Manti Te'o, meet James Bond.
British spies are seducing enemy targets online, new documents from Edward Snowden show, a tactic known as a "honey trap" in intelligence circles but better known by the civilian term "catfishing."
That revelation is part of several top-secret slideshows that were leaked to NBC News by the former NSA contractor, exposing a host of "dirty tricks" usd by the Brits to snare rival operators.
The presentations (available here and here) detail the varied tactics of a British spy unit know as Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group, which includes computer hacking, coordinated surveillance of journalists and diplomats, and the aforementioned setting of "honey traps." The methods reflect a growing desire "to go on offense and attack adversaries ranging from Iran to the hacktivists of Anonymous," reports NBC News.
Presented to NSA agents during cyberespionage conferences, the slides justify the programs as being able to "destroy, deny, degrade, [and] disrupt" targets by "discrediting" them via these unusual, strictly un-cyber methods, which sound more like something out of a detective noir flick.
NBC News explains:
Spies have long used sexual "honey traps" to snare, blackmail, and influence targets. Most often, a male target is led to believe he has an opportunity for a romantic relationship or a sexual liaison with a woman, only to find that the woman is actually an intelligence operative. The Israeli government, for example, used a "honey trap" to lure nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu from London to Rome. He expected an assignation with a woman, but instead was kidnapped by Israel agents and taken back to Israel to stand trial for leaking nuclear secrets to the media.
The version of a "honey trap" described by British cyber spies in the 2012 PowerPoint presentation sounds like a version of Internet dating, but includes physical encounters. The target is lured "to go somewhere on the Internet, or a physical location" to be met by "a friendly face." "¦ A "honey trap," says the presentation, is "very successful when it works."
Other activities exposed in the Snowden documents include DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) online attacks on government websites and the hacker group Anonymous and plans to manipulate foreign journalists to spread information to targets. The counterterrorism program at times bordered on the juvenile, swapping social media photos and texting associates negative information about targets.
The disclosures are just the latest showing British spy agents attempting to educate their American counterparts on their modes of government surveillance. Last month similar PowerPoint presentations were exposed showing how the British government monitored YouTube in real time and collected data from Facebook and Twitter.