In the news this week:
‘NASA Intern loses job after accidental profanity-laced tweet to space council fellow’
In the never-ending series of social-media faux pas affecting an individual’s employment opportunities, the news which broke this week from NASA is perhaps the most bizarre yet. After receiving an offer of an internship at the space agency, a woman took to Twitter to excitedly (and expletively) tell the world of her good news. When a stranger asked her to mind her language, she replied with further expletives, and her friends joined in with the abuse. The stranger then informed the woman that he was a member of the space council, which oversees NASA, and she subsequently had her internship offer revoked.
Some may argue that this is an overreaction on NASA’s part – even the member of the space council has expressed his regret at the decision – but it highlights the ever-increasing role internet activity can have on real life events. While the initial expletive tweet may not necessarily be indicative of the person’s personality and behaviour in general, her aggressive reaction to being challenged by the council member inevitably raised some alarm bells within the company.
Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) is not just about finding one misguided Tweet and highlighting it to end a career. It provides a deeper understanding of an individual, and offers an holistic insight into their behaviours, motivators and professional background. As such, it is trends in behaviour over time, be they an aggressive nature, intolerance of others or professional malpractices, which are highlighted. These factors are ultimately of greater concern to an employer than a spur-of-the-moment excited tweet.
The internet provides the greatest wealth of information ever available from which to build pictures of individuals and help determine (or otherwise) their credibility as a representative of any firm. More and more firms such as NASA are beginning to realise the potential this provides to protect their reputation. While NASA stumbled upon it by chance, firms are increasingly adding EDD into their long-term due diligence processes, and it is already proving successful in many cases.
The Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) market has grown significantly in recent years and is anticipated to grow over the forecast period 2018-2023, according to a recent study by Crystal Market Research. OSINT’s interoperability across various markets allows clients from all over the world to apply it flexibly. It has been predominantly used in human intelligence and the network analysis market for some time, and now people are beginning to witness its full potential. The use of publicly accessible data can increase investigative capabilities across relevant areas and to help overcome real-world issues, such as preventing crime, defence from cyber-attacks and even helping to uncover instances of human trafficking and modern slavery. Its recent rise has not gone unnoticed by the intelligence community.
Attendees of the annual DEFCON security conference, attended by Neotas, competed in the first OSINT non-profit Capture the Flag (CTF), challenging people to trace real missing people through publicly available information. The final goal was to provide additional information for authorities to help track down the missing individuals. This is a great example of OSINT for the greater good!
Shubham Mittal, CTO, Neotas @ Defcon, Black Hat USA 2018
Most noticeably, people within online communities are beginning to use OSINT without knowing it. A user on Reddit shared a photo of a car part that had fallen off a vehicle after a fatal hit-and-run in Washington earlier this month. By sharing it on the social news site, other users were quickly able to identify the black piece of metal as a section of a “Chevy Silverado headlamp bezel”. In turn, police eventually made an arrest with the help of the Reddit community.
OSINT being leveraged in more ‘real-world’ scenarios, even unwittingly, is a prime indicator and example of its growth and potential growth globally. Use cases, once few and far between, are now hitting our screens more regularly and highlighting the benefits of OSINT.
Neotas’ proprietary platform leverages OSINT and experienced analysts to uncover digital trails, mitigate risks, enhance due diligence and evidence compliance processes. We are always seeking new ways to connect the dots and we thrive off uncovering hard-to-find information.
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We were lucky enough to have our Neotas Summer party at Sandown races last night (photo below!) and with this came the realisation of the difficulties in backing the right horse. But how can horse racing be linked to the world of investment and due diligence?
When the horses are walked round the paddock, there isn’t much to set them apart. Arguably less thinking time is spent during the selection process at a fun race day – and of course considerably less than in the boardroom – but there are still checks that can be made using information openly available.
Here are just a few points to consider before the horses are under starter’s orders:
- What is the form? How many times has the horse previously won. Are there any prior red flags raised? The form is perhaps the strongest indicator of what to expect.
- What is the network? Believe it or not, horses have networks too. Trainers, owners, jockeys, even their next of kin. All help to build up a picture of the good or bad.
- What is the going? Will the racecourse itself affect the horse? Is there a particular pattern seen with horses in particular conditions?
There are of course various other factors but putting these and the odds aside, the horse in question is theoretically profiled. Even its network can be scanned quickly by studying the form.
So how does this relate to investment?
Naturally, when investing money to receive potential returns, it is important to know where your money is going. Parallels can be drawn (although a slightly tenuous link) to the world of corporate investment.
Before a private equity deal for instance, extensive due diligence checks are made to screen the company, its background and its stakeholders.
“Approximately 50% of all deals fall through during the due diligence stage.” – Forbes
This serves as a reminder of the risks associated with the due diligence stage, despite the time and resources spent to identify any red flags. When looking into specific individuals and connecting the dots (for instance with the Directors of a company being invested in), Neotas co-founder & CEO Vipul Mishra reminds us:
Neotas uses open source intelligence to uncover digital trails, identify and mitigate risks and enhance due diligence processes. Some may even say we shorten the odds.
Find out how we have recently helped protect the business interests of investors and private equity firms – request a free sample report here.