Crowdturfing, Site-fluffing

 Fake Profiles Used for Spying, Cyberstalking, Crowdturfing, Site-fluffing
by Sue Basko

Fake profiles have long been used for things such as spying on ex-friends and voting for a favorite band. Now fake profiles have stepped up to doing real work for real pay for the masters who control them.  I was recently cyberstalked by a person/entity using a mob of fake profiles, so I can give some insight into what they do.

A recent paper by researchers out of University of California Santa Barbara describes astroturfing as such:  “Astroturfing refers to information dissemination campaigns that are sponsored by an organization, but are obfuscated so as to appear like spontaneous, decentralized “grassroots” movements. Astroturfing campaigns often involve spreading legally grey, or even illegal, content, such as defamatory rumors, false advertising, or suspect political messages. Although astroturfing predates the Internet, the ability to quickly mobilize large groups via crowd-sourcing systems has drastically increased the power of astroturfing.”  The UCSB group coined the word crowdturfing for when a crowd of fake profiles is used to start rumors, give positive or negative reviews or comments, or to gather real people as followers for a point of view. 

The HBGary Federal group was reportedly using fake profiles to discredit people who opposed a Republican business organization.  In turn, Anonymous hacktivists cracked open the list of subscribers to HBGary publications.  

Fake profiles have been rampant online with the Occupy movement, where so much organizing has taken place on facebook.  There were many fake profiles that were obvious, at least obvious to me, as agents provocateurs, probably government agents exhorting violence, to see if they could catch any in agreement.  Generally, people just ignored these, because Occupy was and is about nonviolent protest.

It became confusing to sort out who was who because there were also the usual armchair anarchist trolls, some who come complete with their own small army of fake profile friends who agree with every word they say.  A lot of this was obvious, because the friends would only appear at the same time and place as the main troll.  Since I am a lawyer and was providing legal information to many Occupy groups on how to conduct peaceful, legal protest, I found myself being harassed quite a few times by the pseudo-anarchist trolls and their fake best friends.   They would agitate for violence, but for the most part, no one was interested.

The profiles that were obviously law enforcement agents provocateurs never bothered me, because they were / are there for the basically legitimate purpose of seeing if any mass destruction was/is planned.

The law enforcement agents post the same types of hooks over and over.  They post that there are no limits to the First Amendment and no permits needed.  They outright propose specific violent actions.  Most people have learned to ignore them and not even reply.  The law enforcement agents simply move on to other pages and post trying to locate sympathizers there.     

Then there are the fake profiles that put in friend requests on facebook.  The fake profile friends come to spy on your facebook page.  According to reports, Aaron Barr at HBGary was busy making pretty girl fake profiles.  At one point during the height of the Occupy camps, a bunch of pretty girl profiles invaded.  One activist man shouted on his facebook in all caps: ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS ARE FAKE PROFILES!  It was true.  Men were readily confirming them as friends.  Others were accepting the pretty girls because they were already “friends” with people they knew.  I got a few of these requests, but rejected them.  I think the male equivalent is the profile that is some version of the Anonymous mask.  Of course, a lot of these are real people, but it is also a convenient fake profile. 

Site-Fluffing is yet another use of fake profiles.  That’s when a new site creates fake profiles to make it look as though the site is popular.  I wrote a review of a site that looks good, but is very bad news.   I was contacted by a person who credibly claims to have made up to 500 fake profiles per day for the site.  That’s fraud on any would-be investors or purchasers.  It’s also fraud on would-be users or users of the site.  A lot of those profiles were obvious fakes.     

The U.S. government is obviously using fake profiles.  A man named Sean Kerrigan has posted a 2010 listing off FedBizOpps.gov that you have to read to believe.   The government has procured software that creates and manages realistic fake personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent.”:  

0001- Online Persona Management Service. 50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per
user.
Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background , history,
supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and
geographically consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to
exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and
without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be
able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through
conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a
user friendly application environment to maximize the user's situational
awareness by displaying real-time local information.

