The Threat of Vehicular Attacks is Growing. AI Can Help Stop Them.

The Threat of Vehicular Attacks is Growing. AI Can Help Stop Them.

In October 2017, Sayfullo Saipov carried out an ISIS-inspired vehicular attack in New York City that was the deadliest terror attack in NYC since 9/11. This attack was just one in a recent global pattern of vehicular attacks that have proven to be a growing threat worldwide, impacting countries such as the U.S., the U.K, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Spain in 2017. Since 2009, 169 terror attacks have involved vehicles as a weapon, and since 2006, 194 people have been killed with 1,048 injured globally in vehicular terror attacks. Because of this, vehicular attacks have become one of the most dangerous forms or terror. The more we understand about what makes these attacks soft targets, what motivates would-be-attackers and how we can safeguard our communities from them in the future, the closer we get to mitigating these threats.

Soft Targets

Vehicular attacks are particularly concerning because they often strike “soft targets,” or easily accessible locations containing large numbers of people with little security measures to protect them. In fact, from 1968 to 2005, 73% of terrorist attacks worldwide struck soft targets while only 27% percent of attacks struck hard targets. In the U.S. alone, 90% of attacks were aimed at soft targets from 2001 to 2005.

The reason vehicular attacks occur so frequently is due to a lack of known prevention techniques. Three main factors make vehicular attacks particularly hard to prevent: the minimal preparations required make perpetrators hard to detect, the accessibility of vehicles, and the difficulty of fully securing open pedestrian areas close to roadways.

External Motivators

Perpetrators have used this style of attack for numerous reasons, including religious extremism, far-right extremism, anger, and one particular attack may have been linked to the influence of drugs. No matter the reason, these attacks can be deadly and have large implications.

Religious Extremism

Religious extremism is one of the most prominent reasons individuals are motivated to carry out a vehicular attack. In 2010, Al Qaeda’s magazine, Inspire called for followers to use vehicles to “mow down the enemies of Allah” in crowded locations. Similarly, In 2014, ISIS made a similar call to run over nonbelievers with vehicles. Since then, there has been a growing wave of vehicular attacks across Western Europe and the U.S., with 18 attacks since 2014, and 11 in 2017 alone. 

From January 2014 through May 2017, 7% of all radical religious extremism-related terror plots in Western Europe were vehicular, yet they caused 45% of injuries and 37% of deaths. While most of these attacks were claimed by ISIS or individuals inspired by radical extremism, other groups have been known to use this attack method.

Radical Beliefs

Far-right extremists have also utilized vehicular attacks. One of these instances included the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia. During this attack James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his car into pedestrians in a crowded street, killing one and injuring at least 35 others.

Anger, Drugs & More

Some of the other attackers in Houston and New York were motivated by anger, while Richard Rojas may have carried out his 2017 attack in Times Square under the influence of drugs. The media has hypothesized that Alek Minassian’s vehicular attack in Toronto may have been motivated by anti-female beliefs. These examples demonstrate that vehicular attacks are becoming an increasing threat to public safety from individuals inspired by a variety of ideologies.

Preventative Measures

Given the accessibility of vehicles and the lack of training needed to carry out a vehicular attack, these threats are incredibly hard to predict or prevent. The New York Police Department and the FBI have implemented programs to make owners of rental vehicle businesses aware of suspicious behaviors that could potentially be related to attack planning. In an effort to reduce the threat, the British government has considered checking names of individuals renting vehicles against terrorist watch lists. However, in the 11 vehicular attacks carried out in Western Europe since 2014, only five involved rented vehicles – the others were either owned or stolen.

Additionally, physical safety measures such as bollards or steel tire spikes in public places can stop a vehicular attack but may not entirely prevent one. The recent redesign of Times Square in New York City included 196 bollards, granite benches, and raised granite curb caps to protect the large pedestrian area. Even with the added security, these measures did not thwart an incident there in May 2017. In this attack one person was killed and 20 injured by a vehicle aimed at pedestrians. Officials do agree, though, that these barriers stopped the vehicle from continuing after it hit a bollard, likely saving more from being killed or injured.

