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Fictitious Identities on the Internet

The attractive person you encounter on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Nexopia, Bebo, Friendster, Orkut or many other social web sites outside of the U.S.A. could be actually a fake.

There are many ways of constructing such fictitious individuals, including persons invented by a government agency. *

An Internet IP address can be registered for as little as 99 cents/year for an <.info> domain or for $4.99/year for a <.com> domain. ** An operator can create a large number of personas, replete with background, history, supporting details, resumes, pictures and cyber presence that are technically, culturally and geographically credible.

Such fakes enable an operator to display a number of different online personalities from the same workstation. This can be done without fear of being discovered. E-mail, blog and collaboration applications can appear to originate from any part of the world for interactions through conventional online services or social media platforms. The fake includes user-friendly indications that maximize situational awareness, such as displaying real-time local information or weather.

Communications from fake personalities can have a wide range of motivation. This includes sexual enticement, accusation of misconduct, fictitious reports, bullying, slander or libel. The possibilities of abuse are limitless, especially if the allegations originate from different sources that appear to be credible. Fake sources are also ideal for spreading propaganda and can be used to spread misinformation about political matters. If a faker’s bona fides are questioned, a variety of references can be provided from multiple fake addresses.

Except in cases where certification is authenticated by a government issued identity document, such as a CAC card in the case of DoD, other origins of Internet communications will remain untraceable.
With proliferation of Internet fake personalities, protective measures will have to be taken. For instance, in the case of DoD social computing, a government issued identity certification may have to be issued to safeguard communications between the military and private addresses.

In the case of commercial communications the existing certification authorities, such as obtained from Verisign, would require additional authentication of an individual by confirming the validity of a government issued driver’s license or passport. This would create unprecedented traffic on the Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) currently used by law enforcement agencies.

Fake personalities on the Internet are emerging as a new threat to communication. Right now there are too many easy ways how to establish Internet personalities. In due course this risk will have to be contained.


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