OSINT Blog / Post

July 18, 2024

Executive Protection with OSINT

Executive protection refers to security and risk mitigation measures taken to guarantee the safety of individuals, particularly those exposed to elevated risk due to their employment, status, or net worth. Executive protection of VIPs previously involved hiring close protection specialists to provide physical security measures. However, in the modern landscape, online threats require digital activity to protect executives. Executive protection teams now involve digital specialists who spend time online assessing and minimizing threats to VIPs.

Emerging Event and Travel Risk

Executives are at increased risk when they are traveling and in locations that they do not usually frequent. High-profile individuals who travel frequently are at heightened risk of interacting with dangerous situations that could jeopardize their safety or make their destination unsafe, including; civil unrest, extreme weather, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and criminal activity. OSINT solutions like Liveuamap, Snap Map, and Tweetmap, provide executive protection teams with the ability to scan social media posts and news articles from within a geographic region for early warning signals of emerging event and travel risks. Real-time awareness of emerging threats to executives enables security teams to avoid areas, people, and scenarios.

Similarly, unplanned disruptive events at familiar company premises like protests also present a safety risk for executives. Protests at or near logistics sites and headquarters can result in logistics problems and physical threats to executives. Collecting and analyzing intelligence in advance of company events enables security teams to identify planned activity and evade it by selecting alternative locations and travel plans. 

Physical Threats

The digital environment provides a space for anonymous individuals to make violent threats towards people and businesses. Executives, particularly celebrities and CEOs of large companies, may receive thousands of threats over social media and messaging services every year, particularly after making controversial decisions or statements. Most threats made online are false, made by online trolls who intend to intimidate their victims rather than carry out any physical violence. However, a small minority of individuals making threats online do intend to carry out their plans. Groups may plan violence on social media, forums, and the dark web, meaning that executive protection teams must have access to relevant information from each of these channels to help minimize threats.

Identifying credible threats that warrant further attention and action is difficult. Searching social media platforms with tools like Tweetdeck, searching with advanced operators like ‘stab’, ‘shoot’, or ‘kill’ and the name of an executive, enables protection teams to identify threats. Pivoting from these threats to manually assess the potential threat actor becomes a time and labor-intensive activity. Skopenow enables executive protection teams to automatically investigate potential threat actors, collating and analyzing their digital activity and backgrounds for further information that can substantiate a threat.

Threat actors may also identify property information that leaves them extremely vulnerable to physical attacks, such as vehicle details or home floor plans. Executive protection teams should scan the digital space for specific information that poses extreme risks to executives to identify any records for removal.

Doxxing

Doxxing involves threat actors publically exposing private information about people or businesses from the internet, often collected from social media and data breaches. Doxxing presents a very serious risk to executives as information released via doxxing can facilitate threats, violence, and harassment aimed at them and their families. Doxxed information can include addresses, bank records, medical information, passwords, and SSNs. Leaked information can impact stock value, intimidate executives, or support plans to commit violence against an executive. 

Executive protection teams can conduct proactive threat assessments to identify information on the internet that poses a risk to executives, enabling them to target it for removal. These threat assessments should include scanning the social media profiles of the executives and their families, as well as scanning the dark web for relevant breached data. 

Skopenow enables executive protection teams to search the names of executives or their businesses and scan the internet for every mention of their name. Skopenow collates and analyzes relevant information and automates reports, which support threat assessments. Speed is crucial in limiting risk; breached bank details require cards to be canceled immediately, and breached passwords require account settings to be changed instantly. Skopenow facilitates the swift identification of new risks with signals, alerting executive protection teams to newly posted information.

Misinformation

Threats to executives are not always physical. Threat actors can cause large-scale damage to an executive's reputation through digital means, using social media accounts that mirror the executive’s to use their reputation to spread rumors or spread misinformation. Spreading false or misleading information digitally through mirrored social media accounts could be to influence politics or to scam members of the public, however, the impact on the executive is always damaging to their reputation and usually results in a negative impact on society. 

Misinformation campaigns are a relatively cheap but effective way to inflict damage on a person or business. Individuals, groups, and state governments can all undermine executives through misinformation to cause financial and reputational damage. Misinformation spreads rapidly across the internet through social media and news sites, with unsubstantiated rumors quickly reaching across the globe. When left unchecked, misinformation proliferates, therefore, it must be swiftly detected and actioned before the damage to an executive's reputation is unsalvageable. 

Executive protection teams can scan social media and news sites for any mentions of an executive's name and their brand names to monitor the internet for misinformation. Skopenow enables executive protection teams to identify newly created social media accounts using an executive's name, enabling action to be taken immediately to have the account disabled. Skopenow captures all posts made by the social media account evidentially, ensuring that legal action against identified threat actors is supported.

Automating digital executive protection activity

Skopenow is an analytical search engine that uses social media, surface web, deep web, and dark web data to generate actionable threat intelligence to support executive protection. Skopenow provides executive protection teams with immediate analysis of real-time social media and public data to provide maximum situational awareness. Executive protection specialists can utilize Skopenow reports, seamlessly pivoting between physical and digital threat detection, utilizing digital intelligence to protect VIPs on the ground. Skopenow utilizes computer vision and behavioral analytics to identify hidden connections, characteristics, and activities that can be instrumental to protecting executives. Sign up for a 7-day free trial of Skopenow at: https://www.skopenow.com/try