Then to make those personas seem real, they need an IP address for each persona.  “Individuals can perform static impersonations, which allow them to look like the same person over time.  Also allows organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP addresses to look like ordinary users..”:

0003- Static IP Address Management. 50 each
License protects the identity of government agencies and enterprise
organizations. Enables organizations to manage their persistent online personas
by assigning static IP addresses to each persona. Individuals can perform
static impersonations, which allow them to look like the same person over time.
Also allows organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP
addresses to look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization.
Economizer IP Mapped License or equal


Then they need new IP addresses each day for “excellent cover and powerful deniability”:

0002- Secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). 1 each
VPN provides the ability for users to daily and automatically obtain randomly
selected
IP addresses through which they can access the internet. The daily rotation of
the user s IP address prevents compromise during observation of likely or
targeted web sites or services, while hiding the existence of the operation. In
addition, may provide traffic mixing, blending the user s traffic with traffic from
multitudes of users from outside the organization. This traffic blending provides
excellent cover and powerful deniability. Economizer Enterprise Chameleon or
equal

Now – to the story of how I got cybermobbed by a professional, or at least serial cyberstalker, and a mob of fake profiles, and possibly a few real profiles.   I admit I am a target – I have openly provided information to help Occupy protesters know their rights under the law.  I also started and help run a blog written by a man in prison who has autism.  I am a target – and I want to state that I do not think the Cyberstalker gang that went after me is government-related.     The government has no reason to stalk me, since I provide a valuable service to all sides, explaining the law so protesters can follow it.  And the mob of fake profiles that stalked me was obviously fake.  The profiles’ posts were obviously being written by one person, they all showed up together at the same times and places.  There were other telltale signs I won’t share.  

First, I noticed that someone had likely hacked into my Facebook profile, because security settings started to change.  I wasn’t sure, because Facebook sometimes does change settings on its own.  Then, I got a ludicrous private message on Facebook, sent by an obviously fake profile.  I posted making fun of the ludicrous message and the ridiculously fake profile that sent it.  All of a sudden, a different profile pops up on my page, posting inane, nasty messages saying that I did not respond correctly to the private message.  How did “she” even know what the message said or my response to it, if it was not one of her fake profiles?  So I deleted these things and blocked both profiles.  And --- that began the circus.  The whole circus was obviously orchestrated by one person who controls a group of fake facebook profiles with twitter accounts and several blogs, using them to terrorize victims. 

The main leader of the rampage may or may not be a fake persona.  I came across a real man who says he was stalked by the same person for 6 years –and he wrote about this a year before I was also stalked. I remember how he was stalked, because, about 6 years ago, I received some nasty chain emails defaming him.  He is convinced the main Cyberstalker persona that attacked us both is a real person.  I am not convinced, because it would be hard to find a real person who is so totally insane and yet has such good computer skills.  But the ranting insanity seems to be part of the persona that catches people off guard.  The persona used a photo of an older woman who looks like Porky Pig wearing a Dutch Boy haircut and some sort of sailor hat.  When this thing popped up on my facebook page writing nasty posts, I had to laugh first.  (Please tell me that is a fake photo!) 

Then it got nastier.  This person, who had already hacked my facebook, stole my photos, copied conversations, and began posting things on her own blogs that are run under her own name as well as a few other names.  Then there were twitter attacks.  She was attaching my name to her words and linking it up to her blog.  And she had her fake army of fake profile personas also attacking.  By that time, she had a few real people in on it – though it was hard to tell which ones were real or fake, since it is hard to believe any real people would actually engage in such actions.      

I did what I was told by authorities to do – delete and block, delete and block.  Her fake profiles were swarming all over my accounts online, all sounding suspiciously alike.  There were a few that seemed like real profiles.  As I stated that I had a complaint in to the authorities, the main stalker began to delete some posts.  It is hard to tell which elements of the attack will be retrievable – or how hard the authorities will go to uncover the elements that have been deleted.  If it could all be laid out and seen, it would show a massive online attack obviously controlled and created by one central source. 

