Open Source Intelligence: Terrorism Prevention and Intelligence Collection in the Age of Social Media

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Open Source Intelligence: Terrorism Prevention and Intelligence Collection in the Age of Social Media
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What explains the massive growth of terror organizations like ISIS/ISIL? How is that private organizations are at the forefront of crowd-sourced intelligence on wars and war crimes?
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everyone my thanks to the public for inviting me to speak here today and act admit that be a person that deals in intelligence in the collection of intelligence I feel a bit like a wolf that's being fed to the she does at this conference and i given the the
background there there is a strong emphasis on privacy and I think I even confuse the young ladies of by the yellow line containedIn when they're talking to me about privacy and I'm like yes I agree with priors that for myself alone but had little hollow-gram might and they can quite figure out with the green was about self and but then as was introduced I primarily been doing this work in open site Source Intelligence or approximately 6 years um looking at how terrorists use social media to their advantage for recruiting for propaganda purposes and how that has changed the way that they've been able to draw and people from all over the world so we see currently with ISIS and their ability to draw in foreign fighters as we've never seen anything like that in our past so we never seen 20 thousand foreign fighters go to fight for a single cause over a four-year times but that's never happened before so what's the explanation for that and I think 1 of the explanations police what I'm arguing is 1 of the the bigger explanations for that is the use of social media Isis's and expedite using social media so if you look at Facebook or Twitter that and when you look at Facebook or Twitter are you to so what's out there are any social media device or technology Isis's using their broadcasting the message in multiple languages so they're recruiting in Germany recruiting in English to recruiting in Spanish we don't see that with any of the previous terrorist so they really created a social media strategy you around how they or are getting individuals to come and join them and and cite the cause and they are also using
that strategy around the ideology the so another thing that we saw with basis that we'd never seen with a group prior to them is this ability for them to have things ready um before the analysis so when they announced their caliphate last year and you what most uh media agencies and pick up on was that ISIS already created their Facebook pages they had already created their Twitter pages already created their websites preparing for the Caliphate so
that on the day that they announced that Caliphate if I logged on or the log onto the Internet because I'm interested in joining all that material was there for them to go and see right you did not go searching for did hard for it was already on Facebook was already on Twitter and this is an example of what the posters that ISIS for talking about media bonds because they know that they're their money maker as it is is social media it yeah and realistically they're taking advantage of this idea that we are a social media generation and I'm confused the camera men and women this thing so we're generation all of us are on all these different our platforms and the other thing about it is we're not very aware of our own privacy so for me from an open open-source intelligence perspective this is a great opportunity for me if you guys leave yourselves opened in terms of your data then that can be collected if you join ISIS on Twitter or Facebook chances are somebody has captured your information now that being said there are hundreds of journalists hundreds of researchers that are on the same social media page but what I'm saying is if you've left all of your content open in that regard and has been collected and assessed in some manner or another so so the question I always got especially when I 1st started this work 6 years ago is quality you can do Facebook right who is who is putting this kind of information on so on Facebook and really what we're seeing is that social media has changed the landscape for policing and for intelligence drastic we haven't seen anything like this since the advent of using DNA to solve cases right so that was the last big revolution policing and intelligence free solve cases now and policing if I get a case that comes into me say for example missing persons that calls means that my daughter's missing energy up the finder just 7 years ago I was still it was all your daughter's friends what's a cell phone number I would drive around I try and contact the friends and and spend hours trying to find her daughter of his or her daughter now with social media the 1st question asked him this was your Facebook account was your Twitter account and 30 seconds later I found his daughter right I hate my dad lot I don't care just yards need only look at right so is is drastically changed policing in that perspective but the other thing is we're living our lives online and as more and more research coming out that's that's proving that a suggests so the the life that we live on social media is a true reflection of our own minds it may be a little bit more the grandiose but it is still somewhat of a reflection of who we are right so here this comment in the center I was drunk I did mean for him to die will this is a homicide case were somebody's now just given a partial admission to a homicide on their Facebook right how many thousands of dollars and of police hours to be saved by a real by being able to use that social media intelligence to solve that case yeah so it and the same can be said for terrorism so just as we put our lives criminalize online we put our social lives online terrorists and extremists are putting those aspects of their lives online and we are also able to use social media for other aspects so at no other point in history private organizations or even