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Hacktivists claim military plans to pollute socnets with sockpuppet army

Rep. Johnson

An alleged plan to infiltrate social networks, like Facebook, with phony cyber personalities with the intent to gather information for arresting dissidents and activists who operate anonymously online has been targeted for investigation by the hacktivist group that calls itself Anonymous.

According to the group—known for its denial of service attacks on financial services companies who cut off contributions to WikiLeaks and for releasing more than 70,000 confidential e-mails from security contractor HBGary Federal—the U.S. Air Force awarded as a contract to Booz Allen Hamilton to develop software to create "an army of fake cyber personalities" or, in Internet jargon, sockpuppets. The program, which Anonymous is calling "Metal Gear," would be sophisticated enough to develop realistic profiles for the sockpuppets.

"In short, there would be no fesiable [sic] way to distinguish between 100 people commenting on a subject, and 100 of these puppets doing the same," it said in a statement posted at its Web site.

"[G]iven recent events across the world, the idea behind Metal Gear seems to be 'weaponizing' sockpuppets in order to influence the face of revolutions that are based within social networking sites," the group said.

A spokesman for Booz Allen Hamilton told Government Security News, "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on rumor or speculation of this kind.

Anonymous said that it discovered the sockpuppet plan when reviewing the purloined e-mails from HBGary. The content of those e-mails prompted Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) to call for a House probe of possible violations of law revealed in the electronic documents.

"We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests," he wrote. "We believe a full Congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether laws were broken and whether existing laws are sufficient to protect Americans from high-tech dirty tricks."