• CybersecuritySearching for malware hidden in shortened URLs on Twitter

    Cyber-criminals are taking advantage of real-world events with high volumes of traffic on Twitter in order to post links to websites which contain malware. To combat the threat, computer scientists have created an intelligent system to identify malicious links disguised in shortened URLs on Twitter. They will test the system in the European Football Championships next summer.

  • ExtremismExtremist groups use social media to lure recruits, find support

    In the past, extremist groups have used tools and forums which were available: Rallies, pamphleteering, and marching in parades were the primary means used for recruitment and spreading their message. Now, as is the case with many other individuals and groups, these efforts have adapted to more contemporary media to target college and university campuses, to gain new members or, at least, sympathy to their cause. They now use the Internet to conduct forums and publish newsletters, a method that exposes potentially millions to their message.

  • Extremism & social mediaCountering extremist groups’ social media influence, persuasion

    Social media has become a vital channel for terrorist groups to share news and seduce new members. The recent, notable successes of ISIS in the United States and Europe have demonstrated that terror groups can successfully use this approach to further their agenda of violence. While it gets less attention, social media is equally important for groups that are sharing and communicating information to counter extremist discourse. The problem is, how can those looking to counter the violent ideology of groups like ISIS analyze all the conversations to determine what is a significant danger? How can groups countering violent extremism leverage social media to limit the diffusion of extremist ideology? New research aimed at helping to solve this puzzle.

  • Emergency alertsDisinformation campaigns damage credibility of social media emergency alerts

    Disinformation campaigns, which populate sections of social media platforms such as Twitter, are making real emergency data and notifications harder to absorb, a cybersecurity analyst argues. The spreading of emergency-related hoaxes, including those which involve conspiracy-related topics, damages the credibility of sites that provide useful information in those circumstances.

  • Terrorism & social mediaStudying terrorists' social-media recruiting power in order to negate it

    Last month a United Nations panel asked social-media companies such as Twitter and Facebook to respond to how terrorist groups use their networks to spread propaganda or recruit members with increasing success. As these terrorist groups, such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, evolve their social-media skills, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Minerva Project is funding a research project by a team of researchers who will be monitoring these groups’ advancements and trying to determine how their online actions can be negated.

  • RadicalizationInternet facilitates radicalization of Westerners, even as reasons vary

    Since the early 2000s the Internet has become an important tool for the global jihadist movement. Nowhere has the Internet been more important in the movement’s development than in the West. A new study says that while dynamics differ from case to case, it is fair to state that almost all recent cases of radicalization in the West involve at least some digital footprint. Jihadism is a complex ideology that mixes religion and politics. The study confirms, however, the importance of its religious aspect for many of those who embrace violence — a fact some studies have dismissed.

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  • False tweetsRumor-detection software detects, corrects erroneous claims on Twitter

    A week after the Boston marathon bombing, hackers sent a bogus tweet from the official Twitter handle of the Associated Press. It read: “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” Before the AP and White House could correct the record, the stock market responded, dropping more than 140 points in a matter of minutes. Losses mounted into the billions. The market recovered just as quickly, but analysts said the timeframe could well have been long enough for in-the-know perpetrators to profit through trading. Researchers have developed software to help society identify and correct erroneous claims on Twitter.

  • Terrorism & mediaExposure to media coverage of terrorist acts, disasters may cause long-term negative health effects

    The city of Boston endured one of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in April of 2013, when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While emergency workers responded to the chaos and law enforcement agencies began a manhunt for the perpetrators, Americans fixed their attention to television screens, Internet news sites and forums, and Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. In doing so, some of those people may have been raising their acute stress levels which, in some cases, have been linked with long-term negative health effects. For some individuals, intense exposure to the Boston Marathon bombing through media coverage could be associated with more stress symptoms than those who had direct exposure to the attack.

  • Terrorism & social mediaWeighing the pros, cons of blocking ISIS’s access to social media

    The Islamic State has successfully used social media to spread its ideology, share videos of beheadings, and recruit new followers. U.S. counterterrorism agencies have launched their own social media campaigns to diminish ISIS’s effects on would be jihadists, but some officials have considered whether it would be simpler to cut off ISIS from social media networks altogether. Doing so would no doubt limit ISIS’s reach on Western recruits, but could it create a challenge for officials looking to monitor the group’s activities?

  • Social mediaFrance asks social media companies to help in fighting radicalization, terrorism

    The French government has asked leading social media and tech firms, Google, Facebook, and Twitter to work directly with French law enforcement during investigations and to immediately remove terrorist propaganda when authorities alert them to it.The Islamic State (ISIS), along with other Islamist militant groups, are using social media to disseminate their violent messages, recruit new followers and fighters, and share videos of executed hostages. Roughly 20,000 foreign fighters, including 3,400 from Western nations, have joined ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

  • CybersecurityAssad regime employed Skype to steal military plans from moderate rebels

    A FireEye report details the activities of a cyber-espionage group that stole Syrian opposition’s strategies and battle plans. To undertake this operation, the threat group employed a familiar tactic: ensnaring its victims through conversations with seemingly sympathetic and attractive women. As the conversations progressed, the “women” would offer up a personal photo, laden with malware and developed to infiltrate the target’s computer or Android phone.

  • Terrorism & social mediaEuropean govts. urge U.S. tech companies to remove terrorist-related postings from sites

    The terror attacks in Paris have led French and German authorities to call on U.S. tech firms to help identify terrorist communications and remove hate speech from social media sites. The United Kingdom has also, for several months now, pressed Internet firms to be proactive in removing extremist content such as videos of sermons by radical Islamic preachers or recruitment material, from their sites. These recent requests for more cooperation between U.S. tech firms and European governments contrast with calls from many of the same governments who, following the Edward Snowden leaks, criticized U.S. tech firms for being too close to law enforcement agencies.

  • EpidemicsDisease can be monitored, predicted by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles

    Scientists can now monitor and forecast diseases around the globe more effectively by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles. Researchers were able successfully to monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. They were also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least twenty-eight days in advance.

  • TerrorismAnalyzing how emotions ripple following terrorist events

    The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing motivated mass expressions of fear, solidarity, and sympathy toward Bostonians on social media networks around the world. In a recently released study, researchers analyzed emotional reactions on Twitter in the hours and weeks following the attack. The study is the first large-scale analysis of fear and social-support reactions from geographically distant communities following a terrorist attack. The full results of the study may provide insight to governmental agencies exploring how best to handle public fear following a disruptive event.

  • DisastersIs social media responsible for your safety during a disaster?

    By Andrew Quodling and Emma Potter

    Given the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, it is not surprising so many people use social media in crises such as floods, fires, and earthquakes. While social media can be a handy resource in crises, people must be careful not to take their access for granted during emergencies. Floods, fires, and earthquakes often disrupt the power and communications infrastructures that smartphones rely upon, as our access is constrained by the limitations of copper, fiber, hybrid, and cellular Internet technologies, and their vulnerability to the elements. Also, some questions about the features of tools such as Facebook’s Safety Check are yet to be answered persuasively. Still, such concerns notwithstanding, it is encouraging to see an organization such as Facebook taking responsibility for its users and entering the crisis communication space. A tool that helps family and friends during a crisis, and facilitates easy communication is a welcome development.