It’s your dig­i­tal foot­print the FBI wants

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - McClatchy Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau (TNS): By Tim John­son

THE ERA of the fin­ger­print has given way to the dig­i­tal foot­print.

Coun­tert­er­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tors still rely heav­ily on tools such as sur­veil­lance cam­eras, li­cence plate read­ers and fa­cial­recog­ni­tion soft­ware to track po­ten­tial ter­ror plots in the phys­i­cal realm. But they now delve with as much vigour into the so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­ity of sus­pects.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors plot dig­i­tal net­works. They do what is called sen­ti­ment anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine how a sus­pect feels. They swim in the sea of data freely pro­vided by the bur­geon­ing use of so­cial me­dia around the world.

That is the upshot of a re­cent fo­rum by the Ger­man soft­ware gi­ant SAP that brought to­gether of­fi­cials from the CIA, FBI, law-en­force­ment and pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pa­nies un­der the ti­tle ‘Wave of Change’.

“We learn more from the dig­i­tal foot­print of most of the in­di­vid­u­als we in­ves­ti­gate than from their phys­i­cal fin­ger­print,” said Re­becca Weiner, as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner of in­tel­li­gence anal­y­sis for the New York City Po­lice De­part­ment’s in­tel­li­gence bu­reau.


Data anal­y­sis of so­cial me­dia “is rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing crime-fight­ing as well as coun­tert­er­ror­ism,” she said, even as agen­cies strug­gle to stay abreast of the “dizzy­ing ar­ray of data ser­vices and plat­forms” that al­low them to mon­i­tor so­cial me­dia.

“Are we go­ing to find ev­ery pledge of al­le­giance to (Is­lamic State leader) Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi on 1.7 bil­lion Face­book ac­counts? Are we go­ing to see that on 500 mil­lion tweets at NYPD? Ab­so­lutely not. But we are able to find stuff we would have never found be­fore,” Weiner said. “So we can find an in­di­vid­ual who is an ISIL sym­pa­thizer in Staten Is­land or the ad­min­is­tra­tor of an ex­trem­ist fo­rum in Man­hat­tan.”

So­cial me­dia ac­counts can give fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors an im­me­di­ate look at a sus­pect’s net­work of friends and as­so­ciates, said Philip Mudd, a former CIA coun­tert­er­ror­ism an­a­lyst who also held a top post in the FBI’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity branch be­fore re­tir­ing in 2010.

“I need con­text. Do they quote verses from the Ko­ran? Do they talk about ac­quir­ing nails from Ama­zon be­cause they are go­ing to build a back­pack bomb?” Mudd asked.

Mudd said phys­i­cal sur­veil­lance tools also re­mained crit­i­cal in an un­fold­ing ter­ror­ism event such as the two bomb­ings that shook Sea­side Park, NJ, and a street in the Chelsea district of Man­hat­tan on Septem­ber 17.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors can gather cell phone data and emails from the sus­pect, he said, but they must fuse it with other sources of data, re­quir­ing mas­sive dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“I want to know, are there li­cence plate read­ers show­ing this per­son com­ing through the Hol­land Tun­nel? Are there com­mer­cial cam­eras in the neigh­bour­hood – ATM cam­eras, stores, banks – that might show who was in a two-block radius over the past 48 hours? I want to fuse that with the phone and email” in­for­ma­tion, Mudd said.

The need for law en­force­ment to crunch data, cross-check it and fuse it is huge and grow­ing, he said.

Ex­perts re­fer to the chal­lenges of such mas­sive data sift­ing as the four V’s – vol­ume, va­ri­ety, ve­rac­ity and ve­loc­ity – and say the key is in find­ing use­ful data amid the chaff.

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