Feeds

Feds use phony MySpace profiles to nab bad guys

Insert ironic comment here

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Undercover US agents are infiltrating MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites with false online profiles in an attempt to nab users under investigation for breaking the law, a Justice Department document reveals.

The revelation exposes the Kafkaesque double standard employed by federal prosecutors, who in 2008 charged a Missouri mother with four felonies for creating a fake MySpace account. The woman, Lori Drew, helped create the profile of a fictitious teenage boy and then sent flirtatious messages to a 13-year-old girl under his name. The girl later hanged herself after receiving a message from the account saying the world would be a better place without her.

A Los Angeles jury eventually convicted Drew of three misdemeanors. The verdict was later overturned by a judge on grounds the underlying law was vague, but the action was taken against the wishes of the prosecutors trying the case.

Alas, there are no stated prohibitions against federal agents setting up fictitious accounts, even though they violate terms of service for both Facebook and MySpace. According to a 33-page document (pdf) obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, such undercover operations can be useful for a variety of purposes, including communicating with suspects or targets, gaining access to non-public information, and mapping social relationships and networks.

The Justice Department memo notes the potential problems with such covert operations with the words: "If agents violate terms of service, is that 'otherwise illegal activity'?" The question, a reference to language in MySpace terms of service, is never answered.

Social networks can prove to be a gold mine because they act as diaries, except that they are available online and potentially indestructible. User information and stored files on MySpace are kept "indefinitely," the memo states. The Associated Press has much more here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.