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Preparing for Protests and Protecting your Business with Threat Intelligence Software

Following two of the most tumultuous years in recent history, where the world has witnessed a significant loss of life due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a struggling economy following a global recession, and a wave of societal upheaval over police violence and racism, as well as a growing anti-lockdown and vaccination movement, riots and protests are now, more than ever, a part of everyday life.

What do businesses need to be aware of amidst social unrest?

The impact on businesses can be significant during a time of social unrest: protesters can not only cause minor disruption from planned events and marches but can directly target businesses, too. We’ve seen protests that aim to damage property, reputations, occupy business premises, intimidate staff or in extreme cases injure people associated with an organisation. Even peaceful demonstrations can quickly escalate into violence, looting and rioting, regardless of the intentions of the majority, as we’ve seen across the United States since 2020. Protecting your business from the threat of being caught up in protests should therefore be a key priority for your security team.

Heatmap of BLM Incidents following George Floyd's murder protecting your business from protests

A heatmap showing the areas of high concentration for protests and unrest since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on the 25th May 2020. [Source: Intelligence Fusion]

 

To protect your business, maintain business activities and minimise the risk to your organisation, as a security professional you need reliable alerts surrounding new and ongoing protests. This will support you to make better, more informed decisions when it comes to protecting your assets.

Awareness in advance is key when it comes to social unrest and protests. Being able to map incidents ahead of time allows us to give our clients the heads-up days, weeks or often months before an event takes place, allowing you to better prepare for business disruption and reduce the threat to both people and assets in the area.

It’s commonplace for activists, groups and demonstrators to coordinate events and share information about upcoming actions via social media to maximise support during protests. Our analysts monitor all forms of social media including Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter as well as encrypted messaging channels such as Telegram and Periscope to provide detail on upcoming events and tactics.

Selection of BLM Demonstrations in the United States preparing for protests and protecting your business

Map highlighting a selection of Protest incidents involving the Black Lives Matter group since May 25th 2020. [Source: Intelligence Fusion]

 

All too often, however, social media users can share old footage or misinformation – often without realising it, but this can lead to wasted time, resource and money for your security team. Ensuring intelligence is real, accurate and most importantly, actionable is paramount which is why the human element of intelligence can’t be replaced. Taking data and converting into intelligence requires insight and experience. Intelligence Fusion’s military-trained analysts verify every incident before it’s disseminated to clients, to ensure accuracy as well as actionability, which is key to effective business protection.

What else do you need to know about protecting your business against protests?

To gain a complete understanding of the threat environment, one of the things that you need to quickly ascertain is who’s involved. Our analysts add physical groups and/or the individuals involved in each incident, and our software makes their role clear too; for example, if they’re an actor, whether they were directly targeted or even indirectly affected by an incident. This allows you to both monitor brand names and tracks the activity of specific threat actors, with a timely alerting function that can notify you of new incidents involving groups or people of interest. Different groups have distinct tactics and ways of protesting – knowing who was involved and what types of incidents occurred during these protests allows you to build a pattern of intelligence so you can build out your awareness of what these tactics might be. Knowing who is involved ahead of time then allows you to prepare better for what might occur during any planned protests: Extinction Rebellion, for instance, may carry out low-level vandalism of business premises, or create blockades of roads or particular streets; left or right wing political protests, particularly those attended by extremist groups, have a higher potential to become a riot as they will often attract counter-protesters or lead to confrontation with police. By knowing this information you can then take the best steps ahead of time for protecting your business from the assessed threat.

The details of a looting incident in NYC preparing for protests and protecting your business

The details of a looting incident that occured in New York City on the 1st June 2020. The incident profile highlights the groups and individuals involved, targeted or affected by the looting. [Source: Intelligence Fusion]

Having a wider situational awareness also allows you to anticipate the higher risk of protests and riots occurring. The most obvious example of this would be expecting protests following the high-profile shootings of black people by police, or for them to occur around trials such as those of Derek Chauvin or Kyle Rittenhouse. However, it’s also important to be aware of other developments that might make protest more likely: for example, the growing anti-vax and anti-lockdown movement means that the announcement of any sort of new COVID-19 restrictions or regulations would make protests and riots highly likely. This sort of situational awareness means you can take measures for protecting your business in anticipation of any potential spontaneous unrest that might not necessarily be advertised ahead of time, and is instead more reactionary in nature.

preparing for protests with threat intelligence protecting your business from anti lockdown protests riots netherlands

New lockdown measures led to widespread rioting in the Netherlands, causing significant damage to businesses [Source: Intelligence Fusion]

It’s also important to understand the severity of the threat so that you can minimise the risk to your business by tailoring the most appropriate response. Assigning an ‘impact rating’ to an incident can help security professionals prioritise their response and focus on what could be the most damaging to their assets or operations. We, for example, have a five-point scale from Insignificant to Extreme based on a variety of factors, including the potential lives lost, business days impacted as well as the financial consequences of an event to give you a better understanding of the threat your business or client may face.

What action can you take to protect your business from social unrest?

Threat intelligence is key to managing and maintaining business during these uncertain times. Reliable, fact-checked data can provide you with an advantage not only when responding to unrest, but in terms of spotting potential actions and identifying trends through indicators and warnings.

Encampment in Capitol Hill, Seattle protecting your business from protests

Protestors including Antifa and Black Lives Matter have set up an autonomous zone in Seattle’s Capitol Hill following riots with police. Image shows the area declared as the commune. [Source: Intelligence Fusion]

 

And it’s not only high-quality intelligence that’s important, but choosing a software solution that enables you to streamline that feed of data and customise the interface can have significant benefits too. If you can tailor your threat intelligence platform to truly reflect your business or client operations, you can focus on what’s important, increasing the response time and productivity of your team, so you can have a tailored business protection plan, too.

As the world begins to move again and the people you protect start to travel, having a solid understanding of the threats that protests, riots and unrest can pose is crucial to your role in security. To learn more about how security teams are adapting to the post-COVID-19 reality, download our free report on security management in a post-pandemic world, which you can find here.

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