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Long after an event which you sponsored or participated in has ended, it can have a negative impact on your organisation’s security and reputation.

FIFA World Cup 2022 is over. Your partnership deal has run smoothly and there is increasing interest in your brand and products. You are keen to capitalise on these successes.

But following the closing ceremony, your security team has flagged an increase in negative social media posts, some of which stand out from the negativity that you normally receive. These posts are pushing the boundary into hostility which appears to be deliberately directed against your organisation, brand or premises. 

Your security team is already pushed on resources. Their focus is firmly on preparing for your next event, and they do not fully understand the threat that these posts could pose. Are they the regular negative sentiment that affects every brand but is amplified due to the global exposure of the World Cup, or could they indicate a more persistent and directed threat that has emerged because of your sponsorship? 

You suspect the latter but don’t have the resources or time to understand this fully. 

Understanding this impact on your brand security post-event and managing it effectively is critical to be able to rapidly spot and assess credible threats and keep your brand safe.

The World Cup 2022 is just one example of a high-profile event which can cast a long shadow on your brand. 

Simply by exposing your organisation to the event, you fundamentally change your threat landscape. And as you enter new relationships, each one will expand your attack surface and evolve your threat landscape anew.

Any association with, or sponsorship of, an event is entered with high hopes. It’s meant to be a reciprocal relationship, ultimately giving commensurate benefits to each party. But each relationship you build carries the risk that you don’t fully realise the anticipated benefits, or worse, that the relationship contributes directly to negative outcomes.

There are numerous examples of organisations finding that their image has been tarnished by association with events at which there was disruptive behaviour, scandal or some other discontent. 

But this tarnish now stretches beyond reputational damage into a physical threat.

Mere association with a contested event has the potential to raise the profile of your organisation to actors and groups that previously would not have considered you a legitimate target. You could be exposed to a new cohort of actors and groups who have both the intent and capability to carry out disruptive and damaging actions against your organisation, both online and in the real world.

And even if an immediate threat does not present itself, the fact your profile was raised could result in your organisation becoming the target of criminal or terrorist attacks in the months to come.

The security challenge of Big Data

As a result, you must consider the longer-term impact of any relationship before you enter into it, because its repercussions will be felt beyond the event itself.

And once you go ahead this new reality will need a fuller, more far-reaching approach to security intelligence. You can’t afford to simply respond to attacks as and when they arise. You need to be steps ahead of any hostile party, understanding from whom you’re defending yourself and having the necessary information at hand to make proactive decisions about the best line of defence. 

This means an ongoing re-evaluation of your threat landscape and continuous monitoring of the threats against your brand.

A key challenge is wrangling big data. Threats against your brand can come from different platforms, including those in easy reach of regular OSINT collection capabilities, and also from the more nefarious parts of the deep and dark web. 

Collecting, analysing and assessing this breadth of information is resource-intensive and costly. But can you really afford to ignore it? 

How to stay ahead of hostile actors post-event

That’s where Dragonfly’s Protective Intelligence service can help. 

This bespoke service is designed with you at its centre. Everything we do is focused on increasing your awareness and understanding of the threat landscape facing your organisation. Much more than a superficial scrape, we deliver the actionable insights you need to keep ahead of hostile actors and groups.

At the beginning of our relationship, we undertake a bespoke threat assessment for your organisation, which sets out the full threat landscape facing your brand and your people. This valuable exercise establishes a baseline understanding of your threat landscape, allowing you to tackle the threats of most concern – which are not always the ones you might expect. 

As your threat landscape is constantly changing, our Protective Intelligence service evolves with it. Dragonfly’s analysts engage with you regularly to review your threats and understand any developments that change your risk profile. When these change, we adjust the service you get so it is continually optimised.

For most of our clients, this includes post-event reviews. One, for example, has a chief executive who is a household name, and who speaks frequently at global events. We work with them on a weekly basis to understand how each event changes their threat landscape. 

Another organises one of the world’s largest festivals. We help them understand the persistence of the threats against them following their annual event, and periodically update them with steps they could take to try and mitigate this risk as the landscape is always changing.

And in the run-up to and during events? We reduce your burden of sifting, qualifying and contextualising intelligence. Using a combination of human agency and world-class automation across the open, deep and dark web, we deliver actionable, timely, curated intelligence.

Taking the form of written summaries, this bespoke service will better enable your organisation to take appropriate steps to reduce and manage security threats across your unique threat landscape, following your partnership activities. 

To find out more about how we can help your organisation manage risk before, during and after a major event, please get in touch with one of our specialists now.

Michael Lubieszko is Head of Protective Intelligence at Dragonfly.

Image: French supporters hold flares as they celebrate on Boulevard Poissonniere in Paris, on 6 July 2018, after France won the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Uruguay and France. Photo by Daniel Lawler/AFP via Getty Images.