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Published February 15th 2016

Interview: Addressing the Emerging Challenges of Social Data and Security

We interview an independent security professional on how social data is being used both reactively and proactively in the industry.

Recently we were lucky enough to spend some time with Dan Skeggs, an independent information security professional, about the different ways social intelligence can be used in security operations, highlighting an emerging use-case for social intelligence platforms.

As a security professional Dan has seen the main use-case for social data in his industry to be risk management – whether that’s physical or logical –  in areas such as cyber security, information security and even physical security.

In our last conversation with Dan, we learned how social data is becoming increasingly important in security.

In today’s interview, we’ll be covering how social data has allowed Dan to be both proactive and reactive to situations in his past and current positions – in some of the most successful brands in the world.

Using social data proactively

Dan’s experience has covered the banking, media and retail sectors, so he has seen the integration of social data with security across a variety of different verticals.

“Social data now is used in pretty much all areas of security. I think we’re probably one of the later areas of business to fully adopt it, but now the security world is starting to see the value that it can add.” 

The breadth and rapid volume of social data has enriched Dan’s security investigations on a daily basis.

As technology evolves, people adapt quicker then ever to new technology. From a security point of view this can be a massive risk, but also an advantage to security professionals who are investigating a possible breach.

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Dan explains, “People are much more open to sending information into the public domain, without necessarily realising what they’re doing.

I try and use that to my advantage. I’d be looking at how to utilise this, and proprietary knowledge, to protect investments made – for example the rights we had to certain media assets.” 

Accessing social data from one central point and pulling it all together can provide an overview of the risk landscape, but social data is dynamic and fluctuates all the time.

What is a risk at one moment is not later on. It’s a constant moving picture.

“Social data can be the most up-to-date, accurate picture or reflection of what’s happening. Social intelligence platforms and features like Signals can help deliver you that instant picture so you can react accordingly.” 


Using social data reactively

Information is everywhere, but it’s important how you enrich that information and turn data into actionable intelligence.

‘When you’re looking at incident management, real-time information is vital. So potentially if, say, a number of customer accounts have been compromised, if you’re in a real-time security situation you can monitor how customers are talking about what information they’re really concerned about and react, in real-time.”

Social data has allowed Dan to analyze this and provide real-time communication back to the relevant teams within the organization.

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“Brandwatch played a major role in our real-time strategy planning and helped with our internal and external communications.” 

Quickly getting control of a situation that could escalate is a key objective for a security professional like Dan.

A recent example of this in practice for Dan was when a cyber security issue arose with customer account takeovers.

As Dan explains, “Social data allowed me to identify patterns and trends, specifically when customers were complaining over Twitter – before having access to this data, information like this would never have been captured.”

Taking hold of a situation quickly and quashing any queries coming from the public give organizations a much better chance of dealing with a situation and limiting the impact on your reputation.


Working holistically with other departments

Typically any security incident will be naturally handled by the security teams within that organization, but more regularly other experts within different departments from across the business are being called upon to form an incident management team.

“Within that team the security professionals are the ones providing the data, or the information for those strategic decisions to be made and this is now key in any response”, Dan says.

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In his past and current positions Dan has seen an improved working relationship between the security/risk teams and the marketing and social media teams.

“There’s a lot of knowledge sharing going on and it’s built relationships within the business that previously would have never have been there.” 


The future

Dan believes the challenge going forward for the security industry is the legal responsibilities businesses have around data protection, specifically how this information is stored, especially customer information.

Dan ends by acknowledging the future of social data in his profession.

“Yes, it’s public data, but when you start identifying individuals then you start to fall in to the data protection world – especially when they’re not your clients. There are a lot of challenges going forward, but it’s a really interesting time for the sector.”


A big thanks to Dan for speaking with us. This interview is one in a series with industry experts – you can expect more every week.

Coming up in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be telling you how both Bloomberg and Dollar Shave Club use social media intelligence. Stay posted.


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