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Outsmarting digital opponents

Using public safety technology to confront online threats to national security.


Digital technologies have changed everything. The enthusiastic embrace of digital technologies is not only powerfully represented in the 289 million Twitter users and nearly one-and-a-half billion Facebook accounts, but also offers a new route to exploitation by threat groups. From extremism, to foreign state espionage, cyber threats, or proliferation activities, the use of online means to recruit and task vulnerable citizens is adding an unwelcome burden on the high pressure workload of national security agencies.

Faced with the virtually limitless scope and scale of digital technologies, it is more vital than ever to stay one step ahead of security threats. But gaining real-time insights from a large, fragmented and ever-changing pool of data is like looking for a needle in a haystack—one that is expanding at an ever-increasing pace.

Current approaches to the collection, analysis, development and use of intelligence from open-source information (including social media, websites, blogs, online news, web fora, and similar) are already outdated. Using emerging digital technologies to process and present this information effectively offers national security agencies a more effective route to preventing threats and outsmarting violent extremists.


Transformative Steps

Two steps can help national security and public safety agencies better manage online security threats:

Step 1. Use digital technologies to enhance information sharing and collaboration
The ability to collect, analyse and develop actionable intelligence from data shared between multiple agencies significantly increases capabilities without the need for additional resources.

Step 2. Seize digital transformation opportunities
There is no single solution to combat existing and emerging threats, but by using the same emerging technologies that opponents are using, national security agencies can enhance operational effectiveness. With 46 percent of social media users actively discussing news items online, it is easy to see why digital makes an attractive radicalisation platform. But this vast data pool can be exploited by national security agencies, too.


Proactive Advantage

National security agencies operate in a digital world where vast amounts of important information reside in the public domain. Being able to evaluate this information for intelligence purposes becomes critical. It is not a question of whether to use public safety technologies—such as biometrics, video analytics or offender management systems—but rather a question of how to employ them in the right way to manage the growing diversity of both threats and data. Going forward, national security and public safety agencies need to:

  • Use existing data: Use digital technologies and analytics proactively to mine legacy data and use new data to gain intelligence and drive decision making.

  • Work more collaboratively: Alleviate resource constraints and manage security restrictions with technology.

  • Redefine digital value: Use digital technologies to enhance capabilities and situational awareness while reducing resource liabilities.



Joshua Kennedy-White
Managing Director
Intelligence and Homeland Security

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Dirk Hodgson
Senior Manager
Intelligence and Homeland Security

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