Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Behind an Investigation

January 3rd, 2018 Comments off

When providing protection support, advanced planning is key to its success. Social media and open source intelligence is becoming increasingly important. We are conducting more investigative research on social media than ever before. Many times individuals post content that raises threat levels. Although they do not always act upon them, it is crucial to take them seriously to mitigate any possible risks.

Just like any security advance, you need to have a plan. Who is the person of interest? What information do you have about the individual? We use technology that allows us to complete an automated search of an individual’s social media content. Once this is complete, we can analyze and further investigate the data found and provide recommendations regarding any potential threat. This information is then shared, giving protection agents the necessary information.

Online Bullying and Harassment

November 28th, 2016 Comments off

Today more than ever, online bullying and harassment continue to occur on social media. We have all heard of examples involving children being bullied. In some cases, these situations have been very high profile, receiving national media attention. Unfortunately, they do not just involve kids. Online bullying and harassment have become problematic for employers.  Most often online harassment is peer to peer. Customers and the public can also target your employees.

Recently an arbitrator ruled that the Toronto Transit Commission must investigate and do more to protect their employees from online threats. Police officers involved in the Standing Rock pipeline protest have become targets of online threats. It has been reported that their family members have also been targeted.

Investigating online threats can be challenging and time-consuming. LexisNexis recently reported that 75% of individuals polled indicated they had no formal training on how to conduct an online investigation. Most were self-taught.

The increase in online harassment and bullying is likely to continue. With that being said, you will need to develop a plan to investigate. Important considerations are as follows:

  • Who is making the threats?
  • What is their motivation and why?
  • What is the nature of the threat?
  • How often and aggressive are the threats?
  • What steps will I need to put in place to protect the individual being targeted?
  • What local laws exist to protect against online threats?

To complete an assessment, you will need to gather social media posts and complete a review. The collection of information can be the most challenging and time-consuming part of the process.

Today many techniques and tools exist that a qualified open source investigator can unearth. To learn more, please feel free to contact me

Never Judge a Book by Its Cover – Workplace Violence

October 24th, 2016 Comments off

Workplace violence events can occur anywhere, and they typically happen at the worst possible time, when you are least expecting it. The key is to put processes in place so bad behaviour can be detected before something happens. Past behaviour is an indicator of future actions. We see this repeatedly when engaged by clients. A person rarely acts out inappropriately just one time, and if it is not corrected, it will escalate. Events can often trigger acts of violence, and they can stem from inside or outside the workplace. You need to be aware of these triggers. It could be a sick child at home, the death of a loved one or being overlooked for a promotion. These trigger events along with the smallest incident at work can set off the perfect storm.

We recently had a client contact us to support them with an incident. It was a major insurance company with an individual in sales who was not performing as he usually does. On the surface, the employee appeared normal. During a meeting to discuss his performance, the employee became verbally aggressive, and it was decided to end his employment. The employee left and went home, and his personal belongs were gathered and shipped to his residence. Most cases stop at this point, but this was only the beginning.

The individual threatened two senior executives, one based in Toronto and the second in Calgary. The threats were serious in nature, and the police had to be notified. The employee lived in the Toronto area, which meant the threat to the Toronto executive was taken more seriously. It happened on a Friday at approximately 5 p.m., but the police indicated they would not be able to start the case until the following week.

The company’s human resources department contacted our corporate security team for support. They first conducted a social media and open source investigation. We needed to gather information and determine what type of person the client was dealing with. We quickly concluded that the individual had a dark side. His social media profile provided a treasure trove of data relating to drug use as well as threatening and aggressive posts. Armed with this information, we recommended that the individual should be under surveillance to examine his movements and provide an early warning to the executive and his family as well as the workplace. Also, security officers were placed at the executive’s home.

Throughout the weekend, the employee continued to post threats on social media. The threats were not specifically directed at the executives or the company, but it was clear that the employee was not dealing with the situation rationally. Our surveillance team followed the employee to some bars and feared he would act out after consuming alcohol. The executive and his family went out of town to further minimize the risk. All social media information was harvested and stored as evidence. The client passed this information onto the police, and the ex-employee was charged.

