The Russian woman sent to seduce a military official/infiltrate Western society is not exactly a new trope. James Bond tangled with at least three such characters that I can remember. But now they’ve apparently moved from bars serving vodka martinis to Facebook.
According to a report by Politico, Russian spies befriend soldiers on social media, posing as beautiful women. They can then either get in touch with the soldiers directly, or ‘seduce’ them with propaganda, in series of phishing attacks designed to either gain information or sew sympathy.
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Social media in general is another problem the intelligence community tackles. Discretion is key, as even innocuous updates from agents or soldiers to friends can tell the other side about their movements.
This is to say nothing of propaganda distribution on social media. A story from former military contractor, Serena Moring, sounds especially chilling in the age of fake news. She describes seeing the responses on Facebook to an unverified story about a Russian soldier who died fighting IS in Syria:
All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die.’ It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.
The Department of Defense wouldn’t comment specifically, but a spokesperson did say they are working to educate personnel against online tools which have “elevated the potential for nefarious use.” In addition to personnel themselves, the Politico report also notes that military spouses have been targeted by the same phishing.