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Massive US Military Social Media Spying Archive Left Wide Open In AWS S3 Buckets (theregister.co.uk) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Three misconfigured AWS S3 buckets have been discovered wide open on the public internet containing "dozens of terabytes" of social media posts and similar pages -- all scraped from around the world by the U.S. military to identify and profile persons of interest. The archives were found by veteran security breach hunter UpGuard's Chris Vickery during a routine scan of open Amazon-hosted data silos, and these ones weren't exactly hidden. The buckets were named centcom-backup, centcom-archive, and pacom-archive. CENTCOM is the common abbreviation for the U.S. Central Command, which controls army operations in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. PACOM is the name for U.S. Pacific Command, covering the rest of southern Asia, China and Australasia.

"For the research I downloaded 400GB of samples but there were many terabytes of data up there," he said. "It's mainly compressed text files that can expand out by a factor of ten so there's dozens and dozens of terabytes out there and that's a conservative estimate." Just one of the buckets contained 1.8 billion social media posts automatically fetched over the past eight years up to today. It mainly contains postings made in central Asia, however Vickery noted that some of the material is taken from comments made by American citizens. The databases also reveal some interesting clues as to what this information is being used for. Documents make reference to the fact that the archive was collected as part of the U.S. government's Outpost program, which is a social media monitoring and influencing campaign designed to target overseas youths and steer them away from terrorism.

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Massive US Military Social Media Spying Archive Left Wide Open In AWS S3 Buckets

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unless they're claiming these were private posts the spooks somehow hacked into, it's just another public copy of already public data.

    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      The thing is the reason I "want to think it's ok to post in public" is because I don't think my government should spy on me. At all.

      Sure they may consider it useful but ..

      What if in the US rather than saying "Oh we must have access to anything which can be encrypted" they instead said "We won't use any information gathering even if it's un-encrypted and in the public, and we won't ask anyone else for it either and such information can't be used against anyone / usage of such information would automatically

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thanks Democrats for voting that clown in. He took the Bush-era surveillance and expanded it by leaps and bounds. It's time we appoint a special prosecutor and investigate all of the abuses of the Obama administration.

  • Why use AWS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2017 @07:34PM (#55573791)

    Why doesn't the military store their own stuff?

    • Re:Why use AWS? (Score:5, Informative)

      by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Friday November 17, 2017 @07:41PM (#55573827) Homepage

      Same reason they don't build their own airplanes, ships, guns, etc...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because it is more cost effective to have the private sector do it, as they can subsidize the cost of collection by selling the data onto other customers (marketing, foreign governments) rather than have the US army do it.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The US mil really likes its Military–industrial complex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]–industrial_complex
      Think of a world that allowed to US mil to spend millions on its own internal, secure networks.
      Thats billions in build and long term support contracts lost to the shareholders and outside contractors.
      What the US mil could secure for millions has been given to contractors to look after for billions. That money is gone. The once very secret and secure US mil data is.... ????
    • by Anonymous Coward

      All the best storage experts smoke pot so their services have to be bought from the private sector.

      I kid, I kid.

    • Money? That and if this happened on a military install, they'd be sporting an even larger black eye than they currently have ("You trusted Amazon? What's wrong with you?" vs. "Our nation's elite military 'cyber-warriors' can't secure a simple database from opportunistic h@x0rs...how the hell are they going to protect us from {enemy}?"). The first one is a gaff, the second one is a congressional inquisition into 'what exactly do you do with all that money we give you.'

    • There's a huge amount of inertia within the military (or government for that matter), which makes it really slow to adapt to and take advantage of changes. Technological progress is the very epitome of change, so the two make very poor bedfellows. It works much better if they simply hire someone to handle the technological part for them.

      In the mid-1990s my company was doing some ship model testing. We rented the tow tank at the U.S. Navy's David Taylor Research Center (now David Taylor Model Basin).
  • If you can still claim copyright etc, it doesn't mean you can claim anything on social media is 'secret'. If so. this is nothing more than what every Sysadmin with half a brain has been saying... containers on machines you don't control are not secure.

  • does /. count as social media, antisocial media maybe ? Anyhow, did centcom scan slashdot ? Is centcom the new UI for slashdot ?
  • If it's in the cloud, even the secure cloud, it's open.

    You may not think it is, but it is.

    And, yes, other nations do - and will - have access to it.

    • ... again.

      I'm sure Russia is super-scared.

      As for that guy who some day suggested that all other people was inferior: https://slashdot.org/comments.... [slashdot.org]
      At-least those willing to relocate to the US.. Well.. I'm pretty sure some Russian and even North Korean computer users will know their shit and could had been interested in doing something in the US too.

    • As opposed to where? Completely disconnected from the Internet? Because AWS ("the cloud") is certainly a better choice than something you have to secure yourself.
      • Not if the safety and security of the nation's citizenry are put in jeopardy in the process. For the money the federal government spends on security, we're not getting a good return on investment
        • The US government is a huge, sprawling democracy. There are some networks that actually contain things vital to national security. Those are usually entirely air-gapped and secured by the best people that the government has. After that, we have every other government function from motor vehicle registrations to lame intelligence-gathering operations like this one. Those are *very* unlikely to have competent people working on them.
          • I think you mean the US government is a huge, sprawling bureaucracy. Because if it were a "democracy" it wouldn't be possible for the person with fewer votes to win the election. But in 2016, "the loser won" (to quote the loser who won).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Justice says it is only reasonable to have encryption if they can read it.

    It they can only protect it as well as this, reasonable is a sad story.

  • by Chewbacon ( 797801 ) on Friday November 17, 2017 @09:46PM (#55574311)

    ...as my company switches to AWS Workspaces, someone asked me what AWS is. I explained it and summarized: it's a very powerful and capable platform, yet its users are perfectly capable of powerfully shooting themselves in both feet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      UK Parliament moved their email and documents into the *Microsoft* cloud in Ireland......

      (From Snowden): CIA was/is spying on all its allies, and each day a brief on legislation was prepared for Bush (and later Obama) on who was considering what legislation. If it was bad for the USA, it could be headed off. The joke being that when allied leaders called the President he already knew the details of the legislation they were going to talk about, and already had lined up talking points and counter allies as l

  • I mean collecting billions of people's private posts and leave them open online.
  • ...the government was caught leaving copies of books it found in the public library in places where the public could see them! Seriously, this seems like a complete non-story if all the information in the S3 bucket was already public information. They just went out and gathered a bunch of stuff that you or I could already get by simply googling it and stored it in one place. Now if some of the information was not public already, then that is a different story...and would have been highlighted in this one if
  • GZIP is more like a factor of 3-4 times for text. The only way they could get a factor of 10 compression ratio would be if they were using something like PAQAR 4.5, which I kinda doubt...

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