Behind the façade of diplomacy and uneasy economic cooperation, the U.S. and China are engaged in a new cold war. The combatants are hackers, and the fields of battle are the computer networks of government agencies and massive corporations.
Congressman Mike Rogers has been trying to sell you on this idea for a long time.
“China’s economic espionage has reached an intolerable level,” he said at a congressional hearing in October 2011. Rogers didn’t call for any new laws at the time, though he did allude to “legislation” that could help fight this problem. And he made it very clear who the enemy is.
“Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all,” he added.
China is constantly hacking U.S. corporations, according to Rogers, and it hurts American businesses when that information is passed on to competitors overseas. He talked quickly, clearly, and elliptically, cloaking his words in military-intelligence speak. The “intelligence community” had information about “advanced foreign cyber-threats,” he said.
Rogers, a former FBI agent, is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The committee’s job is to oversee agencies like the FBI and the NSA in intelligence gathering. There was an air of “trust us, this is worse than you think” at the hearing: General Michael Hayden, former head of both the NSA and the CIA, told reporters afterward that “this information is horribly overclassified inside the government.” It was as if the intelligence community wanted everyone to know how bad things had gotten, but it was prohibited from saying so.
Before delving too deeply, Rogers thanked three “witnesses” for help in his report. One of those was Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity consulting firm Mandiant, who, Rogers said, “deals with the consequences of advanced cyber-espionage against American companies every day.”
A month later, Rogers introduced his solution, the controversial Cyber Intelligence Security Protection Act (CISPA) in the House for the first time.
Aly Monique spends her days studying nursing in Chicago, but at night she plays a stylist online. At the social-shopping site Polyvore, she creates fashionable ensembles with chic bags and cute designer dresses and sexy shoes. She has no training in the art of style, but the numbers prove her talent. Every time one of her sets gets posted to Facebook, tens of thousands of people like and share it. They gush with praise. They beg to know where they can buy every single item, right down to the accessories.
But Monique is completely clueless of her popularity.
Her images are being stolen by a Facebook page called Dresses and shared with its 2.9 million followers—without permission and without credit.
Every day, Facebook users talk about Dresses more than just about any other page on the social network. The “talking about this” statistic, which you can see at the top of every Facebook page, is perhaps the network’s most meaningful metric of success. It shows popularity, but also engagement. It’s about who shares you and who talks about you. Lady Gaga, with her 55 million subscribers, only manages to muster about 500,000 people talking about her at any given time. Dresses, by contrast, routinely pulls in a far more monstrous 2 million, and nearly every day, the page hits the top 30 most-talked-about pages, according to data provided by independent social analytics firm PageData.
The page’s success comes from stealing collages created by Monique, and others like her, and turning them into an endless stream of eye candy for style lovers. If you subscribe to Dresses, your Facebook page becomes a fashion catalog, barraged with cute pictures of ready-made outfits. It’s Facebook window shopping.
But it’s also spam. Each photograph serves as a vehicle to deliver links to either another Facebook page owned by the same group or, more commonly, to an external site called Stylish Eve—a self-proclaimed “online magazine” that consists of little more than boilerplate text, more stolen images, and huge Google ads.
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Tumblr curated by Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso), Aja Romano (@ajaromano) Gaby Dunn (@gabydunn), and Logan Youree (@loganwtf).