Shortly after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off America's secret, powerful surveillance programs, the U.S. Marine Corps Red Team sent an email to thousands of people in the military claiming Snowden had been killed by SEAL Team 6, according to the man who purportedly ordered the ploy.
It was all part of a cyber security test to see whether the Marines protected themselves from clicking potentially dangerous links in emails -- a common tactic called phishing that hackers use to secretly install malicious programs. Red teams, you see, are used in the U.S. government and private organizations to test the physical and digital security of their host organizations, in hopes of discovering weaknesses to be corrected.
The Snowden experiment found a lot of weaknesses, former Marine Corps officer Robert Johnston told Buzzfeed.
“We actually had to shut down the operation,” he said. “The phishing attack was too successful. The click rate was through the roof."
After the Buzzfeed article's publication Wednesday, Snowden responded on Twitter, saying, "There was a time I'd have been surprised the government writes fan fiction about murdering its critics."
The Red Team anecdote is just an aside in a revealing story about Johnston's role in uncovering the alleged Russian operation to steal emails from the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 election, as well as his role in previous cyber security emergencies.
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