What’s the difference between broad threat monitoring and targeted threat detection, and how can you choose tools that best support your use case?
A car bomb just exploded on the other side of the world. You work for an international news agency and you need to stay alert to breaking events like this in any region. Luckily, you’re equipped with specialized software that finds early threat indicators on the web and notifies you in real-time.
But what if you support an organization that needs threat information for more specific targets—like critical office locations or an executive team?
These circumstances both benefit from open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools—but because they have different requirements, not just any OSINT tool will do.
Broad monitoring vs. targeted detection
Let’s start with some definitions:
Broad threat monitoring means that users need general media alerts that aren’t location or use-case specific. They need to know if and when there’s a critical event, like a shooting or an earthquake, unfolding somewhere in the world. Professionals in this space often use the term “situational awareness” to describe their goals. They work in fields like news media or public warning systems where they don’t necessarily provide security but still need to know what’s happening ASAP.
Targeted threat detection, on the other hand, is practised by security and intelligence teams assigned to specific assets. They need to stay alert to risks against people, infrastructure, or locations of interest early on. This allows them to respond quickly and prevent or minimize damage. For example, many security operations centres need to stay alert to situations like bomb threats in or near vulnerable buildings so they can assess the situation and respond appropriately.
Public web content is often the earliest source of information for both of these users. As bystanders post updates from the scene of an incident, OSINT tools like Echosec pick up on that data and provide alerts and situational awareness before other sources catch on.
More covert web spaces like deep and dark websites are also useful for early detection. This happened before and during the Capitol Hill riots, for example, in January 2021. OSINT software helps users save searches so they can get relevant alerts across multiple online sources in real-time—sources that aren’t crawled by standard search engines like Google.
Putting people and assets at risk
If you’re broad monitoring for global events, using a search term like “earthquake” in your OSINT tool could return a lot of noise. You don’t need every public post mentioning the term “earthquake” worldwide—you just need to know when an earthquake has happened so you can get a pulse on the situation.
But if you’re locating targeted threats, someone live-streaming an earthquake on social media is probably useful for your security team—as long as it’s relevant to your assigned location(s). This is the granular information you need to know what’s happening on the ground and where and how to respond.
Different requirements mean different tools. If you don’t have the right tool for the job, you could be wasting time and resources wading through irrelevant results—or missing critical information altogether. And if your goal is to inform the public or protect people and assets, unfit solutions could even result in avoidable damage.
Choose the right tools for the job
So, what kind of software solutions does your use case require?
Broad Monitoring/Global Situational Awareness
Public online content is still necessary for global event monitoring. But rather than sifting through raw data from sources like social media and the deep and dark web, users in this space need curated alerts. In other words, they don’t have the time to analyze posts to validate that an earthquake happened. They just need a single alert to tell them that it has.
AI is typically required to meet this need. By ingesting text, image, and audio data, AI-powered solutions can be trained to automatically detect global events like shootings, natural disasters, and other public safety threats. This supports broad monitoring environments by minimizing the need to manually analyze raw content on the web.
Targeted Threat Detection
Security teams and intelligence analysts, however, need to interact more with raw data. Imagine that your team is responsible for early threat detection and response for a high-profile executive. Your system locates a social media post geotagged near their home indicating gunshots fired in the vicinity.
You don’t know for sure that the executive is in danger—but having access to other public content in the area can help your team understand what’s happening on-site and gather the information needed to respond.
This is context that a more curated alerting system isn’t designed to offer. The key here is using tools that deliver raw post content while minimizing irrelevant results. This can be accomplished through the smart use of Boolean operators and tools that offer geofencing, machine learning, and advanced search filters.
Broad monitoring teams only need to know about an event that just happened or is unfolding. But targeted threat detection also requires security teams to predict threats. This is where requirements for access to raw data and more covert online sources like imageboards and dark websites differentiate targeted detection from broad monitoring. For example, chan site users planning a security breach at your executive’s home is essential information that might not be relevant for a news agency seeking breaking events.
Echosec Systems supports security and intelligence teams with targeted threat detection requirements. The Echosec Systems Platform enables users to perform advanced searches across a range of public online sources—from widely-used social media to obscure deep and dark web sources—so your team doesn’t miss out on key information. Users can also minimize noise through geofencing and machine learning classifiers that extract threat types and locations from post content.
The OSINT and threat intelligence software market is booming. As more solutions surface, it can be hard to know which ones are best suited to your specific goals. Choosing the right tools for your requirements can save you time and resources—and in some cases, even protect your most vulnerable assets against harm.
Do you need targeted threat detection?
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