Who Do You Trust: Social Media, Artificial Intelligence and Insider Threat

  • Published
  • By Mr. James A. Coleman
  • 87th Security Forces Squadron

Reliable security requires trust is verified, especially in communication with others. Obstacles to getting and keeping trust come from the growing technology, tactics and techniques available to our enemies. Significant social media concerns are quickly being overshadowed by the fast spread of artificial intelligence (AI) across businesses, solidifying insider threat as a serious security challenge requiring constant vigilance.

As more people join one or more social media platforms, we remind all personnel it’s important for them and their family members to practice strong OPSEC in several ways like truly knowing who your online friends are, turning off geo-tagging on photos, and not sharing personally identifiable information (PII). Information is a powerful weapon and each of us is charged with protecting the details about ourselves, our missions, and our peers. This hasn’t changed so continue to use the safest practices for sharing information online. Remember, “the internet is forever” and your comments and photos can usually be discovered by future employers or others who are evaluating you for something you want, or by the enemy for something they want.

One of the newest growing concerns is AI with its amazing capabilities for rapid, independent problem-solving; this technology is already being applied to darker, criminal purposes. AI is used to evolve sextortion (pressuring a victim for payment to prevent release of evidence of sexual activity) by rapidly creating high-quality, fake sexual images. AI software is also used to manipulate voice recordings and use that data to create voice-accurate statements helping criminals trick victims into believing they’re talking to loved ones. For example, parents receive calls they think are from their (often adult) children telling them of an emergency (e.g., vehicle accident, arrest) requiring the parent to send them money. The children are not involved or aware of the situation in this kind of fraud and theft. These sophisticated scams are working and will increase in frequency. If you or a loved one receive an emergency call with a strong request for money, investigate first before sending any money to anyone. Do what you can to confirm you’re talking to the person to who you think you’re talking. 

The enduring concern of insider threats became highly visible again when a Massachusetts Air National Guard member removed dozens of classified documents from a secured area and posted many of them on the internet. The accused is a young, relatively immature perpetrator, but history is full of insiders who provided far more information to foreign enemies. As tensions increase with near-peers China and Russia, the likelihood of espionage by greedy or blackmailed insiders also increases. Our rivals will pay to gain the advantages of information power, or trap unwilling friendly forces, sometimes using their own text messages or social-media posts against them. The annual insider threat training we complete identifies red flags to help us spot “friendlies” who are potentially helping our enemies. The DOD Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center (DITMAC) is preparing Prevention, Assistance and Response (PAR) coordinators to support installations by conducting insider threat assessment and management, particularly focused in the area of workplace violence.

Everyone who lives and/or works on JB MDL is responsible for protecting our missions and each other. Sometimes that means we must “say something” when we “see something” that makes us feel nervous, concerned or suspicious. At other times, we need to truly know and trust the visitors we sponsor onto the base to avoid the consequences of giving access to a liar with bad intentions.

When interacting with other people, especially people you don’t know well or aren’t talking to in person, do everything you can to protect information until they’ve confirmed their identity for you. Depending on circumstances, you can check their ID, run a background clearance, or simply refuse to interact or share information with them. As it becomes harder to trust who you’re texting with, chatting with on a networked game or talking to in person or on the phone, or even meeting in person, we need to put more effort into identifying them so we can maximize appropriate protection for the information and knowledge we have.

Remember to report suspicious activity to the 87th Security Forces Squadron at 609-754-6001, or AFOSI at 609-754-3353.