Monitoring social media helps thwart cyber threats

The monitoring and evaluation of potential threats on social media sites can help safeguard against the hostile cyber actions of extremists and terrorists.

Social media is perhaps the greatest tool for mass communication and attracting like-minded individuals. That is not new. In 2005 the Journal of International Security Affairs reported on the increased Web presence of several major Islamic militias. 

Threat intelligence analysis indicates that information and activities within social networking sites is now viewed as one of the primary sources of cyber intelligence on extremist groups and terrorists. Intelligence sources have warned that terrorist groups have sought to exploit new and alternative media channels, particularly on the Internet, to openly distribute their message (i.e., propaganda) and provide operational and tactical guidance to their supporters through websites, forums, chat rooms and blogs. Evidence suggests that terrorist groups have expanded their online capabilities and are focusing on the mass audience of social networking to grow their online communities. And it’s working, according to an Associated Press article picked up by Yahoo News (“Extremists flocking to Facebook for recruits”).

Consider this: The English Defense League began operations about two years ago with about 50 members, but now has more than 10,000 people. The leaders of this group have attributed their dramatic growth to the global power social networking sites.

The above example shows what is driving intelligence organizations to increase their investment in technologies that monitor and analyze blog content and in some cases blog viewership. The monitoring and evaluation of potential threats on these social media sites is extremely difficult and costly, but valuable for safeguarding against the hostile actions of extremists and terrorists.