The employer will need to continue to monitor this individual’s social media as well as ensure the security of their employees, workplace, and the executive involved. Although the situation has calmed down, the former employee could be triggered by something and act out aggressively in the future. We typically ask clients to be extra vigilant surrounding key dates such as date of birth, date of hire, date of termination, etc. They often can be triggered to act out in and around important dates.

Lesson learned! The company had policies for dealing with discipline meetings and terminations, but they were not followed. In addition, having a social media investigation done prior can be very helpful. The client could have known that their employee was using drugs and had an anger management issue.

A company’s ability to be proactive and prepared is vital when your employees’ safety is at risk. If you would like a copy of our ‘Workplace Violence Planning Guide’, click here.


The Changing Face of Labour Disputes

August 5th, 2016 Comments off

Recently we supported a client with a complicated set of issues at the bargaining table. As is the case with most expiring collective agreements, I was called upon to work with management in developing a contingency plan in the event of a strike. A threat risk assessment of all sites with recommendations, costs, and timelines was provided to manage picket lines.

Part of our overall plan was to look at corporate events leading up to the strike deadline, as well as a review of the risks to executives, families and board members. We have started to see a trend where unions have become more creative with campaigns during bargaining. The goal of the union is to create awareness and apply pressure on the management team. In this particular case, the union began to target corporate events. Sending protesters to leaflet locations where management was planning to attend. In addition to the typical social media campaign, the union also began to post the names and addresses of key firms on Twitter.

Social media monitoring is not only a valuable tool in protecting your brand; it can also identify risks and gather intelligence. With the information from Twitter, we were able to mobilize teams to the individuals impacted. The lesson learned is the union has a new powerful tool that they can use to communicate and mobilize protesters quickly.

The ability to gather social media information may also form part of your argument for a court injunction. Harvesting and storing the information in a format that can be easily accessed and used at a later date should be reviewed. Millennials entering the workforce are less likely to march and stand around burning barrels with picket signs. The new form of protest will most likely play out on the web.

Ensuring you have risk mitigation strategies in place to deal with picket lines as well as how the union will use social media to mobilize its members will be important. For those environments where unionized members are part of your I.T. department, you should consider hardening security and potentially engaging third party support to monitor and conduct penetration testing. We have been called upon by a number of municipalities that have faced I.T. related concerns with unionized I.T. personnel being able to access a host of sensitive information.

The face of labour disputes is ever evolving.

Ostrich Investigative Technique

May 24th, 2016 Comments off

Bill 132 will force Ontario employers to take sexual harassment and issues related to workplace violence more serious. You can no longer ignore and hope it goes away.

Legislation has been in place for some time relating to workplace bullying and violence as well as sexual harassment. This is not new. Bill 132 will add more teeth.

However failing to conduct a thorough investigation will no longer be acceptable.

We recently assisted in a case involving a female employee who complained she was being sexually harassed. Human Resources completed an investigation and found no proof. The female employee, in turn, wrote a letter to the CEO and Board Members expressing her frustration.

We conducted an investigation, and the two male suspects had no idea what this complaint was about and proclaimed their innocents. The human resources manager did not possess the skills and experience to get to the bottom of things.

Upon receiving the details, we elected to conduct an open source investigation on the two male suspects and uncovered numerous online posts mentioning and targeting the female employee. We also identified others who had knowledge of the situation.

We interviewed others, and they were very informative and confirmed the situation as well as other inappropriate acts carried out by the individuals in question.

Armed with this new information, we then interviewed the male suspects for the second time. Both men initially continued to be dishonest with their responses. After a period, the two males had indicated they did indeed target this female because she had broken off a relationship with one of the males.

The main suspect had a checkered employment history. He elected to resign his position. The second man faced discipline and was restricted from the area where the female worked. The outcome provided closure and was resolved in a manner acceptable to the female employee.

You need to review how you currently conduct investigations, as well as what tools and third party resources can assist you when things go bad.

