Everyone’s talking about Cyber Warfare while Social Warfare is flying under the radar

What would happen if your Twitter feed was hijacked? Share market hiccups? Shareholder anarchy? #PRFail? Is Social Warfare on your radar?

There has been a lot of pre-Federal budget noise about Cyber Warfare in Australia this month.

The Australian Financial Review reported on 6 May 2013 that there were “1250 known attacks against government systems in the year to September 2012” and “Australia is developing controversial offensive cyber warfare capabilities to disrupt and destroy adversary networks…” [hat tip to Christopher Joye and John Kerin]

Which got my ex-law enforcement spidey senses thinking.

There is no doubt that cyber warfare is a potentially potent weapon and many Governments around the world are quickly mastering this dark art as part of their civil and military offensive and defensive strategies. It makes sense – we live in a hyper-connected world where you can buy a fridge that is connected to the internet and you can turn your home electronics on and off from a smartphone app. Technology is our biggest freedom- and biggest invasion of privacy.

In my previous blog ‘Social Propaganda in Modern Warfare’ I wrote about the emergent use of social media as a highly effective propaganda tool; one that has a far more strategic audience reach than just your enemy. In considering Social Warfare, the potential for commercial and individual cyber attack is just as likely – and arguably more profitable than hacking Governments. Why read the dreary emails of public servants arranging meetings to have meetings, when you can hack into the secure network of a multinational corporation and steal their trade secrets?

You only have to look at Erik Qualman’s epic Socialnomics videos to know that nearly ALL major companies and organisations are using social media. Not only are they using it, they are mining the data of their audiences at the same time: from what you ‘Like’ to how you Tweet about their products, when you interact with their brands on social media (during ad breaks or on the daily commute) and to whom those messages are shared with in your networks. I’m only scratching the surface of social analysis here to give you an idea of the numbers game being played in Corporate Communications and Public Relations boardrooms around the world.

As Erik adeptly points out:

Social Media has become the #1 activity on the web…

This makes Social Warfare a very real prospect to businesses and governments around the world. Big business has well developed vetting processes to minimize the risk of corporate espionage: with many companies going to great lengths to secure their intellectual property and trade secrets. Governments have similar measures in place. But while everyone has their eye on Google – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are flying under the radar.

If you are not monitoring the social chit chat about your brand, product, service or name – you have no idea of it’s value, what your online reputation is like or how many imposters are costing you money.

If you ramp that up a level and look at what is being said and to whom; and add into that mix the statistics behind every blog, click through and post – you start to get a picture of where the numbers game is headed and how this information may be very valuable, particularly to a competitor. From a propaganda perspective alone, the damage done by impersonation can be catastrophic. Scenarios abound – from imposters to social anarchy to social espionage.

We’ve already seen evidence of  hijacked Twitter feeds causing expensive share market hiccups.

Hijackings in most countries are considered acts of terrorism – and yet in the social sphere they aren’t viewed this way, yet the aim of the hijacker in each example is the same, and often a prelude to terrorism.

Social Warfare … anyone?