Schneier on Security
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November 5, 2010
"A Social Network Approach to Understanding an Insurgency"
Posted on November 5, 2010 at 6:56 AM
• 10 Comments
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"Attacking these networks can be extremely difficult. Defeating a networked enemy requires a capability that possesses an array of linked resources necessary to sustain it. Conventional military thinking and strategies do not always permit such a response. No longer can analysts use just an organizational chart to describe an enemy’s configuration. Today it is much more difficult for a commander to differentiate the enemy from members of the general populace."
Fair to say. Probably shouldn't 'go to war' with networks. Kenetic kills target the nodes. Maintaining the support of Public opinion would be (has been) diffcult over time. Not only media fatigue suffered by people who follow the news (less and less news stories on Iraq everyday. 'We won. We're out. Let's move on.') but the cost (financial and political) of maintaining troops in the field.
Do IT attack models translate? Attack the communication channels not the nodes. Attack communication protocols and create and enhance chronic distrust among network participants. Implement imatative deception and appropriate identities. Make 'everyone a dog' or 'you too can be a Mujahideen.'
Haha, are all those errors from the article?
Hmm the idea has been around for between five and ten years, it is one of the reasons the NSA amongst others have released anonyomized data for Uni's and Corps to chew on (see the book Numerati).
However I'm not aware of it turning up much on terrorists (certainly a lot on US voters).
Bruce has posted on one product that did this to cell phone records, again not sure what the outcome was.
"The Okhrana, the Czarist predecessor of the GPU, is reported to have invented a filing system in which every suspect was noted on a large card in the center of which his name was surrounded by a red circle; his political friends were designated by smaller red circles and his nonpolitical acquaintances by green ones; brown circles indicated persons in contact with friends of the suspect but not known to him personally; cross-relationships between the suspect’s friends, political and nonpolitical, and the friends of his friends were indicated by lines between the respective circles. Obviously the limitations of this method are set only by the size of the filing cards, and, theoretically, a gigantic single sheet could show the relations and cross-relationships of the entire population. And this is the utopian goal of the totalitarian secret police: a look at the gigantic map on the office wall should suffice at any given moment to establish, not who is who or who thinks what, but who is related to whom and in what degree or kind of intimacy. The totalitarian ruler knows that it is dangerous to send a person to a concentration camp and leave his family and particular milieu untouched; [It is a common practice in Soviet Russia to arrest whole families; Hitler's "Health Bill" also foresaw the elimination of all families in which one member was found to be afflicted with a disease.] the map on the wall would enable him to eradicate people without leaving any traces of them-or almost none. Total abolition of legality is safe only under the condition of perfect information, or at least a degree of knowledge of private and intimate details which evokes the illusion of perfection".
Quoted from Hannah Arendt in "The Origins of Totalitarianism" - published in 1951 when information processing technology capable of supporting an extensive social graph was still about as far away as it seemed to the Czarist secret police.
The concept is nothing new, but technology now gives it huge leverage...
One thing that seems to be crucially missing in this social-network analysis is the role (such as it may be) of memes and thought leaders.Most of the language is still about personal and organizational relationships, and based on the idea that destroying people will destroy movements. That seems like a holdover from the old hierarchical models, with a little bit of network spraypainted on top.
The guys that caught Saddam relied heavily on Brian's dissertation for their methodology in unraveling the network of families protecting Saddam in Tikrit.
Slightly related, but mostly off topic, in case anyone is interested:
Man uses elaborate disguise to get into Canada
Photos are pretty convincing. Not that insurgents (the lose tie-in to this) could do this in large numbers, but I was somewhat impressed.
I'm just printing the article now, haven't read it yet.
The first thing that comes to mind though is that until we rectify the social and economic damage that has been done over the past decades, we can continue to expect angry and violent individuals to flare up and want to hurt the US and the West. This is statistically expected, and not statistically significant-- it's like ripples on the pond, AFTER the rock has been thrown.
Just because you see the ripples doesn't mean something is still happening or is of extreme importance. Maybe it's your own echo.
The only way the situation will improve for peace is if actions are taken to reduce justified anti-US/anti-West anger in the Middle East: like not killing wedding parties or civilians and children when targeting terrorists, like not bombing a society back to the stone age and leaving them without electricity, water, jobs or safety. The drone programs really beg for a Congressional oversight committee investigation.
I still think the physics of peace is pretty simple: if everyone has the economic resources they require to survive comfortably, people will spend all their time pursuing a calm and quiet life with family and friends. They might get wild or drunk and fight with one another every now and then, but basically they won't attack other nations or choose large fights.
I'm not sure where the Mythology started that everyone is out to steal or crush America's way of life, that's not what I read into the situation with the Middle East at all. The crimes against the US in the recent years appear to be retribution crimes, not acts of overtaking the US.
I'll be the first to watch your back if someone does come try to steal our freedom, but honestly, like school yard bullies, I think we got ourselves into many of these problems. Now we need to grow up and fix many of the problems we created.
In the meantime, I'll read the article and also ponder how we might use this information to figure out who the next Ted Bundy or Enron evil is. ;) There are always predators, but luckily they are more rare than decent hard working humans.
"Stay calm, carry on",
Note: when I said that if everyone has the economic resources they need, I did not mean giving suitcases or bags of money to the top .5%--if you want to try the method of giving money, which crazily might work in some places or times, you have to spread the wealth to everyone. Not create rich monsters.
This was an excellent paper, but doesn't this ring true for all intelligence work? Determination of targets for further research/investigation using methods akin to social networking methodologies is applied equally in open source, grey literature and humint collection.
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