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What The DHS Is Looking For In Your Posts 278

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the extreme-militia-rand-somalia-cheney-aid-missles dept.
New submitter lister king of smeg writes "As we all know The Department of Homeland Security monitors social networks,in an attempt to expose 'Items Of Interest.' As it turns out many terms including seemingly benign words such as flu, agent, response, cops drill, etc are on the list of words that set off warning bells for the government spooks. Many of the terms make sense ..., but there are some real stupid ones on the list to like 'social network' ... [according to a] list of key words provided to a DHS contractor that were released by EPIC."
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What The DHS Is Looking For In Your Posts

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:25AM (#39196853)

    Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Tsunami, Earthquake, Tremor, Flood

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    I guess at least we should be happy that "Dissent", "Protest", "Occupy", "Tea party", and "Third Party" aren't on there...well, not yet anyway.

  • by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:29AM (#39196909) Journal
    The word "troll" is not yet a "terr'rist term".
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:31AM (#39196923) long until someone writes a mail-editing packet filter and sets it up in a few really large hub nodes? :)
  • Examples (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:34AM (#39196959) Homepage Journal

    Of the 4 examples in this post, "flu", "agent", and "cops drill" aren't inappropriate things to monitor (if it's appropriate to monitor at all, which is another story). "Flu" tracking is important for epidemics. Discussions of the location of cops and agents seems to make sense too. Again, I think it's silly they're trying to monitor social networks to this level, but if they're going to do it those aren't the worst keywords.

    Also, I guess now I'm going to be tracked for discussing the keywords. How very meta.

    • Re:Examples (Score:4, Funny)

      by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:36AM (#39196995) Homepage

      Is it too late to start calling them the DeHStapo?

    • by Johann Lau (1040920) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#39197089) Homepage Journal

      "Flu" tracking is important for epidemics.

      And the DHS has what business of doing that, exactly?

      Again, I think it's silly they're trying to monitor social networks to this level, but if they're going to do it those aren't the worst keywords.

      "social networks" -- ?? Come on, that's just silly. They might as well save everybody some time and come right out and track "*", cuz that's what they're after. Anyone remember "Total Information Awareness"? Did you *really* think that *actually* died? Sure.

    • Re:Examples (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:45AM (#39197109) Homepage Journal

      They're only useful if they don't provide too many false positives. If you get fifty thousand pages talking about someone having the flu or mail transport agents, the real threats are going to be buried.

      Plus, mere keyword checking breeds a set of newer, stupider DHS agents who miss the whole "intelligence" part of intelligence, and are likely to detain someone who has tweeted that they're going to party and destroy L.A.
      Somebody set up us the bomb.

    • Re:Examples (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sedennial (182739) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:03AM (#39197339)
      Not necessarily. The keyword list published probably is only the trigger key links. If you also started talking about 'social media' in the context of 'covert channel' you can bet that social media would raise a red flag.

      Many of the algorithms used (especially some implementations of Bayesian filters) for this type of scoring are more than capable of correctly (or almost always correctly) identifying and excluding 'trolling'. You look for patterns of recurring words or linked words or synonymic links (aka if 'anthrax' is in my list, also look for '((bacterial OR viral)+agent)'. You look for deltas in the frequency of occurrence with persistence. Couple that with dynamic weighting based on local/national/global new events. So if you suddenly start using the words 'anthrax', 'cities', and 'target' when there isn't anything like that going on, and your conversation persists, that will get a high score. If every 17 days you post a tweet that contains a city name, a time, and a "random" dictionary word (aka a one-time crypto pad), that will probably score much higher than your talking about anthrax right after someone sends a bunch of letters with white powder around the country. IThe sophistication of the language context analysis software that is in existence is way past anything that most people realize.
      • Re:Examples (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:01PM (#39198029)

        You sir, get the gold star!

        The analysis software could also be used to detect patterns of "coded" words in relation to events that might occur.
        This strategy would allow you to identify repetitive words for later decoding, identify specific geographic locations these
        words are used in, and possibly determine the size of the group using them.

        Social media platforms (Facebook, Google+, Myspace, etc) provide an excellent mechanism to "drill" out from a "Known" to
        potentially identify the recipients and "Key" propagators.

        Now, tie this to (very limited list) cell calls, GPS, banking transactions, and you'll be able to build a pretty well rounded "threat" profile of any person identified.

