A panel of social-media monitoring experts discussed keys to tracking possible threats through the Web during the “Social Media Monitoring Analytics for Executive Protection and Event Security” session on Tuesday afternoon. Panelists Bryan Ware of Haystax Technology, LLC, D. C. Page of Andrews International, and Ron Brooks of Brooks Bawden LLC, each discussed their experiences in mining data from the Internet to detect potential threats to individuals and events.
Social-media monitoring companies use both computer algorithms and analytical experts to search social media content for possible threats, and Ware said these companies should focus on incorporating monitoring and analysis into a comprehensive protective portfolio. Many automated data-mining services are too broad and capture more information than can be effectively analyzed. There is so much content produced every minute that humans alone can’t keep up with it all, Ware said.
Ware spoke about the trends behind the staggering rise in social media use. The proliferation of smartphones has boosted social media because it gives marginalized groups, such as elderly or low-income people, access to the sites. This increase gives data mining programs more information to work with, but makes it much more difficult to find legitimate, important information among the millions of messages produced every day, Ware explained.
Brooks discussed the use of social media to locate threats to the supply chain, community events, and controversial organizations. Social media monitoring is often like looking for a grain of sand in oceans of data, and although analysts may want to look at every piece of data, that is not possible. That’s why it’s important to rely on targeted keyword searches, Brooks stated. However, as monitoring systems become more specific and thorough in searching for threats, it’s important to balance the need for that information with privacy concerns, he said.
One way for monitoring services to keep up with all the content is to focus on real-time monitoring and on trying to predict a person’s behavior before it escalates into an imminent threat. For example, analysts followed the social media content of a man who was planning to shoot police. They tracked when and where he bought guns, where he said he was going to commit the crime and how he was getting there, and were able to work with law enforcement to capture the man before he could execute his plan.
All three experts agreed that a combination of automated data-mining, human analysis, and targeted searches for specific keywords could make the ocean of information more manageable and help mitigate threats before they become realities.
On Tuesday, Thomas Bobkowski, director of school safety and security for Greenwich Public Schools (GPS) in Newtown, Connecticut, took part in “Lessons Learned From Sandy Hook: A CPTED Case Study of Greenwich, Connecticut” with Randy Atlas, CPP, president of Atlas Safety & Security Design, Inc.
Bobkowski said that he had taken the day off from work on December 14, 2012, when he received an alert on his phone that Sandy Hook Elementary was on lockdown. He received the message because even though his children no longer attended the school, he’d never removed himself from the lockdown notification list.
As a school security professional who had recently made changes to the school security in the GPS district, Bobkowski was curious about how they were handling a lockdown and he decided to drive over to the school to see what was going on. Five minutes later, he found himself entering an active-shooter situation and assisting local law enforcement in setting up a barrier to keep anxious parents back from the scene.
By the end of the day, 27 people, including the shooter and 20 children, were dead, and schools around the nation were changing the way they thought about school security. The ideas they were discussing were measures that GPS had already taken under Bobkowski’s direction after he attended the three-day Facility Security Design Workshop, sponsored by the ASIS Security Architecture and Engineering Council.
It is particularly important for schools to have a controllable main entrance. “The biggest fight I have with administration is where the front door is,” Atlas said. He recommends that it be near administration offices so it can be monitored by staff located there. All other doors should be locked at all times from the outside against those who may try to enter.
GPS adopted this and went one step further by standardizing all of the doors throughout the entire district and installing a patented locking system by Assa Abloy. Teachers and staff each receive a key that can lock any door in the system from the inside of a room, but can only unlock certain doors. Those who are assigned keys are not allowed to make copies. If a key is lost, it must be reported to Bobkowski.
Bobkowski also recommended that vehicles should be disallowed from parking next to school buildings. “We’ve had a situation where a car was on fire and now the building is on fire too,” he said.