bill-swift - March 14, 2012
The fact that you can't access Facebook in China isn't top-secret information. But apparently, the Chinese authorities made an exception and let some of their spies access the social network so they could spy on key NATO officials.
What these spies did was create a fake Facebook profile under the name of U.S. Navy admiral James Stavridis. They then friended senior British military officers, Defense Ministry members, and other government officials, getting access to personal information such as private email addresses and phone numbers in the process.
In case you didn't know, James Stavridis is the current Commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe (SACEUR). He made the news when he used Facebook to talk about NATO's mission in Libya, which could probably be one of the reasons why the spies chose to impersonate him on Facebook.
NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) officials confirmed that Stavridis was indeed targeted by the spies.
"This type of compromising attempts are called ‘Social Engineering' and has nothing to do with ‘hacking' or ‘espionage'. Discussions/chats/postings on Facebook are of course only about unclassified topics."
NATO didn't publicly state who they suspected were the ones behind the attack, although The Telegraph revealed that the evidence pointed to "state-sponsored individuals in China." Another newspaper, The Guardian, said that one of their sources revealed that many believed "that China [was] behind this."
NATO also released a statement talking about how Facebook took down the page after complaints with regards to the profile in question were submitted.
"There have been several fake supreme allied commander pages. Facebook has cooperated in taking them down. We are not aware that they are Chinese. The most important thing is for Facebook to get rid of them.
First and foremost we want to make sure that the public is not being misinformed. Social media played a crucial role in the Libya campaign last year. It reflected the groundswell of public opposition, but also we received a huge amount of information from social media in terms of locating Libyan regime forces. That is why it is important the public has trust in our social media."
Article by Hazel Chua
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