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US military spies on social media - is New Zealand involved?

Paul Brislen, Editor. 20 November 2017, 9:45 am

The US Pentagon is in damage control today following revelations that not only was the US Department of Defence collecting social media data from millions of users around the world but managed to expose all that data to the world via misconfigured Amazon Web Services servers.

While the data was all public prior to its collection, questions are now being asked about the scope of the US military's monitoring of social media, in particular posts by Americans.

The data includes 1.8 billion posts over eight years on a variety of platforms including news sites, comment sections, social media and web forums and focus on central Asia, the Middle East and the South Pacific. There is no word yet on whether any New Zealand users are caught up in the trawl.

The data was discovered by UpGuard's Director of Cyber Risk Research, Chris Vickery, who found the three massive AWS storage buckets were configured to allow any authenticated user to browse and download the content. Vickery told UK publication The Register he stumbled across them by accident while scanning for the word "com". The archives apparently are named for US military abbreviations CENTCOM (US Central Command), PACON (Pacific Command). The three servers are centcom-backup, centcom-archive and pacom-archive.

"For the research I downloaded 400GB of samples but there were many terabytes up there," Vickery told The Register.

The discover raises questions about the extent of not only US surveillance of social posts but also of New Zealand's ongoing involvement in regional spying. 


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