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Craig Silverman May 15
Sometimes you find stories in the strangest ways. Today I published an investigation into a DC think tank and its cofounder. It’s one insane turn after another. But all started when I was added on a reply to an innocuous tweet. Thread...
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
Back in early March a guy I don’t know and don’t follow shared one of my stories. He complimented it, while also making a humorous drag of BuzzFeed. I jokingly replied. He replied. Cool. But then this other account chimed in to laugh. Something strange happened after that.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
The reply from the ArtOfTheHak account quickly racked up RTs and likes. I was puzzled why people would suddenly engage with a basic reply. I looked closer at the accounts and quickly saw they were amplifying a ton of his tweets, as well as the nonprofit think tank he cofounded.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
The accounts had bios that described them as being interested in infosec, health IT, cybersecurity. The profile pics were stolen. And they tweeted at high frequency without engaging in conversation. Classic bot signs.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
But the shocker was that this guy, James Scott, and his think tank, ICIT, had just published a book about information warfare. He claimed to be advising the US government, NATO, MI6 etc. on the topic. Yet his bot were out there pimping his book *hard*. Look at this insanity:
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
At first the story was “a think tank that advises the US government on information warfare uses bots to amplify its content.” But the more I looked into James Scott the crazier things got. First off, his name is James Scott Brown. He’s also gone by Jamie Brown and other aliases.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
I found he had self-published a ton of books, and claims that many of them are bestsellers. I couldn’t find confirmation of that. Also, he only started writing about infosec in 2013. Prior to that he branded himself as a global corporate consultant. But that too was sketchy
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
At one point he was CEO of a company called Skaha Shoes that traded on the unregulated pink sheets. Then the company rebranded to sell solar tech to homeowners. Then he was out of the company. What else? Oh yeah, he had a company that sold RTs and spammy social media services.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
Here’s him using fake RTs to earn himself a free pizza back when us used a different Twitter handle. He also used that sock puppet account to promote his social marketing company, SpitFire Alliance and himself.
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Craig Silverman
He also placed incredibly fawning articles about himself on sites that seemed to exist to improve his SEO. Here are some choice excerpts from one article
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
Fast forward to now and he’s still doing that. Along with the bots that retweet brooding memes of him, there are the fake YouTube accounts that upload ICIt videos of Scott and also leave comments that declare him to be a genius.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
One of those YouTube commenters linked to an Instagram account: . I just happens to be filled with memes and photos of James Scott.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
And yet… ICIT and Scott are holding events with infosec leaders from the NSA, FBI, DHS, FEC, etc. They have videos of people from these orgs giving testimonials about ICIT. Major security vendors pay ICIT to join its fellows program.
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
But it seems no one checked on his credentials or looked closely at his background. He and ICIT did not respond to questions but Scott did answer my first phone call. I asked him about the Twitter accounts. He told me someone was setting him up to look like he ran these accounts
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
Then he changed his story and said this. [Narrator: he knew.]
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
A few hours after we spoke on the phone he sent out a tweet to warn people about “journalists on Russian/Chinese payroll who are targeting us for exposing them in my Information Warfare book.”
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
And in another tweet he called me a “mind midget.” That struck me as a specific term not many people use. Sure enough, he’d used it lots on Twitter and in an old article from 2012. And guess where else it was used?
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Craig Silverman May 15
Replying to @CraigSilverman
One of his fawning YouTube fans used that exact term in a comment left on a video of James Scott. The commenter also claimed Scott got a standing O for a talk at Yale. I could not find any evidence of him speaking at Yale. <end>
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Seth Mandel May 16
Replying to @CraigSilverman
This is fascinating. Good on you for following your nose on this too. Good instincts.
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Craig Silverman May 16
Replying to @SethAMandel
Cheers, thank you!
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