OSINT Blog / Post

July 18, 2024

Preventing and Investigating Workplace Violence with OSINT

Violence is every workplace’s worst nightmare: it disrupts normally safe work environments and can cause lasting harm to employees and businesses. It’s also shockingly common. Each year, roughly 1 in 125 workers in the United States falls victim to violence while on the job. From physical assaults to harassment and intimidation, workplace violence can take many forms and have devastating impacts on employee safety and business operations.

While corrections officers, healthcare staff, retail workers, and others are most susceptible, no workplace is truly immune from the threat of violence. Incidents can be perpetrated by employees, customers, domestic partners, or members of the general public – making them extremely difficult to predict and prevent through conventional means alone.

Workplace violence can include various types of harm, such as physical violence, harassment, intimidation, threatening behavior, and stalking within the workplace. These incidents fall into four main categories: criminal intent cases involving outside perpetrators like robbers, customer incidents with aggressive clients or patrons, worker-on-worker violence between employees, and situations where someone assaults an employee whom they have a relationship with. Most concerning, the majority of these incidents stem from individuals entirely unaffiliated with the workplace, underscoring the need for comprehensive threat assessment beyond just screening employees.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) can be a powerful force multiplier for corporate security teams tasked with protecting people, assets, and continuity of operations from violence in the workplace. By leveraging publicly available data from across the internet, OSINT enables a proactive security posture to identify internal and external risks before they metastasize and to rapidly respond to violent incidents if they do occur. 

Identifying High-Risk Threats Through Situational Awareness

A powerful way OSINT can be applied proactively for workplace violence prevention is through alerting on certain online discourse, particularly chatter geotagged near corporate locations, for specific threats against an organization, its employees, or its assets. Investigators can use sophisticated situational awareness platforms like Grid to review social media and message boards, employing techniques like geofencing and relevant keyword detection.

Individuals on the pathway to violence often post threatening rhetoric, manifestos, and concerning content online before taking action. An OSINT platform applying natural language processing, computer vision, and other advanced software can automatically detect high-risk behavior. It can pick up language like "kill" or "attack," references to specific employees, or images of weapons – enabling fast and efficient flagging so security teams can locate the subject of interest or notify law enforcement to prevent hostile actions.

If a threat is indeed credible and time is of the essence, security personnel can be pre-positioned and law enforcement can be engaged to prevent or disrupt the attack before it occurs. In scenarios where warning time is limited, OSINT can at minimum provide intelligence for securing sites, controlling access points, and protecting employees as threats rapidly unfold. Identifying these threats before an incident occurs saves lives, minimizes workplace disruption, and protects the bottom line. 

Evidence Collection and Documentation

Unfortunately, workplace violence incidents can still occur despite the most rigorous preventative measures. When they do, corporate investigators must comprehensively document and preserve digital evidence across the open internet.

Employment litigation frequently involves gathering online behavior that lawyers and juries will heavily scrutinize. Terminated employees accused of violence may have engaged in threatening social media posts or online communications that are highly relevant evidence. These materials can include online manifestos, streamed video content and shared images, and communications with co-conspirators. However, this content could easily be deleted or accounts deactivated at any time.

Acting immediately is critical to preserving ephemeral digital evidence like websites, social media posts, forum posts, and more through rigorous data capture methods, as this content can quickly change or disappear. Forensic-grade OSINT tools, like Workbench, can help automatically find all relevant content and archive those web pages, delivering court-admissible reports with metadata, hash data, and screen captures.

Automating the Process with Skopenow

Automated OSINT solutions from Skopenow can provide corporate security teams with a fast, effective, and scalable process for identifying threats before they fully materialize and thoroughly investigate those responsible. From scanning for threat keywords to rigorous digital evidence handling, these solutions can put the right data into the hands of a security team to maintain a secure environment and protect people, assets, and business resilience.

Join over 1,500 organizations, including numerous Fortune 500 corporate security teams, that rely on Skopenow's platform to automatically collect and process relevant publicly available information and make better decisions. Learn more and schedule a personalized demo today at www.skopenow.com/try.