      • by marga (455344) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:52PM (#39198687)

        Given the current history of stupidity regarding harmless tweets, I seriously doubt that they have anything that really filters the good from the bad. If one of your tweets triggered them, then you are not welcome in the US.

    • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:32AM (#39197683) Journal
      ITs amazing that you think this is OK.
  • by vikisonline (1917814) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:35AM (#39196971)
    And I found a cool way to get a free gps receiver!
    Just post the following words on your blog:
    allah akbar, jihad!, white, house, flu, anthrax, bomb, airplane!, pope, my brothers!, 70 virgins, hail mary
  • since 9/11 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:36AM (#39196987)
    i have noticed the government gotten more & more drunk and insane with their control & power, and it is steadily getting worse, my only question is how tyrannical will they get before the citizens of this nation wake up and turn on them...
    • Re:since 9/11 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#39197095)

      Not till they shut off dancing with the stars, hillbilly hand fishin, and monday night football.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:51AM (#39197185)

      Yeah, we'll get on that right after we finish playing Skyrim. And watching TV. And playing Angry Birds.

      Well, tomorrow for sure.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:57AM (#39197247) Journal

      9/11 was not the turning point you make it out to bee. Long before 9/11 the American people tolerated the government imprisoning people for asserting control over their own biochemistry. How can there be freedom left to lose when you're not even sovereign over your own body and mind?

    • Re:since 9/11 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:08AM (#39197389)

      We're stuck in a positive feedback loop now. The more the government over-reaches in the interests of security, the more pissed off the populace gets, which leads to more civil disobedience and activism, which leads to more over-reaches in the interests of security, which leads to a more pissed off populace, and so on...

      The Occupy protests are just the beginning. Things are going to get much worse before they get any better. It doesn't really matter much at all who is sitting in Washington, D.C., Demican or Republicrat, the bullshit has already reached critical mass, now it's just time to wait for the meltdown.

      People call me crazy, but I'm taking steps to prepare myself and my family. A few years ago I read these eye-opening blog posts [] about the effects of the Argentinian Economic Crisis of 1999-2002 [] from the point of view of a regular, college-educated, city dweller. It's scary shit. I know that if similar things were to happen to the U.S. a lot of people would be in very poor shape to deal with it. I'm not going to allow myself or my family to be victimized due to being unprepared.

      Growing up I never thought things would get to even this point in this country.

  • by acariquara (753971) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:37AM (#39197003) Journal

    Or maybe a Facebook worm that randomly injects these words in innocent posts?

  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:38AM (#39197025) Journal
    I know why they are terrorist looking for those bomb seemingly nuclear innocuous words!

    I think jihad maybe someone is just really sensitive to social network sites creating terror plots nerve agent. I know sometimes I plume overreact when I see something Center for Disease Control (CDC) that I don't really understand swine, and maybe we should give them a little slack Abu Sayyaf.
  • Terrorism Al Queda Terror Attack Iraq Afghanistan Iran Pakistan Agro Environmental terrorist Eco terrorism Conventional weapon Target Weapons grade Dirty bomb Enriched Nuclear Chemical weapon Biological weapon Ammonium nitrate Improvised explosive device IED (Improvised Explosive Device) Abu Sayyaf Hamas FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces Colombia) IRA (Irish Republican Army) ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna) Basque Separatists Hezbollah Tamil Tiger PLF (Palestine Liberation Front) PLO (Palestine Libration Organization) Car bomb Jihad Taliban Weapons cache Suicide bomber Suicide attack Suspicious substance AQAP (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula) AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) Yemen Pirates Extremism Somalia Nigeria Radicals Al-Shabaab Home grown Plot Nationalist Recruitment Fundamentalism Islamist

  • by concealment (2447304) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:41AM (#39197049) Homepage Journal

    They're not looking for any one of these words. They're cross-indexing usage of multiple words. If a terrorist event is about to happen and they think it's near a bridge, finding "bridge" and "social network" and "ammonium nitrate" might be a good way to identify friends of the perp...

  • False Positives (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:41AM (#39197051) Journal
    I predict a large percentage of false positives as word of this list spreads across the social networks.
  • by apcullen (2504324) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:46AM (#39197121)
    I remember when I first stared using email and newsgroups there were several email signatures -- I think they were automatically and randomly generated, with a bunch of terrorist-style keywords and phrases followed by the words "Greetings to my friends at the NSA".
  • by Coisiche (2000870) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:00AM (#39197291)

    Al Queda (all spellings)

    What would be the regular expression for that?