individuals or crowdsourced um groups been able to collect intelligence so here we have a chemical weapons strike that was allegedly committed by the Assad regime in Syria and through open source some information were able to triangulate where that where the strike took place so we can now say this is where this chlorine attack fluorine weapon was used we've got 4 different YouTube videos that source information and we can put it down to within a couple hundred meters now because of that information another example with regards to Isis Isis's very conscientious of the amount of information that they put online and part of the reason for that is again using Google Earth and other research tools when they post a picture on their ISIS Facebook or Twitter pages we can now use that picture to identify where they are so not necessarily with respect to anything that we would do but from government perspective for the coalition that's fighting ISIS they post a picture saying there there at a grain silo in the south of bonding yesterday and we have a picture of the system posted and we can somehow reference times source is that potential target now for them to use so we can track the advancement of Isis begins to attract the withdrawal of Isis and we can literally track of war online I can fall war on Twitter item Paul war on Facebook and I can do stuff that there no individual could have done even 20 years ago the the With respect to individuals and the other aspect that we can do with social media is that we can track that halfway to violent extremism so with every individual is not like you log on to Facebook or Twitter and you go to a nice site and you click like and now you instantly an extremist on a terrorist doesn't happen that way of the pathway to violent extreme extremism is a process like any other process that doesn't happen overnight it doesn't happen in days it doesn't happen in ours is a process of decisions and internalization n n n digesting the that ideology and making it your own so imagine if we could take a person look at them for the 1st time they click on a nice webpage now again does that mean that they are an extremist or terrorist no because I'm frequently on nice is that web pages and that doesn't make me an extremist or terrorist because I'm there for research purposes if I then go and stop publishing photos that are anti-israeli anti-US anti-west West or I start joining pages or making comments or I start to see to try and go to Syria now that the assessment of me as an individual line is starting to change at so the question for law enforcement and society really is how do we stop an individual from turning on the country from going to Syria and essentially with this gentleman's on a gentleman is doing these burning his passport and then shooting it with the naked 47 so as the ultimate um it's the ultimate suggestion that he has turned face on his country which is Canada in this case and he now is fully committed to the cause in this case he's involved was too bad on his show which is the al-Qaida affiliates in Syria so something that al-Qaida in ionizes commonly do with foreign recruits when they come over there is they will have get the recruits to burn their passports as a sign of their commitment regardless of whether they commit or not ISIS into that on news are not going to allow them to leave and the fighters that typically timely vices are shot in the back were shot trying to escape right we've seen that time and time again and it reflects that ruthlessness that that is isis so you can see after almost 30 minutes of a little bit of gasoline maybe this reflects the quality of the gasoline Syria at the time I think he's trying to burn his passport use that committed that he's is going to with this process so so and now setting it up on the
cell were isn't going to actually we don't need to go into that the so 1 of the things that we were tasked with early on at the University of Liverpool and that I'm doing my doctorate with is this idea of how can we identify people early in that radicalization process right so after the 7 7 bombings 1 the realization that the that happened in in the UK was how did this get biased right How do we have all these young men radicalized so drastically and commit terrorist attacks and we didn't have any clue about how can we stop this process how can we prevent this process and so when they came to when they came to us at the University of Liverpool we're essentially tasks with that idea of how do we identify people early in the process so we can interdict with them the this is a diagram that was put out by the International Center for the Study radicalization in the King's College London also reflects that idea of the spread or the number and the size of the problem with when it comes to foreign fighters it's what you see here is the roughly 20 thousand fighters that had been coming to Syria anorak from all over the world to join Isis the and in fact Germany has had a substantial problem as as Canada and many other European countries with a foreign fighters being drawn to the scores 240 at this time and I'm sure the numbers probably over 300 and by now so what do you do with all these individuals vary if they've already gone over and they thought with ISIS School in many countries now that's not criminal because they supported the terrorist group they fought with the terrorist group they perceive terror training so how do you deal with them if they're not killed in Syria rock and now they're coming back to water to say I'm all done in Syria I'm now how are you going to deal with those individuals right so the key there is if you can prevent them from going in the 1st place that and um reduce some of problem because with a lot of these individuals that are currently in the Islamic state the portions of the Assyrian around the already highly radicalized and the only becoming more radicalized as the ideologies being pushed on them by so the key with that's we started doing the work for the UK government and was we said to them if we only focus on 1 group then you're creating a problem in and of itself because if the only create a a system for identifying people