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I work at Tech Against Terrorism, a not-for-profit based in London. We’re a public-private partnership supported by the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (UNCTED) that works to support the tech industry in responding to terrorist exploitation of the internet, whilst respecting human rights. We prioritise work with smaller tech companies, who often do not have sufficient capacity or resources to deal with the threat they face. Our work spans across three main areas: policy, research, and OSINT.
The OSINT team’s primary responsibility is to track and disrupt terrorist use of the internet. The intelligence that we produce helps to inform Tech Against Terrorism’s policy guidance for tech platforms & the public sector in terms of counter-terrorism response.
Another key part of my role is the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP). The TCAP combines human-led OSINT investigations with automated web scraping to identify and verify terrorist content on tech platforms, before sending alerts to companies to facilitate its removal. Since we launched at the end of 2020, we’ve identified more than 22,000 unique URLs containing terrorist content and sent alerts to almost 70 tech companies. On average more than 90% of flagged content is removed in the days following our alert.
Tech Against Terrorism sits across a range of industries and sectors, including government, tech, security intelligence, law enforcement, academia, and international peacekeeping. The intelligence produced by our OSINT team aims to inform decisions for stakeholders in all these sectors. We do publish some of our work publicly, but most of it is produced privately for our stakeholders.
Typical background for those working in this field would include: security intelligence, academia, government/military, risk consultancy.
Communication skills (verbal and written) are key. We spend a lot of our time writing reports & delivering presentations for stakeholders – particularly the ability to distil complex findings or topics into digestible formats for different audiences.
Problem solving ability; willingness to take on new challenges & step outside of your comfort zone.
My first full-time position in this industry came around a year after graduating from a masters in counterterrorism: I eventually landed a job as a junior analyst at a London-based security intelligence consultancy called Risk Advisory (now called Dragonfly). The job was two-fold: I worked on an incident database called TerrorismTracker, which records all terrorist attacks and plots recorded in verified open sources globally. The other side of my role involved tracking and analysing terrorist propaganda on the internet. This was in part for the terrorism database, but my findings also fed into analytical intelligence reports for the company’s reporting service called SIAS (Security Intelligence and Analysis Service).
Prior to getting that position I did a variety of part-time research assistant jobs (one of which was unpaid) alongside hospitality work, for around a year during and after graduating from my Masters. It was hard finding a full-time job after university and took me almost a year. But I do also think I was being quite picky. I got lucky with the Risk Advisory job in that my undergrad dissertation, which was on IS propaganda, correlated closely with the job role. I don’t remember where I first saw the job ad, but I applied online in the usual way.
When I’d graduated and was struggling to find a full-time position I made a conscious effort to work on things for myself – getting articles etc out there is good self-promotion & also good ammunition for interviews.
Also, looking back at the variety of different jobs I’ve worked I can see in retrospect how each helped me to get to the next stage in terms of skills – it’s all part of the progression. This includes work in completely different industries like hospitality during and after my degrees.
Also, this definitely isn’t new advice – but network!
Key attributes would be: investigative ability, coding skills, subject-matter expertise re. terrorism & extremism, strong writing skills
If I’m honest I’ve become an OSINT specialist by accident. I got into it via my interest in terrorism and extremism, which began in my history undergrad where I focused on far-right extremism in my final year. It was only when I landed my first full-time CT job some years later when I got involved in tracking terrorists online – then it wasn’t until even later that I started using the term “OSINT” to describe the work I was doing. If I could do it again I’d have:
Online! There are so many free guides / materials out there for those looking to pick up new skills.
If you haven’t already, I’d recommend getting on Twitter. It’s a great place to keep up to date with all the latest news, analysis etc. If completely new to it, I’d suggest subscribing to (or creating) a list for OSINT-related people and accounts.
Other more specific recommendations:
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