  • Routine spying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kilfarsnar (561956) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#39197399)

    Isn't it interesting that we now can take for granted that the government is spying on us? When I was a boy, one of the great things about this country, and one of the things that distinguished us from other countries, was that we didn't have to worry about that. In fact we took it for granted that the government wasn't watching what we did and listening to what we said.

    Then some people flew some planes into some buildings and we all lost our collective shit. It seems everyone, from the media to politicians to businesses to defense contractors and intelligence agencies, has an interest in keeping the American people cowered in fear. And cower we do! We would never have put up with the wars and the invasions of our rights and privacy 12 years ago. But once people have the shit scared out of them, they will accept a lot of stuff they wouldn't have before. There are people know and count on this.

    People, 9/11 was a one-off event. It was horrifying and disturbing, but it isn't going to happen again. In the meantime, there have been no significant terrorist attacks in this country. Sure, we've had the shoe-bomber and then the underwear-bomber (both of whom evaded security). But are those guys worth all this? There is no terrorist threat! Yes, there are those few who think violence will get them what they want, but that has always been true. There is no threat that warrants this overreaction, and shifting of the fundamental character of this country.

    But now everyone is afraid, and are kept that way by the entities mentioned above, who see self-interest in our fear. They are not interested in actually protecting you (as if you needed to be protected), they are lining their pockets and building power structures. It's a shame, because it seems that at the end of the day, "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is just a line in a song.

    There you go DHS (or NSA, or FBI, or CIA, or NRO), put me on your list.

    • Re:Routine spying (Score:4, Insightful)

      by acoustix (123925) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:37AM (#39197725) Homepage

      I agree 100%. The words "give me liberty or give me death" mean more now than ever.

    • Re:Routine spying (Score:5, Informative)

      by MadCow42 (243108) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:43AM (#39197791) Homepage

      >>Then some people flew some planes into some buildings and we all lost our collective shit.

      No, it was happening well before that. 9/11 just gave them a reason to accellerate it, and to increase their budget for doing it.

      Ever heard of Echelon? [] (written in 1999/2000)

    • Re:Routine spying (Score:4, Interesting)

      by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @01:20PM (#39199117)

      How old are you, 103?

      When I was a kid in the '70's, it was quite common to insert the phrase "screw you J. Edgar Hoover" into any telephone conversation when odd noises were heard over the line. Most adults I knew did it. People my parent's age still say it on occasion. It seems pretty clear their assumtion was that the FBI was listening in on personal phone calls with impunity.

    • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:49PM (#39204521)

      It has nothing to do with 9/11 and terrorism in general, than with the end of the Cold War and the lack of a common enemy.

      But it's not like the government hasn't been snooping on you since forever. Look at J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI and their history of wiretapping politicans and later blackmailing them (see who brought down Nixon--Hoover's protege who was passed over for the next head of the FBI after Hoover's death). The only difference now is that 1) it can happen almost effortlessly because computers are much faster at processing information, and much better at storing information than humans and paper files respectively; and 2) you know about it immediately because information is available to everybody.

      The U.S. and U.S. history is not as rosy and romantic as your grade school text books would let you believe. Despite the virtues of the Constitution and its principles, it's fairly dark. People think that just because we're sitting at the top of the world now that the U.S. is the greatest nation on the planet in human history. The Constitution only allows for a potential for greatness, but this has yet to be, nor have we been there, though we were getting closer for a short period of time (on the scale of human civilization, even 200 years is a short period of time). And it remains to be seen if this potential can ever be realized.

      The uneducated and the powerful who use them comprising the majority of the inhabitants of this planet are not interested in a free society or any such thing, but rather intellectual and physical security for the former and power and wealth for the latter. What's unfortunate is that the latter's goals provides for the former's needs. The equillibrium state of civilization is that of the few dictating to the many . A free society where the populace is its own ruler requires a significant amount of work to create and maintain.

      This is possible when society is comprised of hard-working individuals who don't mind the extra work that creating and maintaining a free society requires. This is why the middle class peaked during the 20th century. However, current trends of laziness, entitlement, and apathy result in what you see now: the decline of the middle class, greater income disparity, and eroding liberties.