If you would like a complimentary copy of our workplace violence guide, please contact me at


Your Magic Crystal Ball

April 13th, 2016 Comments off

A new tool in the fight against disability and workers’ compensation fraud is open source investigations. The use of this technology is becoming more widely recognized and accepted.

Individuals continue to post more and more about their lives on a host of social media platforms. Instagram is overtaking Facebook as one of the most popular places to post photos and videos. Twitter also continues to be a favourite tool.

Posting all aspects of our daily lives makes us feel part of a global community. What does this mean for disability claim managers and those in the human resources profession? They have an unprecedented look into an individual’s public life.

How many times have you seen a doctor’s note that states that the individual is totally disabled, or unfit for modified duties, sitting or standing for longer periods, etc.? In the past, you would have to conduct a costly surveillance to determine the individual’s level of activity. Today, you may be a few clicks away from validating your concerns.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Do you realize how much data a photo reveals? Often we can obtain the exact location, date of the photo and when it was uploaded. All this information can become a part of your investigation. We had a case where an individual requested time away from work, and it was denied. The employee subsequently submitted a WSIB’s claim and got the requested time. The employee then posted photos on social media. Our investigators extracted data that placed the subject in Romania.

If the Internet is an iceberg, social media is only the tip. What lies below the surface is massive. A skilled investigator can easily harvest open source data. We recently had a case where a female employee was a part-time yoga instructor, outside of work. At the time of her claim, she turned on her privacy settings to avoid detection. Her only mistake was being showcased in a Yoga studio newsletter that was harvested using search techniques. Despite increased privacy settings, many apps disregard it and provide data the subject thought was hidden.

Can you do these types of investigations yourself? The short answer is yes. However without the necessary skills, you often won’t find what you need. It is also recommended that an independent third party gathers the information and later testify and present the evidence. The data is harvested in an ethical way to ensure privacy has not been violated and formulated into a structured admissible report.

An open source investigation is non-intrusive without any risk of being exposed. Using proxy servers allows investigators to collect data undetected without leaving any digital footprints.

If you have a claim that is under suspicion, maybe it’s time to have a peek.



Needle in a Hay Stack

December 31st, 2015 Comments off

We are regularly called upon to conduct investigations for various situations. Workplace violence, compliance and ethics as well as benefit claims are typically the most common areas of concern.

Social media digital surveillance is only one component of any investigation. Open source investigative research is a potential gold mine. The World Wide Web has grown incredibly in the past 10 years. We now have greater access to large quantities of information but the amount of information is staggering. The ability to run queries to extract required data is the key to success and this requires some training and experience.

I recently helped a law firm with an investigation. The individual in question was a nurse. She was claiming she was totally disabled and unable to work and she managed to do a good job of keeping her social media footprint sanitized. In many cases, legal representatives advise their clients that social media can be monitored, but most people still continue to post information despite warnings. In this case social media provided no information that she was active. However open source investigative research provided other crucial information. A yoga studio was promoting the nurse’s ongoing yoga classes and workshops, leaving the breadcrumbs we needed. Armed with this tidbit of information our investigative research team went to work. In the end, the client was able to paint an entire picture, complete with interviews and additional facts.

Often the smallest piece of information is all that is needed to connect the dots.

Blog Crisis Communication

April 5th, 2012 Comments off

Can management use the old tried, tested and true “no comment” when responding to difficult strike or lock out related issues?

Unions are now using communication firms to drive their key messages, not only to striking workers but to elected officials and members of the community.

With social media becoming widely used it is critical for management to ensure they take control of the message. Union activists and elected officials often use fear and misinformation to garner attention.

As part of your overall contingency plan a greater emphasis needs to be placed on a new kind of protest; one that doesn’t involve traditional pickets. The new form of protest is to engage the masses through social media. Damage to your brand and reputation can be accomplished effortlessly with a simply tweet or Facebook posting.

Too many times I hear, “we won’t speak to the media,” or “no comment.” Management typically reacts by engaging legal counsel. This only aids the union as it creates a David and Goliath scenario.

The public then wonders what they are hiding.  In order to achieve objectives the old rules of crisis communication need to change.

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