DIY Intelligence Agency

This is how to built yourself a very robust personal Intelligence Agency. Every intelligence agency in the world tracks key words, information patterns, and news events from a central aggregated location.

  1. Create a Google account while being discrete with the information you put in the profile.
  2. Log on to your Google account and in the top left of the screen go to more then down to even more and select Alerts, which appears as the first link on the More Google Products page. Set up a number of these alerts for “news” and “blogs” based on your search terms. Set each of these to “as-it-happens” to e-mail you with a link to the article.
  3. Set up your smart phone to receive these alerts, and code the incoming messages with a special sound. You’ll then get a specific sound on your smart phone with each Google Alert.
  4. Establish a  Google Reader account. Subscribe to all the blogs you can find on your topics of interest. Google Reader includes a search bar to help search through the dross to find the good stuff. You now have an online central location from which you can manage your information intake.
  5. Over time, add more and more RSS feeds.  Intelligence agencies have them, and so should you.  You will be surprised Google Reader and the Google Alerts you will consistently outperform major news organizations in bring actionable intelligence to your attention. The may give you a competitive edge.
  6. Check your favorite blogs and and those that they are linking to consistently. Add these RSS feeds to your reader. Check the blog rolls of the blogs to which you subscribe  and add all of their RSS feeds to your reader. To vet these new sources, use the reader’s search facility.

CIA World Factbook

The CIA announced that their World Factbook Web site had been redesigned. I’m not the only person who constantly relies on this — over 3 million visitors access the online Factbook monthly. That’s not surprising as the World Factbook provides information about the background, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 countries and other entities.

I really like the new features of reporting world rankings for data like life expectancy. Another new feature is the “Field Listing” icon that gives you an alphabetical listing of countries for that field so that you can do your own comparison of data that can’t be ranked.

This is a timely resource — it is updated every two weeks and the updates are logged on a special page. Though I wish either the country entries or data fields indicated the last update, but that might be asking too much.

If you want to avoid all the Flash content use the text-only version. I’m not a big fan of Flash, but this is a very well executed use of it that makes the World Factbook more useful.

China’s Espionage and Cyber Attack Strategy

An excellent article about the “recent discovery of Chinese cyber warfare attacks on foreign computers, on communication computers of visiting dignitaries, and espionage activities to assist a friendly country is building weapons of mass destruction (WMDI)” entitled China’s Silent Warfare at BLOg Source INTelligence reveals a lot about China’s espionage and cyber attack strategy.

Mobile Phones & Tin Foil Hats

Under certain circumstances, if you lose sight of your mobile telephone, then you may reasonably assume it has been compromised. These circumstances are more common than you might think. Here are two cases of this that I have encountered over the last year or so.

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An Intellegence Revolution

I’m sometimes referred to dismissively as the Investigator who searches databases, or the guy who gets other people to do research and just manages the report writing (they can’t grasp the concept of a Project Manager). These people dinosaurs just don’t understand that the conduct of knowledge work has changed and that it will continue to change. Industrial technology brought about the Industrial Revolution, now information  technology is bringing about an Intelligence Revolution.

For example, the  news media acknowledged that Wikipedia was the clearing house for information about the Virginia Tech shooting. Over 8000 amendments to the Wikipedia article were posted in 2 weeks. A former director of the National Security Agency told  congress  in 2002, “Al-Qaida did not need to develop a telecommunication system. All it had to do was harvest the products of a three trillion dollar a year telecommunications industry; an industry that had made communications signals varied, global, instantaneous, complex, and encrypted.”

Open sources, open systems, and advanced telecommunications technology are changing how any form of intelligence collection and reporting is done. These developments have also changed how we have to look at the Intelligence Cycle. The decision-makers and intelligence professionals must now come together within the same space and time to focus on the target in a collaborative model using easily configurable open systems. ( An open system, in management science, is a system that is capable of self-maintenance on the basis of throughput of resources from the environment and usually operated on  a computer system that provides a  combination of interoperability, portability, and open software standards.)  In effect, contributors, analysts, and end-users must employ every tool available simultaneously. There is no time for the traditional Intelligence Cycle to function. Clark’s Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, 2nd Edition and  the “fusion cells” in Iraq may offer models for this more focused, collaborative, and time-compressed intelligence process.

This presents management difficulties associated with the resistance to change, training, organisational structure, the introduction of new technology, and outsourcing. Contractors will collect and fact-check data before entering it into an open system for further processing. Portions of intelligence projects will be managed by outside contractors who compile data from many sources and then feed the results into the open system. Contractors will create chronologies, social network maps, link diagrams, and databases, all of which will be available through an open system. Everybody involved with collection will have some contact with the end user or project manager.