Given that vehicular attacks are highly effective in terms of fatalities and injuries, new methods are needed to help identify these threats in advance, allowing law enforcement to thwart vehicular attacks before they occur.

Lumina’s risk sensing capabilities illuminate areas of emergent unrest by monitoring online behavioral patterns consistent with the means and motivation of attack planning. By predictively identifying these online behavioral patterns, Lumina empowers organizations and venues to identify and mitigate potential threats to their physical security.

Predicting and Preventing Suicide Through AI

Predicting and Preventing Suicide Through AI

It’s not always easy for young people to articulate their problems. A student who regularly attends class and receives good grades could also be fighting an addiction. A teen constantly smiling for Instagram photos could actually be depressed. For friends and family of the person struggling, recognizing the warning signs of distress might not come easily.

 

Artificial intelligence can act as a voice for people dealing with various internal issues. It can also notify loved ones or even officials when a person needs help. The following two stories serve as examples of potential tragedies that could be avoided thanks to artificial intelligence:

 

Using Artificial Intelligence to Fight Cyber Bullying

Hailey was in her dorm room staring at her phone. A stranger had posted another fake story about her. Hailey knew if she reported it, the imposter would just create a new account or use a website that allows anonymous posts.

Hailey is one of more than 20% of college students being cyberbullied. She struggled with bullying and depression throughout her first two years of college before her friends and family were able to help her, but she could have gotten help a lot sooner with artificial intelligence. As soon as the menacing messages appeared, cutting-edge predictive analytics paired with human analysis could have combatted the issue much earlier.

 

Catch Suicidal Tendencies Early with Artificial Intelligence

Ana had been a star student in high school. She held a part-time job, ran track and was in a serious relationship. During her freshman year of college, she became increasingly depressed. One night she texted heart emojis to all her friends, wrote a goodbye letter to her parents, and attempted suicide. Ana’s friends found her and called 911 in time.

While she was lucky, suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among Ana’s age group. Ana, and so many others like her, could have benefited from help and treatment as soon as predictive analytics powered by artificial intelligence flagged her online searches and habits as possible suicidal tendencies.

 

Meet Radiance.

As mental health problems become more common, and troubling behavior migrates online where it is harder to identify using traditional methods, many schools are struggling to adapt. To face these new challenges, innovative solutions are needed.

What if a sophisticated system could immediately alert student services to the problems their students face, like what should have happened for Hailey and Ana. The idea of counselors and health care professionals being guided to students’ darkest struggles is not some distant future. It’s possible today thanks to Lumina – a Predictive Analytics firm which uses artificial intelligence and open-source data to combat some of society’s most pressing issues. Powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence and human analysis, Lumina’s newest solution can identify harmful behavior online and alert people who can help.

By working with schools, Lumina can help counselors, student services, and even security officers adapt to new digital landscapes related to bullying, mental health, drug misuse, and other challenges. With new threats emerging every day, taking full advantage of artificial intelligence will allow schools to meet these challenges head-on.   

 

3 Reasons Why Today’s Music Events are so Vulnerable to Terror

3 Reasons Why Today’s Music Events are so Vulnerable to Terror

The very nature of popular music events makes them attractive for terrorists and extremely difficult to defend. Here are a few reasons why these targets aren’t going away.Open-air festivals and concerts provide a particular challenge for law enforcement officials charged with keeping people safe. Violent extremists have targeted these events to sow chaos and destruction in places where people should feel comfort and enjoyment. 

Sprawling Event Venues & Loud Volume

Today’s event venues are often held in large areas of open space. In such circumstances, there are simply too many people unprotected from outside elements. Following an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017, Salman Abedi, a British citizen of Libyan descent, detonated a suicide bomb during concertgoer’s exit from the show.  More than 800 people were injured, and Abedi took the lives of 22 individuals.  Abedi had been a “subject of interest” for MI5 in 2015 and had been reported to authorities as many as five times by leaders of the Muslim community in Manchester, but the service had no reason to take further action at the time. The attack took place at the Manchester Arena, where approximately 14,200 people were attending the event.  The improvised explosive device, packed with nuts, bolts, and screws to act as shrapnel, was detonated in the foyer of the arena following the last performance of the evening.  The bomb was so deadly that it killed people over 65 feet away from the explosion’s source.  The attack had added tragedy due to the type of casualties: out of the 139 people who needed hospitalization or were severely injured, 79 were children. 

