by Matthew Golabek
Today’s world has people afraid, angry, and traumatized by both COVID-19 and global events. It makes our jobs as investigators difficult. Fear of offending someone or being characterized as falsely reporting something has started to affect security—in and out of uniform. If a protest group is terrorizing the neighborhood or burning down the police department, report that in your investigative findings. The greatest disservice you as an analyst can do is to sugar coat your research results to appease a traumatized client.
As an intelligence analyst, your core purpose—your calling—is to report the facts as accurately as possible. It’s difficult to monitor and report on oppressed groups protesting with real claims. Yes, their arguments may be legitimate and should be heard, however the investigator’s job is to research and inform. If you always say “Yes” to your boss and report only findings that support your boss’s argument, then you are not an analyst.
Hg’s work has involved monitoring cyber-grown protest groups (the Boogaloo movement, Antifa, Q’Anon, Proud Boys, etc.). To us, this work is no different than investigating counterfeiters, gangs, and Anonymous. Our findings are often striking: Anti-vaxxer soccer moms protesting alongside burly gun advocates.
Your job, dear analyst, is not to judge but to explain the facts as you find them. If the person reading your legitimate, well-researched report becomes upset with the well-founded results, you have successfully done your job.
In this timely blog series on predictive intelligence Hg’s Matthew Golabek discusses how to assess risks by tracking people and events through social media monitoring. This week, he focuses on Reddit.
Scenarios where someone would need to monitor location-specific events on social media include: An event targeted by a specific group or company (such as an environmental activist group targeting an oil company); a large scale event causing disruption to the area or travel schedule (such as a politician coming into town); or a peaceful protest turned violent and ultimately causing harm to people and property. Social media monitoring can be a great counteraction to prevent these scenarios from becoming violent. The step-by-step key methods for how to properly use social media platforms to monitor location-specific events follow below.
Reddit is a social media discussion forum where anonymity is often used. A Reddit user does not have to show his or her true identity when posting something to Reddit. The aspect of anonymity may induce a user to more freely discuss concerning or trivial matters without fear of being confronted or reprimanded. In Reddit, people often have conversations and discuss matters during an event or after an event has taken place. To search Reddit, type any desired keyword or phrase into the search bar located at the top of the webpage. Search results containing the desired keyword or phrase will populate just below the search bar. In addition, there is a way to search localized events and conversations through the use of local subreddits—subreddits being a more tailored forum. For example, the main forum could be about running in general and a local subreddit would be sneakers where all things being talked about in this subreddit would be specific to running shoes.
Such a categorizing process would be useful when a search involves large-scale events or large-scale social movement groups; the events and/or groups may have a localized subreddit for areas all over the world.
As one can conclude from reading about Reddit, there are numerous reasons why social media would be used to locate and monitor location-specific events—whether it be for a large, peaceful gathering of individuals that could have an effect on the local area, or it be for a small, violent social movement group that is planning to target someone or someone’s property.
Whatever the case may be, social media will often easily provide information and details about the situation prior to its occurring, during the event itself, as well as all discussions and conversations about the event after it has been completed.
Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced OSINT training on risk assessment and risk monitoring? If so, check out Hg’s webinar series, where you can attend live sessions and receive CEUs or watch previously recorded sessions to beef up your investigative skills.
Are you concerned about your company’s or employees’ social media imprint? Have you or your company been the target of a protest? Using proprietary software and popular current awareness vendor tools, Hetherington Group monitors over 20 million sources, sites, and Dark Web markets. As an extension of your own security and intellectual property team, our seasoned professional analysts conduct continuous monitoring for executives and company and brand names. Learn how our team can assist you in assessing and monitoring your risks.
Matthew Golabek is an investigative analyst at Hetherington Group, where he specializes in online risk assessments. Mr. Golabek has a keen eye for extracting content from social media accounts, tracking activities and monitoring subjects for clients from a wide range of industries, including pharmaceutical, technological, retail, and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Hg’s Data2Know, Industry Undercover, and OSINT Slack channels. On his lunch break, he can be found outside playing frisbee with his four-legged colleagues.