No Facebook or Twitter? You’re Probably a Spy.

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Bottom Line: A spy’s tradecraft must constantly evolve because of the rapid changes of the digital age – especially the tools and skills required to maintain a legend, or cover identity. Virtual recordkeeping, modern surveillance technology and the vast amounts of a person’s background accessible on open-source platforms such as social media are affecting intelligence operatives’ ability to operate covertly overseas.

Background: One of the most fundamental needs for a spy is their legend, or a well-prepared but made-up or assumed identity, also known as cover. Legends allow intelligence officers unique access into companies, ministries and groups of interest where they can recruit agents, manipulate unwitting insiders, or observe, report and take direct action themselves.

The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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