Researchers found and tracked NATO troops and tricked them into disobeying orders for just $60

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US Army soldier takes a selfie during a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flight over the Black Sea. (U.S. Army/William B. King)

Enemies can use social media to not only inexpensively find and target NATO forces — but also manipulate them, new research has concluded.

Researchers with NATO's Strategic Communications Center of Excellence used open source data, primarily social media, to successfully identify 150 soldiers, locate multiple battalions, track troop movements, and even convince service members to leave their posts and engage in other "undesirable behavior" during a military exercise, Wired reported Monday, citing a StratCom report.

And they did it for only $60, demonstrating how easy it is for an aggressor to target NATO with data available online.


The researchers used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media sites to find valuable information, particularly exploitable information, "like a serviceman having a wife and also being on dating apps," researcher Nora Biteniece explained. It is unclear which forces were targeted.

"Every person has a button. For somebody there's a financial issue, for somebody it's a very appealing date, for somebody it's a family thing," Janis Sarts, the director of NATO's StratCom, told Wired. "It's varied, but everybody has a button. The point is, what's openly available online is sufficient to know what that is."

The Russians, NATO's primary adversary, are particularly skilled at this type of information warfare, which has shown up in the Ukraine.

"The Russians are adept at identifying Ukrainian positions by their electrometric signatures," U.S. Army Col. Liam Collins wrote in Army Magazine last summer.

"In one tactic, soldiers receive texts telling them they are 'surrounded and abandoned.' Minutes later, their families receive a text stating, 'Your son is killed in action,' which often prompts a call or text to the soldiers," he wrote, according to Task & Purpose. "Minutes later, soldiers receive another message telling them to 'retreat and live,' followed by an artillery strike to the location where a large group of cellphones was detected."

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that the Russians were hacking the cellphones of NATO soldiers to "gain operational information, gauge troop strength and intimidate soldiers." At one point, the situation got so bad that Estonian troops were being forced by their superior officers to jump in the lake to enforce the strict "no smartphones" policy.

At the same time, the Russians are trying to better control how their troops use social media, as online activity has threatened to give away troops' positions or brought revealed their involvement in questionable or problematic operations.

For instance, social media posts were used to determine Russian involvement in the 2014 shoot down of passenger flight MH17 over Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Social networks have also offered insight into Russian activities in Syria and elsewhere, so Russia is currently attempting to legislatively ban troops from sharing information online.

Read more from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: Russia Bans Soldiers From Using Smartphones And Tablets Over OPSEC Concerns

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(Task & Purpose photo illustration by Paul Szoldra)

Jordan Way was living a waking nightmare.

The 23-year-old sailor laid in bed trembling. At times, his body would shake violently as he sobbed. He had recently undergone a routine shoulder surgery on Dec. 12, 2017, and was hoping to recover.

Instead, Jordan couldn't do much of anything other than think about the pain. Simple tasks like showering, dressing himself, or going to the bathroom alone were out of the question, and the excruciating sensation in his shoulder made lying down to sleep feel like torture.

"Imagine being asleep," he called to tell his mother Suzi at one point, "but you can still feel the pain."

To help, military doctors gave Jordan oxycodone, a powerful semi-synthetic opiate they prescribed to dull the sensation in his shoulder. Navy medical records show that he went on to take more than 80 doses of the drug in the days following the surgery, dutifully following doctor's orders to the letter.

Instinctively, Jordan, a Navy corpsman who by day worked at the Twentynine Palms naval hospital where he was now a patient, knew something was wrong. The drugs seemed to have little effect. His parents advised him to seek outside medical advice, but base doctors insisted the drugs just needed more time to work.

"They've got my back," Jordan had told his parents before the surgery, which happened on a Tuesday. By Saturday, he was dead.

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(Associated Press/Gregory Bull)

The Navy has paused proceedings that could strip Eddie Gallagher and three other SEALs of their tridents while the service awaits a written order to formally stand down, a senior Navy official told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Rear Adm. Collin Green, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, was expected to decide on the matter after the SEALs appeared before a review board next month. But Trump tweeted on Thursday that Gallagher was in no danger of losing his trident, a sacred symbol of being part of the SEAL community.

"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin," the president tweeted. "This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"

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U.S. President Donald Trump salutes a transfer case holding the remains of Chief Warrant Officer David Knadle, who was killed November 20 in a helicopter crash while supporting ground troops in Afghanistan, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S. November 21, 2019. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Reuters) - President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday to receive the remains of two American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan this week.

Trump, who met with families of the soldiers, was accompanied at the base by first lady Melania Trump, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

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T-38 Talon training aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Two airmen from Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, were killed on Thursday when two T-38 Talon training aircraft crashed during training mission, according to a message posted on the base's Facebook age.

The two airmen's names are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

A total of four airmen were onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident, base officials had previously announced.

The medical conditions for the other two people involved in the crash was not immediately known.

An investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the crash.

Emergency responders from Vance Air Force Base are at the crash scene to treat casualties and help with recovery efforts.

Read the entire message below:

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today.

At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission.

Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts.

Names of the deceased will be withheld pending next of kin notification.

A safety investigation team will investigate the incident.

Additional details will be provided as information becomes available. #VanceUpdates.

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is released.

Photos: 1st Cavalry Division

The Army has identified the two soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Wednesday as 33-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, and 25-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr.

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