Secure Social Media as a Weapon of Asymmetrical Advantage

The role of social media and the internet in 2010 Arab Spring and other popular uprisings as tools against government oppression is well studied and documented by now. The ability to capture and transmit pictures and video, and communicate securely in real time through ubiquitous networks of mobile devices are capabilities in coordination, documentation, exposure and transparency that did not exist prior to 2010.

Since 2010 an increasing number of private firms have started provide countering capabilities to governments allowing them to shut down networks, trace and compromise devices, identify and oppress dissent. Use of spying tools implants against journalists, activists, political opposition are also routine by governments and private entities.

There is a new method/capability that, at least I had not observed before, despite being up to date on this stuff and having lived computing, information and cyber security in career, professional and personal interest capacities as they were developing in the 1990’s through today.

Dissidents in Iran are using social media to crowdsource and then expose undercover, security and secret agents, geolocate covert prisons, buildings and torture houses used by security forces, and then publish the information.

Facilities are identified by their coordinate and pictures, while for individuals, agents and collaborators, their biographical data including names, pictures, legend/cover jobs, company/store address, home address, and phone numbers are published.

It remains to be seen if the uprisings will lead to significant or complete government change. What has already changed, and will continue, is blown covers that can not be replaced and cultivated on the fly, agents and families that have to move to new neighborhoods or cities with entirely new identities (and may be some plastic surgery) since technology, facial recognition and  angry mobs are not going anywhere or forgetting.

The cost-benefit-damage is enormously disproportional and provides David an asymmetrical advantage to Goliath’s power disparity. Kind of a poetic, if not biblical justice. After all, it is the land of Cyrus the Great.

Below are samples (in Persian) as published in a Telegram channel of Rasuyab (loose translation is Weasel/Rat Finder.) The posts are also replicated and amplified on other Facebook, Twitter and social media accounts.

Covert Facility and Address

Request to Identify

Outed and Doxed

Author: Sam Sarmad