Understanding and Countering Online Behaviour

How is the internet used in recruitment, radicalisation and organisation of threats to national security? This Programme develops our understanding of the use of the internet in recruitment, radicalisation and organisation of threats to national security, as well as develop ways in which it can be harnessed to mitigate such threats. Led by Professor Adam Joinson at the University of Bath.

The work in this Programme is centered around understanding and shaping online behaviour in a security context. This work is focused on four strands, alongside inter-disciplinary work connecting networks, finance and online behaviour.

  • Radicalisation Online. Following the completion of an indepth review of the state of the art understanding of radicalisation and the internet, we will conduct studies that seek to identify patterns of increasing radicalisation through language and behaviour.
  • Digital Footprints. A systematic review is currently underway that will provide a complete summary and analysis of the current literature linking online behaviour to individual characteristics.
  • Shaping behaviour online. The focus of this strand is the development of markers to evaluate the impact of online interventions.
  • Interdisciplinary insights. Within this programme we are exploiting the inter-disciplinary nature of the project team (e.g. law, psychology, computer science) to explore ways to deepen our understanding of terrorist financial networks, financial fraud and blockchain, and computational analysis of behaviour (e.g. language and rapport).

Original research

The early focus of the programme was on synthesis of existing knowledge. This is now supplemented by original research. The topics for this work include:

  • Evaluating methods of online influence [Bath]
  • Studies of digital footprints and remote assessment of personality [Bath, Lancaster]
  • Language and engagement in ideological online forums [Bath]
  • Blockchain and trust [UWE / Bath]
  • Methods for characterising typical and atypical social media users [Bath]
  • Language and rapport [Lancaster / Bath].

Case study: Digital footprints

The idea of ‘behavioural residue’ has a long history in psychology, with the traces we leave behind in the physical and virtual environment providing clues to personality, socio-demographics and group and interpersonal dynamics such as agreement and rapport. In a security and intelligence context, being able to interpret the ‘residue’ subjects of interest ‘leave behind’ as they interact in virtual environments can provide important clues about their current state of wellbeing, stress levels, personality, likely responses to outside events, and the dynamics within a group. We are conducting a large scale systematic review to collate and evaluate the evidence-base for connecting digital footprints to individual characteristics, and will then conduct a series of studies to test the review insights in the laboratory.

Case study: Radicalisation and the internet

  • Radicalisation is a complex process that generally involves:
  • Perceived relative deprivation: Feeling unfairly disadvantaged compared to others
  • Resentment: Resenting others and seeking to improve situation
  • Blame: Blaming others for hardship and bonding with likeminded others
  • The violent act: Viewing violence as a necessary means to solve problems.

Propaganda disseminated online can attempt to strengthen these feelings. For example, social media and forums can help individuals to find new groups who can reinforce new ideas and even ‘groom’ new recruits. Anonymity can make it easier to deceive, manipulate and present ideologies in a more favourable light.

Principal Investigator

Professor Adam Joinson

Institutions

University of Bath, UK
University of West England (UWE), UK
Lancaster University, UK

People

Outputs

Exploring Susceptibility to Phishing in the Workplace

Phishing emails provide a means to infiltrate the technical systems of organisations by encouraging employees to click on malicious links or attachments. Despite the...Read More »

What Demographic Attributes Do Our Digital Footprints Reveal?

To what extent does our online activity reveal who we are? Recent research has demonstrated that the digital traces left by individuals as they...Read More »

Human and Computer Personality Prediction From Digital Footprints

Is it possible to judge someone accurately from his or her online activity? The Internet provides vast opportunities for individuals to present themselves in...Read More »

Same Kind of Different: Affordances, Terrorism, and the Internet

The rapid development of the Internet as a cornerstone of private and social life has provoked a growing effort by law enforcement and security...Read More »

Out with the Old and … In with the Old? A Critical Review of the Financial War on Terrorism on the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant

This article critically considers the effectiveness of the ‘Financial War on Terrorism’ on the funding streams of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant...Read More »

The Law Relating to Financial Crime in the United Kingdom

Outlining the different types of financial crime and its impact, this book is a user-friendly, up-to-date guide to the regulatory processes, systems and legislation...Read More »

Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Online Influence: A Theoretical Review

Scams and other malicious attempts to influence people are continuing to proliferate across the globe, aided by the availability of technology that makes it...Read More »

Press Accept to Update Now: Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Malevolent Interruptions

Increasingly, connected communication technologies have resulted in people being exposed to fraudulent communications by scammers and hackers attempting to gain access to computer systems...Read More »

Technology and the Formation of Socially Positive Behaviours

‘Behaviour change’ has become a buzz phrase of growing importance to policymakers and researchers. There is an increasing focus on exploring the relationship between...Read More »

Social Role Evolution of an Ideological Online Community

Social Role Evolution of an Ideological Online Community by Brittany I. Davidson, Simon Jones, Professor Adam Joinson and Dr Joanne Hinds. What stimulates one user’s progression to...Read More »

How can Data Predict our Behaviour?

How can Data Predict our Behaviour? by CREST researchers Dr Joanne Hinds and Professor Adam Joinson. This poster presents Adam Johnson and Joanne Hinds’ research...Read More »

Understanding and Countering Online Behaviour

Understanding and Countering Online BehaviourUnderstanding and Countering Online Behaviour by CREST Researcher Adam Joinson. This poster gives an overview of the programme, centered around understanding and shaping online...Read More »

Mindmap: Networks

Mindmap Ideological TransmissionResearchers on networks, and especially social network analysis, use a variety of technical terms to describe the elements and structure of a network. But,...Read More »

The Bluffers Guide To Networks

Researchers on networks, and especially social network analysis, use a variety of technical terms to describe the elements and structure of a network. But,...Read More »

Why networks matter

Adam Joinson & Brittany Davidson outline why we should study networks, and how doing so can provide insights for security practitioners. What are networks?...Read More »

Is there something missing? Terror finances and the UK review of economic crime

CREST Researcher Nicholas Ryder analyses aspects of the Cabinet Office review of the UK’s responses to economic crime, asking what impact this could have...Read More »

The Criminal Finances Bill

In October 2016, the UK Conservative Government published the Criminal Finances Bill, which represents the most comprehensive legislative attempt to tackle financial crime. CREST...Read More »

Eliciting Information Online

…the internet often provides an ideal environment for those with malevolent intent to elicit information from victims. Emma Williams and Adam Joinson research scamming...Read More »

Funding streams for Islamic State - how the financial war on terror is no longer fit for purpose

How is the Islamic State funded and why are financial measures against them not working? In this webinar CREST researcher Professor Nic Ryder discusses...Read More »

Radicalization, the Internet and Cybersecurity: Opportunities and Challenges for HCI

The idea that the internet may enable an individual to become radicalized has been of increasing concern over the last two decades. Indeed, the...Read More »

Where does the Islamic State get its money?

The Islamic State has emerged as the largest and perhaps wealthiest terrorist group in the World. CREST researcher Nicholas Ryder identifies the funding streams...Read More »

How does phishing work?

Joanne Hinds writes about phishing attacks and what psychological research is revealing about how and why criminals successfully scam their victims. It is easy...Read More »

Introductory Guide: Phishing

Why do people click on phishing links? This guide introduces the main approaches to phishing and the reasons people fall for it. Phishing is...Read More »

Introductory Guide: Messaging Applications

A guide introducing the characteristics of messaging applications which may be useful for terrorist and criminal behaviour Messaging applications have become an increasingly popular...Read More »