Project Vigilant is possibly a secret affiliation of 500 mostly-volunteers who have been watching internet traffic for the past 14 years, and providing intelligence to the U.S. Government. If true, they gather data from 12 major ISPs, using methods that may or may not be entirely legal, and then sell that data to various intelligence agencies. Project Vigilant claims to track more than 250 million IP address a day.
While recruiting new members at the hacker convention DEF CON, Project Vigilant's leader Chet Uber recently claimed to have been vital in convincing Adrian Lamo to turn in Bradley Manning - Manning is the military intelligence analyst who stands accused of having turned over more than 70,000 classified documents to Wikileaks.
Is it for real?
The catch is that Project Vigilant may not actually have been around for 14 years, and might not even exist. It may actually be a new start up company, just claiming to have a solid reputation and existing network for public relations reasons. Project Vigilant may even be a hoax, perpetrated by folks at DEF CON for the purpose of fooling people and/or amusing themselves. Tech and security blogs are all atwitter with the lively debate about whether or not Project Vigilant is for real, and whether or not it's legal if it is.
Given that these 500 or so people have allegedly been doing this for 14 years (since 1996) and only now have made themselves known outside the government, they must be very good at keeping secrets. They also must be very patriotic, or very paranoid, or both. In this post-9/11 world the idea of a corporation or just a league of concerned citizens fighting cyber terrorists is pretty easy to believe. But in the mid 90's (when they claim to have started) that would be a bit of a stretch. Even if the core group was interested in getting such a thing started then, it's hard to picture the Clinton Administration giving the approval for it - I mean, he was kinda sensitive about private communications getting recorded and made public. :)
Game and Story Use
- Even if it does turn out they're a hoax in the real world, it at least makes for an interesting shadow government / government conspiracy for your RPG.
- It's a private company or "volunteer organization" doing what the Federal Government and it's various Intelligence Agencies typically do. But since it's not officially a government organization, it slips through loopholes and is capable of doing things the government legally can't.
- They'd make excellent heavies, filling a role somewhere between Men In Black and Big Brother, but mostly in cyberspace. They may be involved in things like the Dark Market sting.
- It's also sort of a tech militia, supposedly made up of independent concerned citizens battling against terrorists and hackers.