Security professionals devote substantial resources towards anticipating and preventing attacks at large venues, from implementing counter-sniper teams to placing metal detectors at entryways. However, security teams often overlook a key tool that can aid them in creating the safest environment possible for attendees: an open-source intelligence (OSINT) and threat monitoring team.

Threats made on social media that are directed towards large gatherings of people is a serious concern for security and law enforcement. This past summer, an individual posted on Twitter that he has decided to “commit the biggest mass shooting in the history of the world, killing thousands of fans in Beaver Stadium during one of the games next year.” The post was tagged to multiple Pennsylvania State University accounts, including the football team. A year earlier, an individual posted on Facebook that he was planning to shoot his pistol during a Dead & Company concert in Hartford, Connecticut.

Open-source intelligence gathering is now a major event security best practice

Both of these incidents stress that an effective security risk management plan at a large venue should include an OSINT and threat monitoring team. By implementing a location-based open-source threat monitoring plan focused on targeted search terms, security professionals review and analyze potential threats and ongoing incidents in and around a venue.

Additionally, security and law enforcement can receive information on those exhibiting threatening behavior and quickly develop a risk profile. Members of the security team relay that information to personnel on the ground who respond to the threat or incident more appropriately.

Enabling rapid identification, intervention and response

Intelligence gathered can also be a valuable investigative tool. By taking advantage of the fact that many attendees are using smartphones to update their profiles and post videos and photos from the event, security and law enforcement have many sets of eyes on the ground. In 2017, a video circulated on Instagram of a violent altercation between fans at Bank of America Stadium during a Carolina Panthers game. In a very short period of time, the stadium’s security team identified the video on social media, reviewed it, located witnesses and arrested the perpetrator.

Technology alone is not the answer – the role of the human investigator is vital

As we’ve seen following many high-profile incidents, false information can spread quickly on the internet. After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, “trolls” took to social media platforms to spread hoaxes and conspiracy theories ranging from fake photos and videos from the concert, to falsely naming victims and the shooter.

Security professionals should strive to be aware of these risks and recognize that OSINT alone is not the answer. The most logical way to combat these risks is by having team members at the event or venue who can follow-up and verify the information presented on social media platforms.

You don’t have to go it alone

While an increasingly advantageous addition to any risk management plan at a major venue, open-source intelligence gathering is still a relatively new, complex and evolving security tool. We suggest contracting a third-party professional to help better understand how to develop and implement this technology, or even provide the service directly.

Our security risk management and OSINT teams could serve to help you identify threats to your venue. By identifying issues of concern early and monitoring known threats for significant changes or escalation, our seasoned experts can tailor an OSINT gathering plan that is specific to your organization’s security needs.