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Hacking Social Networks: Examining the Viability of Using Computer Network Attack Against Social Networks

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Master's thesis

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Social Network Analysis SNA has been proposed as a tool to defeat transnational terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. However, SNA is an descriptive tool that is a product of sociology and not an offensive tool used to attack a social network. SNA was not designed to destabilize covert networks that are difficult to observe and penetrate. This work presents a possible way to improve SNAs performance against a covert social network by employing the Computer Network Attack CNA model. The CNA model is used by computer network security to represent the traditional approach to hacking a computer network. Although not tested in this paper, it is argued that the CNA model should be able to improve the accuracy of SNA when applied to a covert social network by standardizing the destabilization process and allowing for frequent challenges of operating assumptions. A history and overview of both computer networks and social networks is covered to allow for a comparison of the two networks. The networks have enough similarities to allow the application of the CNA model without major modification from its original form. Assumptions about the security of computer and social networks are examined to clarify how the CNA model can attack a social network. The model is examined for validity and the conclusion is that the CNA model can incorporate SNA into a more methodical approach to achieve better results that using SNA alone. The final portion of the paper details a possible implementation of the CNA model and how it can be used as part of an offensive effort to destabilize a covert social network.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Computer Systems
  • Computer Systems Management and Standards

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