by Matthew Golabek
Today’s world has people afraid, angry, and traumatized by both COVID-19 and global events. It makes our jobs as investigators difficult. Fear of offending someone or being characterized as falsely reporting something has started to affect security—in and out of uniform. If a protest group is terrorizing the neighborhood or burning down the police department, report that in your investigative findings. The greatest disservice you as an analyst can do is to sugar coat your research results to appease a traumatized client.
As an intelligence analyst, your core purpose—your calling—is to report the facts as accurately as possible. It’s difficult to monitor and report on oppressed groups protesting with real claims. Yes, their arguments may be legitimate and should be heard, however the investigator’s job is to research and inform. If you always say “Yes” to your boss and report only findings that support your boss’s argument, then you are not an analyst.
Hg’s work has involved monitoring cyber-grown protest groups (the Boogaloo movement, Antifa, Q’Anon, Proud Boys, etc.). To us, this work is no different than investigating counterfeiters, gangs, and Anonymous. Our findings are often striking: Anti-vaxxer soccer moms protesting alongside burly gun advocates.
Your job, dear analyst, is not to judge but to explain the facts as you find them. If the person reading your legitimate, well-researched report becomes upset with the well-founded results, you have successfully done your job.
In this timely blog series on predictive intelligence Hg’s Matthew Golabek discusses how to assess risks by tracking people and events through social media monitoring. This week, he focuses on Instagram.
Instagram is somewhat of a Swiss Army knife social media platform. To search for events on Instagram, there are two different options to use: Hashtags and Location.
Search by Hashtag to connect all kinds of content to a specific topic, event, theme, or conversation. On Instagram’s main webpage, at the very top of the screen, is the search bar where Hashtag searches will occur. Type in the hashtag symbol # followed by whatever keyword is desired. If the desired results are photos about a specific location such as a city, then the search will look like this: #thecity. On the other hand, if the desired results are for a specific group, then the search will look like this: #activistgroup.
Location: One World Trade Center
Instagram can also be searched by Location. Simply type a desired location into the aforementioned Instagram search bar and any photograph that was assigned that specific geo-location will be aggregated in the results. Location search should be used with caution though; people will sometimes assign the wrong geo-location to a photo. A photograph could have been taken at One World Trade Center in New York, NY, U.S.A., but the geo-location could be erroneously tagged as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Location searches will often aggregate local Instagram profiles that post a plethora of information regarding local events in the area.
Whether Hashtag or Location is used in an Instagram search, the results will typically be very useful and detailed.
As one can conclude from reading about Instagram, there are numerous reasons why social media would be used to locate and monitor location-specific events—whether it be for a large, peaceful gathering of individuals that could have an effect on the local area, or it be for a small, violent social movement group that is planning to target someone or someone’s property.
Whatever the case may be, social media will often easily provide information and details about the situation prior to its occurring, during the event itself, as well as all discussions and conversations about the event after it has been completed.
Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced OSINT training on risk assessment and risk monitoring? If so, check out Hg’s webinar series, where you can attend live sessions and receive CEUs or watch previously recorded sessions to beef up your investigative skills.
Are you concerned about your company’s or employees’ social media imprint? Have you or your company been the target of a protest? Using proprietary software and popular current awareness vendor tools, Hetherington Group monitors over 20 million sources, sites, and Dark Web markets. As an extension of your own security and intellectual property team, our seasoned professional analysts conduct continuous monitoring for executives and company and brand names. Learn how our team can assist you in assessing and monitoring your risks.
Matthew Golabek is an investigative analyst at Hetherington Group, where he specializes in online risk assessments. Mr. Golabek has a keen eye for extracting content from social media accounts, tracking activities and monitoring subjects for clients from a wide range of industries, including pharmaceutical, technological, retail, and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Hg’s Data2Know, Industry Undercover, and OSINT Slack channels. On his lunch break, he can be found outside playing frisbee with his four-legged colleagues.