As I covered a while back, it is now a reality that most intelligence and covert outfits are bracing themselves for countering artificial intelligence-driven security and surveillance measures, such as contemporary Activity-Based Intelligence, AI-driven OSINT and Pattern-of-Life methods employed by most state-level and near-peer adversaries.
Newsweek carried an article recently uncovering a shadowy heritage of continous opaque warfare in the Eurasian continent for the last 20 years. This force, which is not counting serving military is specifically created and maintained by the DoD to enable its operatives to remain undetected by its peers accross the pond. These low profile and low-key operators are part assumed identities but partly living under their own names. The force is said to be more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, undertaking various covert and overt tasks ranging from consultancy and training of foreign troops (or as it is known, conducting Foreign Internal Defense), close-in surveillance and mantracking to outright kill/capture missions aimed at High Value Assets.
The inflation of this surprisingly complex web of operatives dates back to 2015, when the Islamic State posted the names, photos and addresses of over 1,300 U.S. military personnel, instructing supporters to target and kill the identified individuals.
The FBI said that the release was followed by suspected Russian hackers who masqueraded as members of ISIS and threatened military families through Facebook.
The next year, ISIS released 8,318 target names: the largest-ever release until it was topped by 8,785 names in 2017.
Straight out of a spy novel…
This force is a mix of ex-spec ops and ex-military intelligence personnel deployed downrange and a good number of hackers and OSINT pros. The whole shadow force is a completely entangled network whom are employing every trick from the books – as long as it is unrecognizable by pattern analysis of hostiles.
The covert op network is hid beyond a sticky net of nonsensely named government agencies, such as the Operational Planning and Travel Intelligence Center, Defense Programs Support Activity, Joint Field Support Center, Army Field Support Center, Personnel Resources Development Office, Office of Military Support, Project Cardinals, the Special Program Office and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Defense Clandestine Service and the Defense Cover Office.
One level down you’d find a few hundred shadowy enterprises, usually run by ex-special forces or ex-intelligence personnel. Part of these companies are private military or private intelligence companies but Lord knows what else is in there.
The supporting network intrusion component is of such magnitude that – for example – they are able to alter the biometrics recorded in national databases in the timeframe a given asset crosses a border and is under scrutiny of the local authorities. And a while after the operative is inside target territory, the data is reverted back – so they are easily assume the identities of just about anyone. To this end they even use age-old silicon sleeves “so snugly fits over a real hand it can’t be detected, embedding altered fingerprints and even impregnated with the oils found in real skin” to spoof fingerprint-readers. The article even touches on the topic of “silicon face appliances”, Hollywood-like full-face masks – a bit outlandish, but hey, why not?
Allegedly the operators (at least a part of them) are trained how to fabricate secret listening devices into everyday objects, including artisanal techiques like molding and casting, special painting, and sophisticated aging techniques.
All bearing the aether of the sweat-soaked Cold War… Spycraft that was hi-tech before the advent of the IT revolution…
What is most interesting here is that we can see an old school approach to the cloak and dagger spy game, to defy today’s ever-growing usage of AI to monitor populace and to screen for potential threats. And therefore it is safe to say that the phenomena of counter-AI is very much alive.