      It's not that this is the bleakest time in U.S. history, but it is certainly a step back from yesteryears. It is alarming that the trend is pointed towards equillibrium. Whether it will continue, ultimately resulting in the slow death of what could and arguably should have been greatness, or it will reverse as a result of some unforseen cataclysmic event, remains to be seen.

      What's certain is that we live in interesting times. We have the capability to rise up against our masters in a nonviolent, enlightened way. That is the revolution brought about by the information age. We are also on the cusp of driving ourselves into a new Dark Ages. It is a matter of what we as capable individuals living here and now choose to do.

      The ignorance shown by the comments on this article, even here where arguably some of the brightest minds in the world congregate, does not make me confident the country will turn around in any manner. But I am comforted by the fact that knowledge and intelligence is not directly correlated to ability, no matter how many knowledgable and intelligent people would like to believe otherwise.

  • by bjourne (1034822) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#39197409) Homepage Journal

    Call me a conspiracy nut, but I wouldn't think that the DHS would let their wordlist get released if all they were doing was matching texts on specific terms. That is no better than a really dumb bayesian spam filter and would easily be defeated with childishly simple methods. When it comes to content filtering and semantic extraction, the science has moved way beyond such simple methods. Actually it is a very interesting research topic and I would love to have a job working with developing such models for the DHS if it wasn't for such an immoral purpose.

    Likely other signals they use to extract information is the dates and times when messages are sent and from which ip addresses. Also how well written they are and what kinds of spelling and grammatical errors. Native speakers of semitic languages such as Arabic make different kinds of spelling errors than Germanic language speakers. That's just from the top of my head. My point is that government surveillance organisations aren't as dumb as the article seem to suggest.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:13AM (#39197445) Homepage

    What's the challenge, you ask? Write a completely innocuous story using as many of the words as possible, like this:

    "So I recall driving home down the interstate with a box full of Kahlua Mudslide in the trunk, but there was so much sleet that that I started sliding around a bit. But I wanted to get home so I could work on recruitment for my startup company, so I kept driving right through the blizzard. I'd grown up in cold weather, but I didn't expect a large brown animal to burst from the forest border right onto the road! Although I tried to slam on my brakes, I hit the moose and slid right into a ditch. Thanks to the erosion, my car lodged on a rock rather than falling down into the river, but even so I decided an evacuation was in order. I stepped outside, and realized if I wasn't careful I might die of exposure. So I struggled up off the side of the ditch, hoping to find some aid, and sat huddled on the side of the road, with my cell phone out of power, checking my watch to see how much longer I might have to live, when a road work gang showed up and stopped. I breathed a sigh of relief, and got into their truck, ignoring any bacteria or cold virus I might pick up in the process. The whole thing seemed almost like a plot to a soap opera or something."

    (Really, NSA, I don't wish any kind of harm to the United States, I'm just proving a point)

  • Last night I had an incident with the critical infrastructure of my home perimeter's secure kitchen, involving powder ( white ). As outside the sleet fell on and on, it evolved into a body-liquid shootout between me and my partner. We had lots of fun.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:49AM (#39197871) Homepage Journal

    Oh, Dirty Bomb!
    All Fusion Centers Burn warm, dead Spillovers.
    Infections travel!
    Where is the cold Nuclear threat?

    Agents wave like rough Coast Guards.
    United Nations Explosion!
    Death is a warm Department of Homeland Security.
    Sail calmly like a misty U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
    Where is the big Nuclear?

    The rainy United Nations roughly fights the Nerve agent.
    The Gas Exposures like a warm White Powder.
    Wow, Exercise!
    Why does the Radiation rise?
    The warm Transportation Security Administration swiftly Lockdown the Fusion Center.

    Looks like I'm not getting shit done today... :)

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:51AM (#39197895) Journal
    One of the most confounding thing for an American (or an Indian American) trying to solve the cryptic crossword puzzles from the British newspapers is getting the rhyming slang []based clues right. A subculture that does not want to be monitored would develop its own code words and pretty soon the brutal grep for keywords in the stream of messages would prove to be useless. It did not help Bobbies putting on tattered clothing and hanging around the seedy bars trying eavesdrop on the dips and their squeezes. It is not going to help the Govt snoopers for long either.
  • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:02PM (#39198039) Homepage
    I would just like to say Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Coast Guard (USCG) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Secret Service (USSS) National Operations Center (NOC) Homeland Defense Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Task Force Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Fusion Center Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Secure Border Initiative (SBI) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Guard Red Cross United Nations (UN) Assassination Attack Domestic security Drill Exercise Cops Law enforcement Authorities Disaster assistance Disaster management DNDO (Domestic Nuclear Detection Office) National preparedness Mitigation Prevention Response Recovery Dirty Bomb Domestic nuclear detection Emergency management Emergency response First responder Homeland security Maritime domain awareness (MDA) National preparedness initiative Militia Shooting Shots fired Evacuation Deaths Hostage Explosion (explosive) Police Disaster medical assistance team (DMAT) Organized crime Gangs National security State of emergency Security Breach Threat Standoff SWAT Screening Lockdown Bomb (squad or threat) Crash Looting Riot Emergency Landing Pipe bomb Incident Facility Hazmat Nuclear Chemical Spill Suspicious package/device Toxic National laboratory Nuclear facility Nuclear threat Cloud Plume Radiation Radioactive Leak Biological infection (or event) Chemical Chemical burn Biological Epidemic Hazardous Hazardous material incident Industrial spill Infection Powder (white) Gas Spillover Anthrax Blister agent Exposure Burn Nerve agent Ricin Sarin North Korea Outbreak Contamination Exposure Virus Evacuation Bacteria Recall Ebola Food Poisoning Foot and Mouth (FMD) H5N1 Avian Flu Salmonella Small Pox Plague Human to human Human to ANIMAL Influenza Center for Disease Control (CDC) Drug Administration (FDA) Public Health Toxic Agro Terror Tuberculosis (TB) Agriculture Listeria Symptoms Mutation Resistant Antiviral Wave Pandemic Infection Water/air borne Sick Swine Pork Strain Quarantine H1N1 Vaccine Tamiflu Norvo Virus Epidemic World Health Organization (WHO and components) Viral Hemorrhagic Fever E. Coli Infrastructure security Airport CIKR (Critical Infrastructure & Key Resources) AMTRAK Collapse Computer infrastructure Communications infrastructure Telecommunications Critical infrastructure National infrastructure Metro WMATA Airplane (and derivatives) Chemical fire Subway BART MARTA Port Authority NBIC (National Biosurveillance Integration Center) Transportation security Grid Power Smart Body scanner Electric Failure or outage Black out Brown out Port Dock Bridge Canceled Delays Service disruption Power lines Drug cartel Violence Gang Drug Narcotics Cocaine Marijuana Heroin Border Mexico Cartel Southwest Juarez Sinaloa Tijuana Torreon Yuma Tucson Decapitated U.S. Consulate Consular El Paso Fort Hancock San Diego Ciudad Juarez Nogales Sonora Colombia Mara salvatrucha MS13 or MS-13 Drug war M
  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:03PM (#39198041) Journal
    I suggest that it would be extraordinairly fun to ranomly tweet gibberish (e.g. 2k34k34$$8djks-03-28378dk #DidYouDoThis?) on twitter and enjoy the fact that the best crypto people in the employ of 3 letter agencies will be frustrated trying to figure it out.

    Seriously... the best way to confound such a keyword system is to make analysis meaningless.
  • by errandum (2014454) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:10PM (#39198117)

    Or Systems like these are extremely easy to break?

    Just overloading social networks with these words using dummy accounts (a small server farm should be enough) would render this approach useless, and at the same time act as misdirection before someone attacked?

    I knew the USA government uses social networks to look for possible threats, but the system might turn against them.

  • DHS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eternaldoctorwho (2563923) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:11PM (#39198137)
    The Department of "Homeland Security"....that name always reminds me of the Nightwatch from Babylon 5. I still cringe when people refer to the U.S. as "Homeland" or "Motherland".
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmail.cCOBOLom minus language> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#39198311) Journal

    The word "lightening" is on the list. They must have to wade through a shit-ton of motorsports forum posts before they get their day started. This is under the "weather" section BTW, while "lightning" is not.

  • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:53PM (#39203289) Journal
    I'm surprised under the heading of attack or infrastructure, they didn't' list "EMP" or Electromagnetic Pulse, and variants.
    But even funnier are the drug names, as they're all proper. Really, what druggie or smuggler refers to their wares by their proper name? Shouldn't they be looking for, "pot", "weed", "blow", "horse", "smack", and stuff like that? (with a decent algorithm to sort out gardening and equine related discussions, natch)

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson