Over the past three years social media threats have targeted everyone from celebrities and executives to multinational corporations, and the airline industry has now come under attack.
According to an article published today by CNN, after the initial threats made on January 17 against a flight between Atlanta and Raleigh there have been over 50 online threats aimed at airlines. Our research indicates that a vast majority of the threats were simply copycats that lacked credibility, and authorities concur.
Comparing the threats airlines are receiving to the copycat threats police departments received after the Ismaaiyl Brinsley incident in New York, the circumstances are very similar. And, they highlight the need for close monitoring of social media threats on a regular basis, especially if there’s a chance copycat incidents will occur shortly thereafter.
Why did the initial social media threats gain so much momentum and spawn copycats?
As someone who was in the marketing field for many years providing social media consulting to large organizations, including Fortune 100 companies, it’s very clear how the threats went viral and why they produced such a big impact.
For one, the original poster had established multiple Twitter accounts to not only ensure he or she can effectively distribute their messages even if certain accounts were suspended, but also to serve as force multipliers. The accounts retweeted posts from other accounts, thus exponentially increasing their reach.
Secondly, it appears bots were used to create massive amounts of retweets that quite literally flooded Twitter. At a time when you can pay $5 for 100+ retweets this tactic should come as no surprise, and we see terrorist groups like ISIS using similar strategies.
Who is making the threats and why?
After analyzing the initial social media threats that were posted on Twitter before all of the copycat threats occurred, specifically tweets by @kingZortic, here’s our profile of the individual involved in that particular incident (note: additional findings can’t be discussed publically):
- Male between the ages of 16 and 22, and most likely in his late teens
- Has not attended college
- Associated with one or more hacker groups
- Goal was to instill fear but not actually do harm
Given the sharp increase in threats against airlines in the past few weeks, it’s imperative for corporate security teams to beef up their monitoring efforts and develop strategies to counter threatening messages that could potentially go viral and cause catastrophic damage.