on the path to find extremism that just targets Islamic extremists then when it's a different group tomorrow different terror group the starts of 2 more you have to create a new tool and the new tool and a new tools right there will always be terrorism there always be a new terrorist group we've seen that through history we seen that last 20 years right so we said early days is we want a creative tool that was um inclusive are capable of identifying people across a gamut of terror or a terror groups across the spectrum of extremism so the 1st thing that we did in terms of a sample is we did just look at Islamic extremists and terrorists we looked at all terrorists so in our sample you'll see Tamil Tigers you'll see the IRA you'll see the Babbar Khalsa which is also active here in Germany uh a Sikh extremist group um else about all the different groups we put into the sample with the idea of looking at what were the criteria that were common amongst all of them the those small tasks the and what we came up with other that analysis was 16 different criteria that were common amongst all those groups so here again it's an ideal logically neutral tool in the sense that we can use it on the IRA the same as we can on ISA's members as we can on al-Qaida or the Tamil Tigers its main goal is prevention not criminalization if you created told that strictly designed for criminalization you're going to receive a lot of of the pushed back by the communities that you're looking to examine very and lastly you're going have false positives are the same as any tool if you look at any medical prevention our model or whether it's cancer screening you're going to have false positives but what do you do when you get that false positive the test again you look again you dig a little deeper so that's not necessarily an issue that I had an example of a young man who on Facebook had joined himself to last about and now we had spoken with the law-enforcement agency in ITC when by house and spoke to this young man his parents and and he said to the the the officers that showed up there well we just had a class on extremism and we're talking the last about and I left my Facebook open their minds best friend jumped on my Facebook and join the doubts about a former restaurant and so it was an example of a false positive but was still a good opportunity for a conversation right and that's what we do in policing that's we do on law-enforcement intelligence agencies are more about screening and and the use of data to try and identify things but in terms of law enforcement we get allegations although they so-and-so assaulted so on so committed uh whatever type of crime we don't just take it on its word what we do is we investigate and the same is true of extremism when you get an allegation that somebody is on a violent path or extremist but then you look to the dig a little deeper so that those 16 criteria for the 1st set the the 1st subset we have yellow there is what are are passive factors that can push or pull a person towards extremism so we see a lot of this in terms of the foreign fighters both here in Germany and in Canada and all over Europe some of these are factors the common that are common thread amongst all of these individuals so things like cultural religious isolation and a lot of cases where people will they know that they're taking in an ideology that is um not in tune with what their culture believes it what their parents believe so they will isolate themselves from their family um or from the community in terms of and the expression of that knowledge or ideology a sudden change religious practice and again taking other religion doesn't necessarily mean anything right if I tomorrow joining or words start to take on and Islam or any particular from religious doctrine it doesn't mean anything I was baptized Baptist go to a Protestant church and went to a catholic school so you tell me what I am right it's only when you start expressing ideations of a an alternate version of that religion that has the danger to the public that also in some warning go should walk by rhetoric if I'm starting to talk about how I hate the West or I hate the things that the Western doing now that may be something that is an indicator they're moving down that path the largest determinant of a person's going to Syria or joining a terrorist group are there appears so whether you look at germany or Norway or the UK or Canada is usually never a lone wolves write a single individual being radicalized by themselves is usually individuals that are in a group of individuals of like-minded friends so that's why you see 3 or 4 individuals from 1 apartment house going to Syria to fight or and their in their own little study group relative to the from the expression or they're interesting ISIS them all joining a group to go over and fight again political activism doesn't necessarily mean anything we need political activism and so a necessary part of a society but when that political activism is in the cause of that extremist groups so say for example something majoria for Belgium right we have a very large case just went on in Belgium and and in the Netherlands relating to that
group because they had a strong interest in supporting Isis and in fact many of their members went over and joined Isis basic paramilitary training or travel a residence run again having a house in Pakistan doesn't mean that you your an extremists but if you're going over there and you have no explanation for the the the reason for why you're going and you have all these other factors everything is measured on a case by case basis that's right if I say I'm going to go and bomb but the US embassy if I say that I'm going to kill a members of a particular group not talk about aspects there are trying to that are essentially criminal in nature so now we're talking but characteristics that are the attributes of the potential be looking to watch investigation on being a member of an extremist groups of actually join ISIS online story of actually joined ISIS online or off I joined values join us about if I had contact with members of that extremist groups at the Fort Hood massacre with major and all the