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Publisher's Summary

A former FBI Special Agent, US Army officer, and leading cyber-security expert offers a devastating and essential look at the misinformation campaigns, fake news, and electronic espionage operations that have become the cutting edge of modern warfare - and how we can protect ourselves and our country against them.

Clint Watts electrified the nation when he testified in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. In Messing with the Enemy, the counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and homeland security expert introduces us to a frightening world in which terrorists and cyber criminals don’t hack your computer, they hack your mind. Watts reveals how these malefactors use your social media information and that of your family, friends, and colleagues to map your social networks, identify your vulnerabilities, master your fears, and harness your preferences.

Thanks to the schemes engineered by social media manipulators using you and your information, business executives have coughed up millions in fraudulent wire transfers, seemingly good kids have joined the Islamic State, and staunch anti-communist Reagan Republicans have cheered the Russian government’s hacking of a Democratic presidential candidate’s emails. Watts knows how they do it because he’s mirrored their methods to understand their intentions, combat their actions, and co-opt their efforts.

Watts examines a range of social media platforms - from the first Internet forums to the current titans of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - and nefarious actors - from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State to the Russian social media troll farm - to illuminate exactly how they use Western social media for their nefarious purposes. He explains how he’s learned, through his successes and his failures, to engage with hackers, terrorists, and even the Russians - and how these interactions have generated methods for fighting back against those that seek to harm people on the Internet. He concludes with a snapshot of how advances in artificial intelligence will make future influence even more effective and dangerous to social media users and democratic governments worldwide. Shocking, funny, and eye-opening, Messing with the Enemy is a deeply urgent guide for living safe and smart in a super-connected world.

©2018 Clint Watts (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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Could Have Been Much Better - Disappointing!

I've been a big fan of Clint Watts since I was first introduced to him during his testimony for the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. However, this book was disappointing. "Messing with the Enemy" starts out with a bit of self promotion by Watts. He then goes on to describe his "chatty days" and how he spent considerable time chatting with Islamic terrorists over social media. He also talks about his short period working with the FBI, which I mistakingly thought was much longer based on how is bio is presented on cable TV. Basically, he describes himself as one who does not fit into organizations (like the FBI), likes chatting with terrorists on social media, and has a great distain for the US government contracting process. He uses the book to directly self-promote and tacitly ask for funding for his research work; while at the same time being highly critical of government contracting.

There is some good information in "Messing with the Enemy". Watts does a good job of attributing the rise of global jihad and radical Islamic terrorism to the rise of social media and on-line discussion forums. He also does a good job of discussing how social media and on-line forums have helped move us toward a dystopian world where the "disinformation cat is out of the bag" and often refers to social media as "anti-social media" which I tend to agree.

The main problem I had with "Messing with the Enemy" was the shameless self-promotion and not-so-subtle requests for funding for his research, while at the same time lambasting the US government contracting processes. I was a network and cyber security consultant across many US government agencies for many years and my experience was completely different than Clint Watts. I worked with creative, imaginary and highly skilled professionals who were not at all the "government misfits" as described by Watts. Yes, government contracting can be challenging; but with the right sponsors and contracts, you can be highly creative and have a great impact. Clint Watt's sings too many sour grapes about contracting and makes the mistake of projecting his lack of success in contracting as damning to the entire process.

On the other hand, I do agree with Watts that there is a lot of incompetence in the government. The issue I have with "Messing with the Enemy" is too much time was spent on self-promotion, bashing government contracting, and bragging about chatting with terrorists on social media in a book supposedly about social media hacking and disinformation warfare. There was almost no (useful or additional) technical information or methods described other that (to summarize) "social media gives rise to anti-social media" so the book was disappointing.

Having said that, I glad to have supported Clint Watts by buying this book and did enjoy about half of "Messing with the Enemy" on a long east-to-west trans-pacific flight from the US to Hong Kong. "Messing with the Enemy" could have been much better but instead it was disappointing.



13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Scott
  • Aurora, CO, United States
  • 07-24-18

Good read worth reading

I liked the background, experience, and expertise of the author. I appreciated the first five chapters of the book as a matter of curiosity about Islamic terrorism and I believe he gave it thoughtful and and balanced treatment. You won’t find any nationalist fear mongering or racism in this book which I appreciated.

I really liked chapters 6-10 where he laid out his thesis on social media and it’s uses, Russian use of the internet and how pervasive it is and precautions we should all take when using/social media and excellent advice about how to evaluate and protect yourself while using social media.

I especially appreciated his solution for using social media as an effective and thoughtful tool to continue fostering and protecting American values and the responsibilities of citizenship by interacting more with each other day-to-day.

I liked his description of what a solution might provide and look like but found myself longing to hear his ideas and more of a detailed focus on how this might be accomplished. In any case I’d say it’s a good read and social media users and the public generally will find it enlightening and useful.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Clint Watts is Full of Himself

Nothing new here, unless you get your news from Fox. The impression I get is that the author wants us to know how much more clever he is than ANYone else.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Needs more information, less detail

I really enjoy Clint Watts' appearances on TV news shows; he is clear, specific and well-spoken. Unfailingly informative. However, this text provides way too much detail, to set up each of his assertions. It needs some extreme editing. Did not like the pace or inflections of the narrator.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A book telling us things that are uncomfortable...

This is a great book, filled with tons of information that is not exactly what we want to hear but rather should hear.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Big Ideas

Starts a little slowly but quickly gets into very intriguing insights and big ideas that lead to tough questions about the future of American democracy and how social media (and its propensity for manipulation) might be leading us down a dangerous path.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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eye opening

A brilliant and brutal assessment. Educates the reader and forces you to seriously reconsider how you collect and evaluate information.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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foreign language much?

I'm only 2 hrs into a 9 hr. audio,
but the narrator spits out an onslaught of real life foreign names and groups that blur together
(especially while "multi-tasking").
Maybe others have an easier time following along,
but I'm wondering if either it could have been offered in a "dumbed down" version,
that doesn't require getting a handle on such a slew of arabic names and titles ?
OR if a visual organizational or flow chart could accompany this chapter ?
OR if it would have been better to get the audio "read along" version,
to see it in print as it is being read?

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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thought provoking

It made you think about how one can analyze information you consume in today's world.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good book

Very well done. Stays interesting and at times amusing, never overly worrisome – just appropriately cautionary.