Companies Can Use Social Media to Predict Potential Threats

By Carlton Purvis

“How do we know that? It’s just from our research. Something happens. A client says they want to know where it was posted. Well, we look everywhere and turn over every rock, and do we find residual images sitting on Facebook and other common places? Sure. But it wasn’t the point of origin,” she said. The information was traced back to the Rants and Raves section of a local Craigslist page. “That’s where we’ve actually found quite a few of the flash mobs getting organized.”

During a Hetherington Group training session in California last year, she pulled up the Rants and Raves section and found fans not-so-secretly trying to organize retaliation against Dodgers fans for a beating that left Giants fan Brian Stow in the hospital with brain damage.

It’s going to take the security industry some education and convincing before the value of this kind of research is fully embraced, she says. Hetherington sees two main types of managers in the security industry – the ones who are experts in physical security and more recently, the cybersecurity specialists. She sees analysts at Hetherington Group as a hybrid of both.

“You can look at all the knobs and things you can shut off, but you can’t shut off your employees and they are the weakest link. What they’re doing online and their behavior is always going to be a huge outcome to you. So how do you make it sexy for the security manager who’s been retired law enforcement for 20 years who is now sitting as head of security of a worldwide company? We need him to be a manager. He needs to hire that analyst. They need to bring on the talent or recognize that they need to get the right training,” she said.

But this data isn’t just important for security staff preparing for protests. Online data can also help to screen for workplace violence.

“Before people walk into a place with a gun, they’re going to talk about it on social networks first. This is the trend. Our experience is that these people are kind of looking for someone to pull them back, and when they don’t get that that’s when they start raging and coming out and that’s happening in the workplace,” she said.

photo by PeteSimon/flickr


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