Tuesday, December 31, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Undercover Spies in the Digital Age

Jenna McLaughlin and Zach Dorfman (via Hacker News):

The OPM hack was a watershed moment, ushering in an era when big data and other digital tools may render methods of traditional human intelligence gathering extinct, say former officials. It is part of an evolution that poses one of the most significant challenges to undercover intelligence work in at least a half century — and probably much longer.

[…]

The Singaporeans had developed a database that incorporated real-time flight, customs, hotel and taxicab data. If it took too long for a traveler to get from the airport to a hotel in a taxi, the anomaly would trigger an alert in Singaporean security systems. “If there was a gap, they’d go to the hotel, they could flip on the TVs and phones and monitor what was going on” in the room of the suspicious traveler, says the same former senior intelligence official. “They had everything so wired.”

[…]

The intelligence community has developed sophisticated “backstopping” procedures, which seed a cover story through web traffic, emails and other digital channels. But in an interconnected world, “good backstopping can be defeated in a Google search,” says one former senior intelligence official. Because of that reality, the use of front companies for NOCs has become increasingly untenable, necessitating closer coordination and cooperation with private American businesses for the placement and recruitment of NOCs, say former senior officials.

[…]

Even a switch of employer, or an unexplained gap in one’s résumé, can be a giveaway to a foreign intelligence service, say former officials. In response, the agency has also shifted to recruiting individuals within the companies they already work at, and, with the approval of corporate leadership, secretly transitioning those persons onto the CIA payroll, and training them intermittently and clandestinely, far from any known CIA facility.

Previously:

Comments

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment