U.S. military says Metal Gear sock puppets are real
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has confirmed it is coding advanced software designed to infiltrate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The existence of Metal Gear was first revealed by the cyber activist group known as Anonymous, which managed to obtain critical data about the project from leaked HBGary documents.
"We believe Metal Gear involves an army of fake cyber personalities immersed in social networking websites for the purposes of manipulating the mass population via influence," the group explained in a press release circulated Wednesday evening.
"It is sophisticated enough to develop a 'profile' for each puppet to add a level of 'realism' to each. In short, there would be no feasible way to distinguish between 100 people commenting on a subject, and 100 of these puppets doing the same."
Unsurprisingly, CENTCOM spokesperson Commander Bill Speaks offered a more sterile description of Metal Gear, telling The Guardian: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable [the military] to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."
As expected, Speaks insisted Metal Gear will be unleashed against individuals who speak Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto outside the United States - as it is currently "unlawful" to address U.S. audiences with such technology.
So, what will Metal Gear actually be capable of?
Well, a CENTCOM contract terms the software an "online persona management service" that allows a single soldier to control up to 10 separate identities. Each fake online persona is programmed with a convincing background story, complete with history and supporting details.
Once activated, the software will allow U.S. service personnel based in MacDill Air Force based to counter "hostile" online activity with counter-propaganda posts on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and chatrooms.
Metal Gear will likely exploit virtual private servers (ostensibly) based outside the US, along with the practice of "traffic mixing" to offer "excellent cover and powerful deniability."
Metal Gear is currently being developed by the U.S. military and the Los Angeles-based Ntrepid in exchange for a cool $2.76 million.