Making Data Work for You: A Strategy to Monitoring Global Infrastructure

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Knowing about potential threats to key infrastructure around the world before anything happens is critical for intelligence and information operations (Intel and IO) professionals to be able to swiftly take action and mitigate risk for their organizations and allies.

The vast majority of internet users read or observe content without directly engaging or contributing, a Nielsen Norman Group study found. Being able to observe and analyze what they’re paying attention to is critical in managing global infrastructure threats. 

Learning about threats too late puts you and your organization at a tactical disadvantage, constantly having to react and significantly increasing the risk levels. This is especially true in the current global geopolitical climate — with so much uncertainty, things can change in a moment, leaving your team scrambling to keep up. 

Whether protecting physical infrastructure against kinetic threats or digital infrastructure against cyber threats, being able to monitor adversarial online attention to a particular location is an ability information and intelligence professionals can’t do without. Read on to learn how you can discover what infrastructure is getting anomalous online attention, and where that attention is coming from, to predict potential threats and mitigate risk for your organization. 

Staying on Top of Global Infrastructure Threats 

Some tools let you see what people are saying and what content they’re amplifying online, providing alerts when someone mentions your location of interest. But these tools that analyze online content and engagement only show about 10 percent of internet action. 

Still more powerful are tools that show people who is doing research on a particular location and infrastructure but who aren’t talking about it online publicly; they’re just doing analysis before acting. “The first things people will do before taking action is inform themselves about the place that they will be acting or messaging on,” says Caroline Nutt, director of customer success at Predata.

The Predata Location Attention Map is a critical tool that can provide a comprehensive view of the distribution of human attention, including irregular activity and interests in specific infrastructure sites (such as nuclear facilities, roads, air transit, banks, education facilities, and military organizations) and where that activity is coming from. By tracking the attention of people passively consuming information, Intel and IO professionals can get a head start on predicting potential threats and mitigating risks to their organizations. 

“The way we think about security has become so strategic,” says Nutt. “When we try to help our customers understand where adversaries are going next, it’s important to have a location linked to planning activity.” 

For example, if someone is concerned about protecting their supply chain because they have invested significant money in a number of mining sites in central Africa, they might be interested in monitoring Chinese investment coming in and taking that competitive advantage, says Molly Dwyer, vice president of analysis at Predata. “They can use a location attention map to see if there is unusual online research on very remote places around those mines from people who speak Chinese,” she says.

A tactical way IO and Intel professionals can use the location attention map is to flag maligned messaging and disinformation. For example, when a U.S. bioweapon facility was getting attention from Chinese-speaking desktop users as the COVID-19 pandemic surged, it showed indications that the Chinese government was preparing its disinformation campaign alleging the U.S. created the virus. 

Saving Time and Uncovering Unknown Threats

Often, threats may occur outside your radar in areas you’re not yet tracking. The traditional method of setting up filters for the infrastructure, coordinates, or websites to track doesn’t cut it — and it can take weeks, as Dwyer points out — since new issues can suddenly pop up outside your radius. The location attention map can alert you when you need to shift your awareness to the unusual activity occurring on different types of critical infrastructure. 

Instead of manually combing through existing web pages and collecting each source, with a location attention mapping tool everything is located on one dashboard. “The map allows you to see unique ways that people are reacting to major events,” Nutt says. “It tells you things you couldn’t find anywhere else.” 

With a map that points out key location attention trends, you can quickly get a visual snapshot indicating what might be worth looking at. “This can be as simple as a three-click process,” says Steven Childress, director of product management at Predata. “It’s valuable to have a product that is focused around highlighting the unknowns and that points to things you weren’t initially looking for.” 

Filtering by language is an important feature of location attention map tools like the one Predata offers, Nutt says. “We want to know who’s behind the click,” she says. “We look at patterns in research and identify them by audience. These high-level patterns help us understand exactly what we need to know about behavior.”  

Gain Crucial Insights Into Online Attention with Predata

Predata is a web-based platform that quantifies shifts in online attention — how audiences research and consume information — to provide a more complete picture of the geopolitical landscape.

Measuring the distribution of human attention tells the real story. Unlike industry-standard tools that monitor online content creators and their engagement on social media, forums, and other news sources, Predata turns anonymized web traffic metadata into quantifiable measures of attention to individual narratives, topics, and themes.

“We quantify ‘the other side of the internet’, and our data goes back historically, allowing users to compare what is normal and isolate what is unusual,” Dwyer explains. Historical baselining helps compare different behaviors when something breaks through the norm. With the Predata Location Attention Map, users can choose the data they care about from an audience standpoint, then quickly see what is getting attention from that audience in real time. 

With Predata, staying on top of your critical global infrastructure has never been easier, providing you with real-time information on what is getting attention from a particular audience and enabling your organization to make timely strategic decisions.