The methods of the cyberstalker are to invade, intrude, create, spread rumor.  For the most part, only the most gullible, unthinking people would fall for this sort of thing, and only the nastiest have a will to participate in it.  The idea is to create a mob of only the most vicious, gullible people who do not check their sources and do not think on their own.  It works!  And with such people involved, lives and safety truly are endangered.  The idea is to rile up the crazies – and lead them in an online lynch mob.   This is the agent provocateur online – and it works. 

What You Can Do:  If you want to understand crowdturfing, read the UCSB Study.  If you see things like this online, avoid participating.   Think about things.   During the Cyberstalk attack against me, one of the fake profiles announced on Twitter that I was a lawyer in control of SOPA, the proposed upcoming internet legislation.  Of course, I have nothing to do with SOPA and have not even gotten around to reading the draft of the law.  But that does not keep a fake profile from tweeting my name and announcing such nonsense.  Any thinking person would realize this, but Cyberstalkers, like the one that attacked me, are interested in getting the least thinking people on their side.  That’s how it works.  The whole point is to gather an irrational mob.  Thinking people don’t participate.           


Oakland Police Department
Crowd Dispersal Policy

Oakland Police Department Crowd Dispersal Policy
by Sue Basko

The Oakland Police Department Crowd Control Policy from 2005 is highly informative information for the public and/or protesters.  Occupy Protesters in Oakland have said police badges were covered.  I personally have seen live video, taken on a tense night at Occupy Oakland, of  projectiles being aimed and shot from the police line at people who were doing nothing.  There is also the situation where Scott Olsen was injured by a projectile, possibly a "flashbang," being thrown at his head, reportedly from the police line.  That was followed by a police officer shooting what appear to be exploding projectiles of some sort at people assisting Olsen. 

Please download and read the report and see what you think.  It is possible the policies have been updated since 2005.  I doubt they could have been updated so much as to allow what has happened.   This report should be very educational for protesters, helping you see yourself as  the police see you.   

 CLICK TO open/ download

Agents Provocateurs:
What and Who They Are

AGENTS PROVOCATEURS: 
What and Who They Are
I write this from my many years of experience in protest involvement, as an organizer, a participant, as one of the first media activists, and as a lawyer.  I have helped a couple people who have been victimized by agents provocateurs – that is, goaded into activity they would not normally do and arrested for it.   

I also know of  a man who spent 6 months in prison awaiting being charged under the Homeland Security Patriot Act.  He is a white guy in his 20s who went to his first protest demonstration to drive a friend there --   and followed along when things got “out of hand.”  What did he actually do?  He wrote with spray paint on a government vehicle, an SUV.  All the protest “leaders” scrambled for safety and he was left alone, being arrested.  When it comes under Homeland Security (which a lot of acts do), the Patriot Act kicks into action and your normal civil rights do not apply.  Normally, a person can only sit in jail for about 2-3 days and then they either have to charge you with a crime or let you go.  Under the Patriot Act, that is not true.  They can hold you for a long time and never charge you.  There’s a lot of the other basic rules that get ignored.  I write this because you should think very carefully before you act.  You may think of your action as very minor, but it may not be viewed that way by others.  

There are going to be people that do not like what I am writing.  I am telling it like it is, really.

“AGENTS PROVOCATEURS” is the French term for people that come into a protest group and try to get you to do illegal or dangerous things, preferably to get you arrested or to set you up over time.

WHO ARE THEY?  WHY DO THEY DO IT?

 I think Agents provocateurs can be broken into 2 CATEGORIES:
1)  Real agents provocateurs, and 
2) undercover police, FBI, NSA, and Homeland Security.

