Tag Archives: risk analysis

Guide to finding Breaking News like Intelligence Analysts


Editor’s note: It should be noted that there are industry specific tools for finding breaking events; however, in an effort to add value to all readers, this article will focus on open-source breaking news collection and analysis.

Breaking News

In the field of intelligence, political and security analysis, gathering and managing relevant and up-to-date information is a core competency. The key word for us is breaking news. Although there are wonderful sources to find popular news, such as Digg and Reddit, and although print media is not necessarily as dead as my Myspace account, these sources are too slow. The idea is to find events faster than this, as they are breaking, so that our analysts can decide if the specific event is relevant. In other words, we need a speedy, but accurate, detection method for finding news that could potentially impact on our clients. Finding breaking news is not only important for the intelligence industry, but for any industry or individual that wishes to stay up to date with global developments. As such, this article on how to find breaking news will begin on broad terms and then narrow in focus, fitting the needs of both the casual newshound and the expert security analyst.

The Big Boys

Big Boys

Firstly, there are a number of big players that warrant mention. These are the news media industry leaders, and although they might not always be the first to run stories, they are generally more reliable than smaller news agencies. However, while an agency may be large, it is not always reliable (I am looking at you, Fox and Xinhua). There are also concerns that press accuracy, specifically in the US, is in decline; hopefully robots will fix this soon. A general tip to follow is that if one is unsure about a source, look for the origin of the story and find at least one more source to corroborate. A good dictum to live by here is Narayan Murthy’s adage: “In God We Trust; everyone else must bring data.” Below is a list of news sources I generally find to be more reliable.

My top picks:

Keep it local


In South Africa we have a saying: local is lekker (local is nice/good). This also applies when finding breaking news. Local and regional news agencies are often the first to run breaking news stories. Although this might sound like common sense, if one is interested in a specific area, it is important to make sure to follow the news agencies from that region. These sources are often invaluable. Even If the news is in a foreign language, just translate the whole site!

At red24, we are split into specific regions. I focus on analysis of South America; as such, below I have provided a breakdown of some of my regional/local sources for Brazil. Other regional sources can also be found here and here.


Latin American Herald Tribune


Jornal Do Brasil


The Rio Times


Tribuna de Metropolis


Social media is your friend


Probably the most powerful tool at your disposal for catching breaking news is Twitter and other social media (SM) channels. People tweet and post about everything, and if you can catch relevant leads before the crowd, you are area already ahead of the game. As with the above-mentioned sources, not all Tweets are equal, and one has to be careful with what one believes. However, optimising Twitter with the help of social media manger programmes and proper twitter lists can help you to weed out unreliable content and stay on top of the news. Furthermore, a quick search in Twitter itself can also provide you with alternative and updated sources.

My favourite SM Tools

For more useful SM-management tools, please click here.

Twitter Lists I use daily

The humble keyword search

Often overlooked, but never to be underestimated, is the keyword search. Depending on your industry, there are multiple significant words that can guide your search for relevant news. You can bookmark a number of Google searches with your keywords, or you can set up alerts, so that these keywords can find you. Keyword searches with Twitter are also essential and the tools above can help you set up these permanent searches. Please note that if you are looking for news in a specific area where English is not the dominant language, by all means search in the local language and on the local version of Google. Here is an example of a common keyword search that I use for finding strikes in Brazil.

List of some the keywords that I search for daily:

  • Clashes
  • Attack
  • Protest
  • Strike
  • Killed
  • Explosion
  • Flooding
  • Fire
  • Demonstration
  • Strike
  • Kidnap
  • Injured

What the future holds


As technology improves, more accurate and speedy event detection and analysis software is emerging. Within the field of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) there are exciting developments that have the potential to change how we collect and analyse news events.

One tool that journalists are already using is social media analysis software that extrapolates meaningful patterns from user-generated content. This software then alerts journalists to potential breaking news automatically. A great example of this type of software is Dataminr, a New York-based company that has a strategic partnership with Twitter, which allows for analysis of the full Twitter Firehose of public tweets (basically all tweets).

Then there are emerging machine-coded automated data gathering methods that “crawl” through all open-source media and look for specific relevant events in real time. These can be used for forecasting human societal-scale behaviour,which is the long-term goal of programmes such as the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT). Also, there are programmes such as the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which attempts to create a full database of political violence data for developing states. Both these programmes offer real-time analysis and give a glimpse into the future of event detection.


Hopefully you’ve learned some new tricks of the trade for finding relevant breaking news as fast and accurately as possible. However, finding the news is only the first step. The next step is analysing the data, and if you are looking for more guidelines on intelligence analysis, there are some insightful books that every analyst should read.

A final tip for finding breaking news is to embrace change. There are always better, faster and more accurate tools emerging for catching breaking events. If you learn to love change and can keep up with the development of technology, you’re on your way to thinking like an intelligence analyst!

What has been your experience with finding Breaking News? Are there some tactics you’re using besides the ones mentioned here? I’d be interested to hear your experiences and what you’re up to. Please do share in the comments.

Article by Barend Lutz, follow him @LutzBarend

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The growing threat of kidnapping in Mexico – Part 1

Mex Kidnapping

This is part one of a three part series; part two can be found here.

