In 2013, social media monitoring enabled the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings to thwart a plan for fans to rush the Metrodome Stadium after the game. In response to online chatter hinting that a post-game rush was imminent, the NFL added more security. Sound like an overreaction?
In 1981, fans stormed the field after the team played their final game at the previous Metropolitan Stadium, carrying away everything but the rafters. By using social media intelligence (SOCMINT) to monitor public sentiment, the NFL avoided a repeat of 1981.
To say that social media intelligence is a crucial part of any corporate security strategy is an understatement. Nowadays, threat actors feel comfortable sharing their intention to commit violent or malicious acts online. By leveraging SOCMINT to monitor emerging threats, businesses can avert and respond to malicious activity before it causes irreparable harm.
With that in mind, let's consider what SOCMINT is and how to employ it to maximize your organization's security plan.
What is Social Media Intelligence?
Social media intelligence, or SOCMINT, is a strong and rapidly growing field in open-source intelligence. It allows organizations to gain valuable insights from the data collected from various social media networks.
Traditionally, the discussion around SOCMINT confined intelligence sources to social networking sites like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. In practice, the data sources security professionals utilize are much more expansive. They encompass video-sharing websites such as YouTube, forums like Reddit, and even product/service review websites like Yelp.
By leveraging social media monitoring technology, SOCMINT allows security teams to identify trends and patterns from online conversations and forums. This threat intelligence enables CSOs to develop more effective strategies to protect their organizations from potential bad actors.
Social Media Intelligence is Essential to Organizations for the Following Reasons:
Real-Time Threat Intelligence
SOCMINT’s primary benefit is the fact that it provides real-time threat intelligence. Violent threats often pop up first online. Increasingly, CSOs have started to pay attention to what’s happening on Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit. Events often get reported first on these platforms. Sometimes hours before a story hits mainstream news outlets.
By watching these channels, teams can respond faster to events.
In quite a few scenarios, these efforts have paid dividends.
A prime example of the benefit of this kind of real-time intelligence occurred in 2021 when a political extremist posted his plans to bomb an Amazon data center online. Company officials alerted law enforcement of the imminent threat, preventing an attack and saving lives.
In another dramatic example, in 2019, authorities foiled a mass shooting plot at Walmart. Police arrested a 26-year-old man from Florida after he wrote on Facebook: "3 more days of probation left, then I get my AR-15 back. Don't go to Walmart next week."
A few days later, law enforcement discovered similar plots nearby in Daytona Beach and Tampa Bay.
By capitalizing on social media users existing digital footprint, SOCMINT provides organizations with a cost-effective solution for identifying potential security risks. Through social media monitoring tools and publicly accessible data, businesses can gain invaluable insight without investing in expensive technology or services.
Identify Threat Locations
Posted online images are an invaluable resource to security professionals. The data embedded in these photos, known as metadata or EXIF data, offers insight into a shot's camera settings and geolocation. The applications of this intelligence are numerous. Analysts can use this threat intelligence to pinpoint the location of a threat actor or emerging hazard. It can also assist with more proactive travel and route planning.
Prevent Data Leaks
A data leak's financial consequences can be devastating. From revenue loss to reputation damage, the potential costs are staggering. A 2021 survey by IBM indicated that the average data breach cost exceeds $ 3 million.
SOCMINT enables security teams to scour the depths of social media, fringe online communities, and dark web marketplaces where bad actors trade leaked data. By staying vigilant and routinely monitoring these sites, teams can efficiently identify and respond to potential breaches, reducing the risks to their employees and the organization.
Challenges for Security Teams Using SOCMINT
Like anything, social media monitoring is not a cure-all. Here are some challenges to consider when using SOCMINT:
Obscure Online Communities
Many companies and individuals focus their monitoring efforts on popular social media platforms. However, many threats originate on the dark web and alternative sites. If security teams are not paying attention, they run the risk of missing security threats.
Lots of Bots
Social media platforms are becoming increasingly vulnerable to fraudsters and malicious bots. With the rise of AI and deep fakes, verifying user identities online and whether data is accurate and reliable has become even more challenging.
As the lines between personal vs. public information become increasingly blurred, there must be an accompanying awareness of potential legal repercussions when attempting to collect data through social media. Missteps can lead to significant public backlash and reputational damage.
Users upload terabytes of data to social media every minute. One person or team can only analyze some of it manually. To keep up with this constant data stream, teams must rely on advanced tools to automatically collect and analyze intelligence.
That’s why an experienced social media monitoring partner is a must.
LifeRaft's Navigator product takes on the Herculean task of monitoring social media for you, providing invaluable risk and threat intelligence to help you better protect your employees, intellectual property, brand, and customers.
The Bottom Line on Why SOCMINT is Important for Security Teams
As we’ve outlined, SOCMINT is not a magic security bullet. However, employing this approach as part of your toolkit improves your ability to proactively identify and stop malicious activity before it becomes problematic.
In the world of corporate security having all the answers is not as important as knowing where to look for them.
Reach out to us for a custom-made solution that allows you to benefit from the advantages of modern technology while keeping safety at the forefront of operations.