Metal Gear is a term used to describe any methodology or apparatus that utilizes Persona Management with the intent of manipulating information or perception, conducting data mining, or infiltrating social organizations. An examination of the history of the intelligence community as well as recent revelations regarding specific capabilities sought and utilized by the U.S. and its partners provides for not only the possibility, but the inevitability, of large-scale deployment of false online personas by various parties in order to conduct information warfare with an unprecedented degree of sophistication. As explained on our persona management entry, multi-national forces associated with the U.S. and operating effectively above CENTCOM admitted to using persona management in unspecified ways ostensibly related to operations in the Middle East after a media investigation revealed USAF contracts for related software. Although Operation Metal Gear has since expanded to examine the intelligence contracting industry and related subjects, our central intent is to discover the extent to which Metal Gear methodology is being utilized by other parties for any reason.
Timelines and organizational charts are available on Github. The chart of personnel involved can be overwhelming if you're new to the information surrounding Chamberleaks/the Team Themis scandal; the wiki is a better place to start. Preview images of the timeline and org chart are available. Our glossary explains many of the acronyms that come up in this wiki and especially the raw HBGary e-mails, which are available here. Also see Wikileaks' "Spy Files" for hundreds of internal documents and other info listed by company, including dozens not yet discussed at this wiki.
As noted in further detail on the definition pages linked below as well as our entries on various contractors, persona management is being developed, improved upon, and rented out by an increasing number of companies, including Ntrepid, Abraxas, Cubic Corporation, and Mantech. Taking into account the Team Themis affair, by which elements of that industry were preparing to hire out their skills and capabilities to private clients, we are thus faced with the strong possibility that persona management will likewise come into greater use as states, corporations and other entities seek to manage perceptions in their favor. To the extent that this is allowed to occur, the information flow by which individuals seek to discern and relay the truth will be contaminated by increased degrees of "perception management" by powerful entities.
Concepts Associated with Metal Gear
Persona Management: The deployment of entirely fake online personas controlled en masse by a human operator. Increasingly, this process is software-assisted, allowing a single individual to control fifty "people," at least in the case of the apparatus requested by the USAF when putting out bids to federal contractors such as HBGary. Such personas tend to be equipped with biographical data sufficient to present a front of legitimacy even to those with whom the personas communicate. Those communications in turn are regulated via software-based filters that aid in maintaining situational integrity throughout the entirety of each persona's interactions with its human targets; as is described at great length in this 2007 patent (hilariously portrayed as a method by which busy executives might better ensure that they do not say anything bizarre or insulting when dealing with foreign nationals despite that the fact that the authors happen to be working out of U.S. military installations in Virginia in conjunction with IBM, which itself does not seem to have ever gotten around to releasing any such product), linguistic and geographical considerations are taken into account automatically, along with a variety of others, in order to streamline the age-old internet practice of sockpuppeting, possibly towards the end of Cognitive Infiltration.
Identification: Attempts at identifying anonymous internet participants by way of a variety of means. Steps taken by former HBGary CEO Aaron Barr throughout the HBGary/Anonymous Affair to identify suspected Anonymous participants tended to hinge, for instance, on comparing the login times of various individuals on a range of social networks and IRC channels in order to determine a data set to which other information could then be added in order to make determination as to the identities of those being monitored. There also exist other, more conventional techniques that produce accurate results rather than the worthless ones achieved by Barr. Having said that, there does exist the possibility that Barr was on the right track, having been unsuccessful in this instance only because of his own extraordinary incompetence. Note that in general, the term used to identify the source of a particular virus, worm, or cyber intrusion is known as the "attribution" problem.
Surveillance: Persona management, identification, and data collection and modelling are all components of surveillance methods as practiced by states and other entities. Echelon (later Einstein3) and Carnivore (later DCS1000, then Narus Insight) are good examples of major SIGINT apparatuses run respectively by AUSCANNZUKUS (or "Five Eyes") and the FBI; each takes in a sizable portion of everyday communications to be afterwards organized into a useful data set. See Palantir for examples of advanced collection and modeling capabilities of the sort that have already been planned for deployment (though since presumably canceled, having been exposed) in conjunction with other tactics against such targets as Wikileaks and opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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