1) Real Agents Provocateurs -  “Revolutionaries  or “Terrorists”  -  Some people actually belong to a supposed revolutionary or terrorist group.   These groups are real.  The FBI and NSA keep lists of them.  The vast majority of these groups are just a bunch of hot air and usually boring as all get-out, self-important, and often, from my observation, with main members who are on SSI for some mental disability that involves paranoia.  So while they have no job, they have plenty of time to be a “revolutionary” and talk big.  Others are professors or part-time professors with secure jobs.  Others work for non-profits.  Others are retired.  What I am saying is that most of them are not risking much by getting you to do something stupid. 

These folks want “action” – and they mostly want YOU to do the action.  They will lie to you and tell you what you are doing is okay, that it is legal, that nothing will happen, that it is good to get arrested, that it is “civil disobedience,” that you dare  not challenge them or argue with it.   (“Civil disobedience” is something else and is covered a little bit in the Note just below this post.)   

These people are manipulative.  They will challenge you and play an “ism” card to make it so you are supposed to be ashamed to stop them – they will say you are racist, sexist, against people with disabilities, against immigrants, ageist, elitist, or whatever. They will claim they have to do illegal acts because of the system, the man, police brutality, poverty, war, the cause, or something – demands it.  None of this is true.  No one gets to use their “status” as a “victim” to victimize you and wreck your life.

GUESS WHAT?  Once you get arrested, your “comrades” will NOT be there with bail money, a lawyer, to support you and your family since you will be out of a job, to get you into school despite a felony, etc.  In fact, they will use you to try to show the system is corrupt, the police are brutal, and on and on.  You will be a  pawn in their game. 

KEEP IN MIND: No responsible person with a job or family or going to school runs around doing violent or goofball things to get arrested.  Just does not happen. 

HOW TO GET RID OF THEM:  Demand that everyone follow the law.  DO NOT let them define “peace” as including “violence.”  Demand peace, non-violence and only legal activity.  End of story -- Only legal behavior as defined in the law, not in their imaginations.   
  
THEY WILL ARGUE:  “Everything Hitler did was legal,” etc – which is not true, but that is besides the point.  They will try to draw analogies to our society.  The U.S. is by no means perfect, but our laws are pretty darn good.  And also, as a society, we are pretty darn good.  We care about each other and help each other.  The U.S. is a good country and we aim to improve it, not destroy it.

They will argue that you are “co-opting the system,” "colluding with the authorities,” and on and on.  SAY:  You’re right.  I am.  I plan to go to college and have a family and I want a nice life with good things in it, not a felony record.  Thank you.  I am trying to improve things to make all that even better.

WHY THEY DO THIS:  Some people think that the way to build up interest in a protest or the way to build a movement is by having arrests, violence, injury, and destruction.   No doubt, this does cause interest and does cause more people to show up.   On the other side of this is that when protests become dangerous, the most productive and logical people are likely to stay away.   You may have a bigger crowd, but they may be more of an irrational mob.   Also, people that condone violence and destruction as a means to their ends are not likely to have equitable ends in mind.  Their style shows their substance.  

2) UNDERCOVER POLICE, FBI, NSA, HOMELAND SECURITY.  Wake up, folks! Almost every big domestic “terror” arrest has been a set-up by an FBI agent or someone working part-time for them.  HOW UNDERCOVER AGENTS WORK:

THEY JOIN YOUR GROUP.  They often take leadership roles.  They might be the friendliest people there.  They might have "good friends" in the group, but if you ask the good friends how long they have actually known the person and in what context, you are likely to find it is not very long and they only know the person from the group.   Undercover agents do not allow anyone to question them - they might toss the question back to you. They control the flow of information and try to block out those that question them.  


In fact, they work almost exactly like the people listed above  -- except instead of being goofs trying to draw you into some violent act and get you arrested so they can feel they are part of exciting action and have something to talk about (for years to come) – these folks will set you up for a huge arrest.  Supposedly, they are hunting out terrorists.  In many cases, it appears as if the agents did most of the talking, most of the planning, and the "stooge" just kind of went along for the ride. 


HOW IT WORKS EXACTLY:  They casually feel out a whole group, to see who are the vulnerable targets.

 HOW? 

1) They act the troll on message boards and facebook, to see who is and who is not open to violent action.  If they propose some stupid action and you do not object outright, you are a target.

2) They organize actions and when you are out, lead you to do stupid things, such as throwing things, going onto bridges or overpasses, blocking cars, shouting.  AND  - If you fall for it, you are their mark for a bigger set-up.

3) They invite you to classes where they draw you in to ideas and plans that involve violence.

4) They contact you privately to tell you of their dissatisfaction, and it builds over time.  They might get you to agree to help them in some act, or get you to start to carry it out.  The whole time, your conversations are recorded, the emails are kept, there might even be video.  These kinds of stings can start and if you seem ripe for it, they will go on for months to years until there is enough evidence to call you a “terrorist” and indict you.    

They may be doing 95% of the talking and planning, but if you say "Okay sure, I guess so," you are agreeing, you are in a "conspiracy," and you are in on whatever plan has been proposed.

5) They will incite you  to chaos, disorder and / or violence and then you will be arrested!  Yes, YOU! Or you can even be arrested on the basis of "the plan," even if it is not really your plan and even if you would never actually follow through and do it.   You need to be very careful of the company that you keep.  You need to be very careful what you agree to.

DO NOT FALL FOR ANY OF THIS.   If you ever encounter any person who is proposing things that you do not agree with, say no clearly and quickly.  Even if a person is persistent, you are best to block off all communication.  In some ethnic or culture groups, there can be a strong tendency to trust others from the same group.  There can also be a strong tendency not to want to be rude.  It is very important to be rude and to say no if someone starts proposing bad plans, even if you think the person might be joking or not serious on following through.

Also, if someone comes to you with a plan or request to harm someone else, you should report this to the police quickly, so that you are not involved in the plan.  This can be someone looking to shoot someone, someone wanting to buy bomb-making materials, someone planning a break-in or kidnapping, someone planning to bring weapons to school or a job.  You should never feel locked into a promise of silence, even if you have promised that.
  
 Note: I wrote this a while back.  Rereading it, I realize that it takes a strong, clear head to be involved in protest activity and not get sucked into the many mind games played by people there.  The main way is to only do things that are legal and safe and that do not possibly harm any other person.  That may seem like an innocuous statement, but I get many people arguing with it.   This blog post is not really meant for them; it is meant for people who want to steer clear of trouble.

Civil Disobedience: Some people talk about “civil disobedience" as if it is something that might happen at an everyday typical protest march.  Civil Disobedience is about refusing to obey an unjust law or rule. Today, many people mistakenly call it "civil disobedience" when they are breaking laws that are just and for the good of all, such as laws that tell us not to stand in traffic or laws that say a park closes at a certain time.  That is a protest technique that involves breaking the law, but it is not civil disobedience. True civil disobedience is where the law is fundamentally unjust and where by breaking it, the person accomplishes a greater good.  For example, if a law says you cannot feed the homeless, and if there are homeless hungry people and you feed them, that may be true civil disobedience.    It also may not be true civil disobedience, because the law may be just; there may be free feeding centers and the city may want the homeless fed only at those locations for reasons of food sanitation.

 Civil disobedience or the need for it is extremely rare.   Any time anyone is trying to get you to act like a hooligan as “civil disobedience,” you can be sure that is not someone you want to follow.  A true act of civil disobedience will usually involve serious advance planning,  consulting with lawyers, and will be a carefully orchestrated plan that involves a normal everyday act that is wrongly against the law.  It won’t involve any act of violence or destruction.

 Examples:  Rosa Parks sitting in the front seat on the bus.  People walking teens into segregated schools.  Black men eating at a segregated lunch counter.

"Civil disobedience" does not involve: bombs, weapons, following a person, stopping a person from going anywhere, destruction of property, breaking and entering, looting, being disorderly at a protest, endangering anyone, harassing or terrorizing anyone on the internet, or other such acts. 


Video of man advocating violence at Occupy St. Louis, complete with a tale of New York.  If he was paid to do this, he's not very good at his job.