Sensing the COVID-19 Pandemic on Open Sources

Sensing the COVID-19 Pandemic on Open Sources

With the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic and the increased confinement measures taken by many governments, Coronavirus chatter has inevitably become prominent online. While the pandemic is seizing the attention of the general public, many threat actors are capitalizing on the crisis to advance their own agendas.

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, Verint’s Web Intelligence experts have been monitoring open sources and on-line chatter from different threat actors on the Deep Web, the Dark Web and mobile messaging applications. The resulting intelligence report highlights their findings regarding various critical aspects in the identification & monitoring of the pandemic and the threat actors that have arisen on this backdrop on the web.

Main Steps in Web Investigation

In this report, Verint’s analysts share their main go-to steps for topic investigation, their work methodology and how automated intelligence tools promote the analysts’ work. They share the step-by-step of topic investigations, going from wide keyword search, through geolocation fencing and automated analysis, mapping of suspects, and summarizing findings in intelligence reports.

Spotting the Coronavirus via Open Sources

The most critical step in the emergence of a crisis is to identify the most significant and relevant sources that indicate the crisis in its earliest stages.

The report cites a Washington Post article revealing the story of a Florida-based blogging site, Flu Tracker, that brings together journalists, epidemiologists, doctors, and disease trackers in the aim of tracing infectious diseases.  The report reveals how Florida blogger Sharon Sanders used OSINT to pick up on early signs of a SARS-like virus in China. Together with her colleagues, she continued to scan local open sources for further news items. Thanks to the team’s knowledge of local trends, open source monitoring tools and acquaintance with the right type of sources, they were able to report on the unfolding crisis a week before major Western news outlets.

Verint’s intelligence experts sought additional relevant information on COVID-19 in Open Sources. Using web intelligence tools, they applied investigation methodology steps, based on keyword search and anthology terms to extract a list of sources. They then investigated each source, to identify which were reliable sources. Sources included blogs posted by professional virologists, microbiologists and other researchers.

For a full list of identified sources, see ‘Sensing the COVID-19 Pandemic Via Open Sources‘.

Threats to Public Health and Security

The report also shows how extremist groups are using the health crisis in their countries to engage in different subversive activities, such as disturbing civil health and security, finding new ways to organize protests in violation of confinement measures, and using fake news to challenge the official version of events as disseminated by the Government. The report presents various extremist groups that spread conspiracy theories, fake news and encourage protesters to carry out attacks to disrupt public health and safety.

Dark Net Chatter about the Coronavirus

Verint’s Web Intelligence Experts have conducted a broad investigation on the dark web using Verint’s DarkAlert to identify online illegal activities related to the Coronavirus. The report presents the steps applied to search for Coronavirus-related keywords, filter results and focus on relevant results.

For a full list of identified sources, see ‘Sensing the COVID-19 Pandemic Via Open Sources‘.


Author: Verint Research Lab