These changes are starting to happen in the public sector. If you do competitive intelligence or complex investigations in the private sector, then you need to start changing your work processes or be left behind by your competitors.  Adapt, or become a fossil.

Terrorists in Internet Virtual Worlds

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft are little more than communication tools and some terrorism and intelligence experts are concerned that it is theoretically possible that such platforms as MMORPG’s and Second Life might be used to plan terrorist attacks. For an overview of this topic see The Ongoing Debate About The Possibility of Terrorists in Virtual Worlds  at The Evince Blog.

Secrets are Secret, unless you work in the UK Cabinet Office

By now you have heard of the secret intelligence files left on a commuter train in England.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the powerful Home Affairs select committee told the BBC: “Such confidential documents should be locked away…they should not be read on trains.”

This should be a reminder to the private sector regarding trade secrets.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is not protected by a Patent, Trademark, or Industrial Design. A trade secret is confidential and proprietary information that you protect because of its commercial value and the competitive advantage that it produces for your company.

Competitive Intelligence

Exposing a trade secret in public by working on a critical document on an airplane, leaving a trade secret on a commuter train, or exposing it in an proposal, may eliminate the confidential nature of the data, and once you do that, you have, by definition, given up protecting it, therefore, it is not a trade secret that you can claim as proprietary — your former trade secret moves into the public domain for all to see and use.

As a competitive intelligence practitioner, I often find former trade secrets loose in the public domain due to irresponsible security practices. If the owner does not protect the trade secret, it ceases to be confidential and proprietary data, and is likely to become somebody else’s competitive advantage, or worse still, it might become a standard practice for an entire industry.

Chinese Spies Steal US Passport Smart Chip

The US authorities demand that everybody entering their country have a passport and identity documents compliant with their security standards, but when it comes to their own passports, they have a much lower security standard than they demand of other countries.

Outsourcing passports ‘profound liability’

The blank passports travel to Europe where a microchip is inserted in the back cover and then onto Thailand where they are fitted with a radio antenna. The Netherlands company that makes the covers for the passport said in October that China stole the technology for the microchips, the Times said.

Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security

The Government Printing Office’s decision to export the work has proved lucrative, allowing the agency to book more than $100 million in recent profits by charging the State Department more money for blank passports than it actually costs to make them, according to interviews with federal officials and documents obtained by The Times.

Travelling with Electronic Devices

When I travel for work, I undertake what some people consider extreme measures to protect proprietary client data from theft by officials at international borders. These officials do not need warrants to seize or examine anything in your possession when crossing a border and that makes border officials excellent spies. This issue arose recently regarding the actions of the US border officials:

In Canada, one law firm has instructed its lawyers to travel to the United States with “blank laptops” whose hard drives contain no data. “We just access our information through the Internet,” said Lou Brzezinski, a partner at Blaney McMurtry, a major Toronto law firm. That approach also holds risks, but “those are hacking risks as opposed to search risks,” he said.

Creating a “blank laptop” entails more than just hitting the delete key or even using a utility to overwrite existing data. The hacking risk is also greater than most people realize, especially with wireless connections. Even with secure end-to-end encryption, traffic analysis can yield very useful intelligence.

The Problem With Intelligence

In 300 B.C. Chinese princes were told that to rule they must turn the empire into their eyes and ears. “Though he may live in the deepest retreat of his palace, at the end of tortuous corridors, nothing escapes him, nothing is hidden from him, nothing can escape his vigilant watch.” (Levi, Le grand empereur, pp.187).

Such a system relies not only on the honour of the eyes and ears, but also his subordinates whose capacity for deception and treachery is unbounded.

The weakness of any such intelligence system is the quality of the human resources employed. The problem still exists today, even with technical collection, due to the hypocritical analysts and scheming bureaucrats between the data and the decision-maker.

Inter-agency Cooperation Will Save US

Inter-agency cooperation and intelligence sharing seems to need some improvement in the US…

Driven to desperation by restrictive information sharing rules, and concerned about the terrorist threat to their homes and loved ones, at least five American intelligence officers established a domestic espionage ring. The target of their actions: the federal government. The beneficiary of their actions: Los Angeles. How has it come to this, that otherwise patriotic and loyal citizens feel compelled to work against their government in order to serve and protect their communities?

One member of the ring works in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the other in the LAPD. Maziarz, then an intelligence analyst at Camp Pendleton, was invaluable to the ring because of his ability to regularly access national intelligence databases and pass a steady stream of information to his accomplices on terrorism suspects in the LA area.

For the full story go to ThreatsWatch