Trolling: Awareness Of Our Vulnerabilities.

Why individuals might unwittingly make themselves vulnerable to attack

Trolls causing chaos; looking to be fed. “Do not feed the trolls.” From't_feed_the_Troll

Trolling is a art” - I’ve been familiar with this meme since my first introduction to trolling. In my mind it best embodies the internet's trolling subculture - many will rush and try to correct said meme but it's been purposefully written that way to get a knee jerk reaction. When I mention troll though, I do not mean cyber bullying or harassment in general, but rather a culture that is self aware and identifies as trolls.

The trolls of /pol/, the politically incorrect forum on 4chan, would be a perfect example of this. Last week they made headlines when they began targeting undocumented folks on twitter with the hopes of them giving up personal information. They were specifically using hashtags to track individuals down and were mobilizing themselves anonymously through their forum. The undocumented community and its allies on social media lashed back, spread screenshots of the trolls posts, and made the greater population aware of said trolls.

But was it successful? Was spreading this information going to stop the trolls? Could have the news coverage and social media outrage actually recruit more to their ranks?

Unfortunately it looks like it was the knee jerk reaction trolls were looking for. Actually individuals, through retweets and shares, seemed to have increased the amount of people in their cross hairs. And for the “Deplorable Joes” on the sideline, this could have been an introduction to new methods of harassment. But so what? Is there actually something to worry about?

If you consider how some grassroots campaigns are managed and how much information individuals are willingly make available, then there may be something to worry about. Take for example how trolls picked their target - they decided to track down anyone on twitter using the hashtag #UndocumentedUnafraid. If the individual happened to use their real name on their twitter handle and also be undocumented, then they’ve now revealed their status to these trolls.

But even individuals who don't use their legal names on their twitter accounts may still need to worry. Pictures alone can be reverse searched on Google to find other accounts where you used those same photos. But sometimes there is enough metadata on one account through selfies, location based tweets, or who you follow to give trolls an idea who you are. This is unless they already managed to find your LinkedIn page.

But what can you do with that information you wonder? Well with your name alone, trolls can google your work address, your home address, your landline, your acquaintances, your criminal history, and your family members - and that's just on free websites. Paid websites will give you even more. Compiling and putting this data out in public is called “doxing.”

Now there's a possibility individuals will do nothing with this information, but trolls have already promised to report this information to ICE. Unfortunately that's not even the worse they can do. Take for example when the online gamer “Kootra” had swat agents raid his home when prank phone callers set him up. I use this example because there is actual video footage online. This practice is called “swatting.” Other victims range from Chris Brown and Lil Wayne to State Senators.

Compiled videos of swatting that include context and background

If trolls manage to find your phone or cable accounts the damage can be even greater. Using this information trolls have managed to “sim clone” individual phone numbers and bypass on devices or accounts with “2 step authorization.” If done successfully, this will give trolls the ability to lock you out of your account and assume your online identity.

While all of these are worse case scenarios, if your information is already out there it's just a matter of how hard a troll wants to troll you. But I argue that less association of your true identity on your social media accounts would reduce them. When you consider rumors about ICE agents scraping social media accounts for political posts then that makes this argument even stronger. Either way, undocumented or not, being extremely cautious during this times does have some value. Otherwise we might be actually “feeding the trolls.”