Does it get any weirder than this? Fidel Castro's son Antonio carrying an eight-month Internet relationship with a Cuban-born Miami man whom he believed to be :"Claudia", a Colombian woman? I bet that no cyber-attack could succeed in pulling so much classified data about Cuba's top family than the folly of some of its members!
"Claudia'' turned out to be Luis Domínguez, a Cuban-born Miamian who unveiled the sting on Americateve TV Channel 41 in Miami, saying it was designed to ''shatter the myth of an impenetrable'' security system.
''Claudia's'' cyber-boyfriend never revealed any state secrets and made no mention of Fidel during their more than 20 Internet chats. But he sent her what he said were his phone number and home address in Havana, wrote that he had no bodyguards and gave advance notice of a trip to Mexico -- all breaches of the tight secrecy that has always surrounded Fidel Castro's family life.
...The man who used the Canada-based e-mail address ''email@example.com'' also provided ''Claudia'' with details of a life far richer than the grind of the average Cuban -- weekends in Varadero beach, Lacoste shirts and belt buckles, a personal Apple computer and a BlackBerry with Internet access, Domínguez's files showed.
However, the most fascinating part of the story is the social engineering that went into tricking Antonio into starting this virtual relationship in the first place:
According to Domínguez, the sting grew out of his visit to a 2006 baseball tournament in Cartagena, Colombia, that included the Cuban team. ''Antonio was like a rock star, everyone asking to take photos with him -- and especially beautiful women,'' he recalled. ``That's where I got the idea that we could get close to him by posing as one of those women.''
First, he worked out a profile of the kind of woman the 42-year-old Castro apparently prefers. Domínguez looked at photos of Castro's current and former girlfriends, then created a ''virtual woman'' to fit the mold -- Claudia Valencia (very common names in Colombia), a 26-27 year old brunette with blond highlights and a sports journalist who, like Antonio, follows soccer and technology.
Then last summer, Claudiacartagena82@yahoo.com e-mailed ''tonycsport'' that they had met in Cartagena, and they became ''friends'' on the Tagged social networking site. Their online chats began in October, according to Domínguez.
Tonycsport sent Claudia photos of himself -- easily recognizable as Antonio Castro -- at the Beijing Olympics and in Moscow. When Tonycsport asked for photos of Claudia, Domínguez said, he e-mailed back what he would only describe as a ''virtual photo'' of Claudia. And when Tonycsport asked if she had a webcam, Claudia replied that her webcam was broken.
Ingenious! That's participatory journalism at its best
Evgeny Morozov, originally from Belarus, is a visiting scholar at Stanford and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation.