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Clint Watts electrified the nation when he testified in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. In Messing with the Enemy, the counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and homeland security expert introduces us to a frightening world in which terrorists and cyber criminals don’t hack your computer, they hack your mind. Watts reveals how these malefactors use your social media information and that of your family, friends, and colleagues to map your social networks, identify your vulnerabilities, master your fears, and harness your preferences.
Thanks to the schemes engineered by social media manipulators using you and your information, business executives have coughed up millions in fraudulent wire transfers, seemingly good kids have joined the Islamic State, and staunch anti-communist Reagan Republicans have cheered the Russian government’s hacking of a Democratic presidential candidate’s emails. Watts knows how they do it because he’s mirrored their methods to understand their intentions, combat their actions, and co-opt their efforts.
Watts examines a range of social media platforms - from the first Internet forums to the current titans of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - and nefarious actors - from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State to the Russian social media troll farm - to illuminate exactly how they use Western social media for their nefarious purposes. He explains how he’s learned, through his successes and his failures, to engage with hackers, terrorists, and even the Russians - and how these interactions have generated methods for fighting back against those that seek to harm people on the Internet. He concludes with a snapshot of how advances in artificial intelligence will make future influence even more effective and dangerous to social media users and democratic governments worldwide. Shocking, funny, and eye-opening, Messing with the Enemy is a deeply urgent guide for living safe and smart in a super-connected world.
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By @CyberSpaceSA on 06-11-18
Could Have Been Much Better - Disappointing!
I've been a big fan of Clint Watts since I was first introduced to him during his testimony for the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. However, this book was disappointing. "Messing with the Enemy" starts out with a bit of self promotion by Watts. He then goes on to describe his "chatty days" and how he spent considerable time chatting with Islamic terrorists over social media. He also talks about his short period working with the FBI, which I mistakingly thought was much longer based on how is bio is presented on cable TV. Basically, he describes himself as one who does not fit into organizations (like the FBI), likes chatting with terrorists on social media, and has a great distain for the US government contracting process. He uses the book to directly self-promote and tacitly ask for funding for his research work; while at the same time being highly critical of government contracting.
There is some good information in "Messing with the Enemy". Watts does a good job of attributing the rise of global jihad and radical Islamic terrorism to the rise of social media and on-line discussion forums. He also does a good job of discussing how social media and on-line forums have helped move us toward a dystopian world where the "disinformation cat is out of the bag" and often refers to social media as "anti-social media" which I tend to agree.
The main problem I had with "Messing with the Enemy" was the shameless self-promotion and not-so-subtle requests for funding for his research, while at the same time lambasting the US government contracting processes. I was a network and cyber security consultant across many US government agencies for many years and my experience was completely different than Clint Watts. I worked with creative, imaginary and highly skilled professionals who were not at all the "government misfits" as described by Watts. Yes, government contracting can be challenging; but with the right sponsors and contracts, you can be highly creative and have a great impact. Clint Watt's sings too many sour grapes about contracting and makes the mistake of projecting his lack of success in contracting as damning to the entire process.
On the other hand, I do agree with Watts that there is a lot of incompetence in the government. The issue I have with "Messing with the Enemy" is too much time was spent on self-promotion, bashing government contracting, and bragging about chatting with terrorists on social media in a book supposedly about social media hacking and disinformation warfare. There was almost no (useful or additional) technical information or methods described other that (to summarize) "social media gives rise to anti-social media" so the book was disappointing.
Having said that, I glad to have supported Clint Watts by buying this book and did enjoy about half of "Messing with the Enemy" on a long east-to-west trans-pacific flight from the US to Hong Kong. "Messing with the Enemy" could have been much better but instead it was disappointing.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
By J. Scott on 07-24-18
Good read worth reading
I liked the background, experience, and expertise of the author. I appreciated the first five chapters of the book as a matter of curiosity about Islamic terrorism and I believe he gave it thoughtful and and balanced treatment. You won’t find any nationalist fear mongering or racism in this book which I appreciated.
I really liked chapters 6-10 where he laid out his thesis on social media and it’s uses, Russian use of the internet and how pervasive it is and precautions we should all take when using/social media and excellent advice about how to evaluate and protect yourself while using social media.
I especially appreciated his solution for using social media as an effective and thoughtful tool to continue fostering and protecting American values and the responsibilities of citizenship by interacting more with each other day-to-day.
I liked his description of what a solution might provide and look like but found myself longing to hear his ideas and more of a detailed focus on how this might be accomplished. In any case I’d say it’s a good read and social media users and the public generally will find it enlightening and useful.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful