Tracking extremist chatter online: Connecting the dots

27 January 2012 | D.A. Harris, Director, Business Development, Worldwide Defense

​The power of social media was on full display last year, as the technology that powered the Arab Spring. Citizens used online technologies to share information, expose injustices, and coordinate activities. Rather than relying on traditional media, people were turning to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to make their voices heard - and the world got the message.

But like any powerful tool, social media can be used to cause harm as well. Extremist groups and dangerous individuals regularly use the Internet to share information, promote their worldview, and coordinate attacks. National security leaders can’t afford to ignore this valuable data, but monitoring it, and more importantly, making sense of it, is easier said than done. The volume of information is massive, and it comes in different formats and different languages. Messages are unstructured, appearing in online newspapers, in message boards, and in status updates and tweets. In order to make this intelligence actionable, it needs to be collected, analyzed, displayed, and disseminated. This is where technology plays a critical role.

Modern search tools are equipped with the ability to refine and sort information using terms and languages relevant to targeted criminal activity. Technology built on Microsoft’s SQL Server, SharePoint 2010, Dynamics CRM, and FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 allows these conversations to be tracked, analyzed, and used to prioritize potential threat data. Analytics help to identify trends, themes, and relationships within massive amounts of online information. These insights help locate conversations that warrant further analysis, and this data can then be imported and monitored over time within the latest CRM applications. The goal is to provide national security leaders with a searchable, regularly updated database of rogue online activity.

The Internet is the latest front in the war on terror, and like any threat environment, national security leaders must monitor it. And now they have the intelligence technologies to take informed action using that data.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Let me know @MicrosoftPSNS or email us at safetyanddefense@microsoft.com.

D.A. Harris
Director, Business Development, Worldwide Defense

About the Author

D.A. Harris | Director, Business Development, Worldwide Defense

Colonel (Retired) Dyfierd A. Harris, "aka D.A." Harris leads an extended industry team and is responsible for the total defense and justice business transacted across the seventy plus countries in Microsoft MEA.