Sun right he was in contact with em while walking direct contact by e-mail and that influenced from his decision to carry out the attack events paramilitary training a lot of the fighters have gone over to the serial Bosnia Afghanistan but Pakistan you name any of those different causes have come back with advanced paramilitary training in weapons these uh explode explosives so that causes a significant risk to us in terms of what that person can do when they arrive home if they still have that radical ideology that they want use and that obviously overseas combat we know from looking at the Paris example those fighters with skills in fighting can do dramatic damage so few cases that we were able to primarily look at using um this assessment tool or this assessment criteria here we had 2 individuals have gone over Syria and the unique thing about this case from an open source intelligence perspective is both of them left their geotagged information on so I know you kind of laughing but I'll I'll show how that's not necessarily a hard thing to do in a 2nd here so here they have gone over this year the 1st case here Mark Taylor so he's a New Zealand I residence the again takes on the ideology of Isis end goes over 0 and initially like many people that have gone to fight in Syria his goal I think was 1 of fighting the Assad regime but what we have found is a lot of the fight is that when over early on in the process or this four-year war found that groups like the Free Syrian Army were not in a position that they could take on the side regime so they had essentially 2 choices come home right or fight with the groups that could and who were the 2 groups occurred well 1 was ISIS again a terrorist group and the other was to battle nature of the al-Qaida affiliate but in Syria so many fighters like Mark Taylor here join 1 of those 2 groups and continue to fight in serious no Mark Taylor is gone on to make the threats against that Our Australia and the West and and was very upset about its publishing the ability to track them in Syria thus reason why I'm not going to Syrian effects the 2nd 1 here is the case of Fontaine the so everybody likes to think of the foreign fighters that are going over to serious being mostly male but the truth of the matter is between 8 and 15 per cent of all the recruits being drawn over to syria for female so why is that was the difference between ISIS in al-Qaida in that respect while kind only ever wanted fighters right they want people that could do things that could destroy things that could then be in their army 10 women essentially never utilize in that respect that under on the role of Islam soul the difference with Isis's they've created a caliphate they've created the country the Islamic State right so the only way you're going to draw that state is by having the capacity of to have that next generation and growing within that country so in that regard you need females there some to do that and the other reason is is that you have 20 thousand male foreign fighters that have gone over Tyson's to fight how long ago the Sullivan in Syria right yeah 2 years right so from the perspective of maintaining those fighters in keeping those fighters in country this was uh the reason why they needed to entice females and they have in fact been a very good job of recruiting females over the phone so in the case of a trial Jane here what we see is again she's laughter GOK co geocoded information about open and on from the moment that she left Toronto and arrived in Syria so literally became tracker across the ocean and in fact when we were scanning all the different fighters the left the geocoded information on interior what we saw was several those geocoded tags went back to foreign countries in Europe in Canada but in the Middle East it so so a running at a time here the last thing I will just mention to you is what is your trail of I'm not against privacy I agree with privacy but if you leave your information open to me especially if an extremist I would very much appreciate but from the perspective of your day to day business people and and companies are collecting your information on an everyday basis there are at least 6 companies that I know of that collect geocoded information I'm or it can be used by the public to collect geocoded information at any given time so my 8 year old because he knows how to do this when he was to track that and see where in the world it is that I'm talking he can go on and you will literally track me down on the uh my bread comes in my geotagged tweets so obviously this is Berlin and this year's Republican and this is 1 day of geocoded the tweets and flicker messages that was put out by people at this conference right every 1 of those individuals my background is in geographic profiling as you leave those red come from so I can start to identify things like where you shop so where you go to school where your house is if I know where your house is and you go to the Republic of broadcast and that Republic of will that I know your house is empty the right bad people can do bad things with this information potentially so I'm not saying don't use geocache coded information but think about how you using and the types of information that you're putting up the if you're tweeting from home and that's geocoded and then you go away from home and and that's still geocoded I know when woman when not I know your travel patterns I know NOE you broadcast from yeah so again here we did see a couple of the flicker messages n of the Twitter messages and not only does it tell me whom broadcast a message but what platform they're using so where the using an iPhone were the using an Android device where the using Foursquare this is the kind of of type of uh of information that is out there that that you need to consider from a privacy perspective so I'm all for privacy and and people always mistake that given the fact that my business is about open source intelligence but uh just like itself my year-old is on you right is on you to control that information so that's me if you have any questions I am open I don't know how much time we have a questions otherwise I can speak to after the talk