During 2013, which was President Enrique Pena Nieto’s first year in power, Mexico witnessed a significant increase in the number of kidnapping cases. In 2012, the country recorded 1,407 kidnappings; by the end of 2013, this figure had increased by as much as 20 percent to 1,695 kidnappings, marking the biggest year-on-year increase since 2008.

The records used to arrive at these numbers are from the Mexican government and are not beyond reproach. Those with some conception of the security situation in the country will agree that most kidnappings are not reported by victims. In addition to this, there is a disincentive by local authorities to account for those cases that are reported. The extent of this total non-reporting rate is assessed to be between 1 and 10 percent; there were, therefore, likely somewhere in the region of 30,000 kidnappings in Mexico in 2013.

Despite the shortfalls in using government statistics, they are an effective means of establishing changes in kidnapping characteristics in Mexico. This is of importance in assessing trends, which are arguably more valuable to those with interests in the country than accurate absolute figures. The main trend that was seen in 2013, besides an increase in absolute numbers that is accepted to be at least 20 percent, was the consolidation of the risk in areas that have traditionally been significantly affected. These mainly include those border states that perennially exhibit high homicide rates, which in turn stem from elevated levels of organised crime violence. At the same time, central states exhibited significant increases in kidnappings in 2013, which accounts for why Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Mexico state, Morelos, Veracruz, Tabasco and Jalisco were ranked the top in terms of kidnapping numbers in 2013.

Trends identified during the course of 2013 suggest that the year ahead will not be characterised by a significant decrease in total kidnapping numbers in Mexico. This conclusion is supportive by the continued failure of the Mexican authorities to address the complicated root causes of the crime.

More free stuff, listen to our Mexico: Kidnapping Overview – January 2014 on SoundCloud

Part two of this article will focus  in more detail on various theories to explain this apparent rise in kidnappings in the country and determine whether this trend will continue or even be further accelerated in years to come?

Article by Nick Piper, follow him @AmericasRisk

If you have thoughts and views on why kidnapping in Mexico is increasing, or have any questions about this article, please leave a comment below.

This article was originally posted in the KR Magazine 2014 Forecast, for additional Kidnap and Ransom articles, including by other red24 analysts, subscribe here.

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The red24 Threat Forecast: Political risk analysis for 2014

The red24 2014 Threat Forecast has been released! It is an open access report, so it is free to download. This year, we have created a microsite for the report, but the forecast also available to download in pdf format. To access this report, please click here


Contents of the forecast:

The forecast includes concise articles and podcasts that address various political issues from different regions.


  • The EU in 2014 – The political hangover of economic recovery
  • Russia – The calculated gamble of the Winter Olympics in Sochi
  • Turkey – A difficult year ahead


  • Brazil – Security concerns at the 2014 FIFA World Cup
  • Mexico – Mexico’s national security policy and persistent violence
  • United States – The threat of terrorism from within

Middle East and North Africa

  • Syria – Long-term political and security challenges
  • Iraq – Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s resurgence
  • Egypt – The persistent cycle of political uncertainty and instability


  • Afghanistan – Repercussions of the NATO withdrawal
  • China – Increasing labour protests in the People’s Republic
  • India – Will the recent creation of new states galvanise other separatist movements?


  • The Sahel – A new frontier of terrorism?
  • Mozambique – Concerns over a new civil war as RENAMO ‘returns to the bush’
  • Kenya – Was Westgate a sign of things to come?

Plus: Kidnapping and piracy developments, an event calendar and list of 2014 elections.

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Optimising Twitter for Political and Security Risk Analysis

Gathering and managing relevant and up-to-date information is one of the key competencies needed in political/security risk analysis. With the advent of social media sites such as Twitter, the collection and management of information is becoming easier by the day. How to optimise your Twitter usage for gathering relevant breaking news is described below. This can be used for risk analysis purposes or any other job in which up-to-date global, regional or local news is required.


I have chosen to use HootSuite as a platform for managing my social media sites, but there are many other choices such as TweetDeckSeesmic, etc.


  1. Sign up for account at http://hootsuite.com
  2. Add you Twitter account and or other social media accounts to Hootsuite
  3. Go to these Twitter account’s lists: @LutzBarend & @BarendLutz 
  4. Subscribe to the lists you want (you can also look for other interesting lists)
  5. Go to you Hootsuite Dashboard and add streams for the lists you want to follow

* You can create your own lists or find other lists that are more specific to your interests online. My lists are just broad lists that I have created by looking at what other people are following on Twitter, but they will be updated as I find more useful tweeps.

* If you are still unsure about this process you can look at this presentation for further clarification.


The final product will look something like this.


In addition to Hootsuite there are a number of other sources that make online data more manageable:

1.     TwitterMap

You search for keywords and it shows you where tweets containing those words come form on a map. (Search for words such as fatalities, clashes, protests, strikes)

2.     TrendsMap

This site shows you a global map of trending topics. I think it provides a bit too much information, so the one above might be more useful.

3.     Alchemy API

Lastly there is a demo program which analyses news articles and extracts the useful info. This is just a demo, but you can add a web link and then it extracts all the details automatically.  For example try adding this link: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/60398/World/Region/Iraq-attacks-kill-seven,-inmate-detonates-explosiv.aspx

I am sure that everyone has a specific methodology which they prefer for viewing and collecting information. I have found that the method described above works well for me, but if you have another method or comments/advice on mine, please feel free to let me know.

Article by Barend Lutz – Political Risk Analyst | Digital Media Specialist at red24

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