Cultural Significance

Soft targets like music festivals and concerts offer terrorists practical and symbolic value. The symbolism of attacking Westerners who are enjoying themselves is what makes it an attractive target.  On November 13, 2015, three gunman stormed into the Bataclan theater in Paris and killed 89 people attending a heavy metal concert.  In a night that was coordinated to the last detail, the brunt of the damage came in the tight, dark spaces of the concert hall. There was little security, as the perpetrators killed three people on the sidewalk in front of the venue and then simply walked in to carry out the rest of their attack. The killers were part of an ISIS cell operating out of Belgium and France and had come in response to French and American airstrikes in Syria. In the nearly three years following the incident, Paris’ music scene has almost returned to normal, but the ubiquitous police presence is a reminder that danger still remains.

Masses of People

Events with large crowds will always be attractive targets to extremists, whether the reason stems from religious extremism or a political motive. In the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, 58 people were killed when Stephen Paddock opened fireon a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 22,000 people were in attendance when Paddock began spraying bullets indiscriminately into the crowd. When a threat goes undetected before the attack, it can be very difficult to thwart once it is in motion due to the unorganized chaos that follows. Frighteningly, Paddock had reserved hotel rooms overlooking the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago a few months before the Vegas massacre and was reported to have searched online for information regarding Fenway Park and associated Boston music festivals.

Despite the efforts of officials in recent years to prevent attacks on soft targets, large-scale casualties have still occurred at musical events with an alarming frequency. Officials recognize that these targets are difficult to harden by their very nature. Therefore, new approaches are needed to detect and monitor relevant activity that may indicate the planning of such attacks.

Lumina’s risk sensing capabilities illuminate areas of emergent unrest by monitoring online behavioral patterns consistent with the means and motivation of attack planning. By predictively identifying these online behavioral patterns, Lumina empowers organizations and venues to identify and mitigate potential threats to their physical security.

oyment. 

Sprawling Event Venues & Loud Volume

Today’s event venues are often held in large areas of open space. In such circumstances, there are simply too many people unprotected from outside elements. Following an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017, Salman Abedi, a British citizen of Libyan descent, detonated a suicide bomb during concertgoer’s exit from the show.  More than 800 people were injured, and Abedi took the lives of 22 individuals.  Abedi had been a “subject of interest” for MI5 in 2015 and had been reported to authorities as many as five times by leaders of the Muslim community in Manchester, but the service had no reason to take further action at the time. The attack took place at the Manchester Arena, where approximately 14,200 people were attending the event.  The improvised explosive device, packed with nuts, bolts, and screws to act as shrapnel, was detonated in the foyer of the arena following the last performance of the evening.  The bomb was so deadly that it killed people over 65 feet away from the explosion’s source.  The attack had added tragedy due to the type of casualties: out of the 139 people who needed hospitalization or were severely injured, 79 were children. 

Cultural Significance

Soft targets like music festivals and concerts offer terrorists practical and symbolic value. The symbolism of attacking Westerners who are enjoying themselves is what makes it an attractive target.  On November 13, 2015, three gunman stormed into the Bataclan theater in Paris and killed 89 people attending a heavy metal concert.  In a night that was coordinated to the last detail, the brunt of the damage came in the tight, dark spaces of the concert hall. There was little security, as the perpetrators killed three people on the sidewalk in front of the venue and then simply walked in to carry out the rest of their attack. The killers were part of an ISIS cell operating out of Belgium and France and had come in response to French and American airstrikes in Syria. In the nearly three years following the incident, Paris’ music scene has almost returned to normal, but the ubiquitous police presence is a reminder that danger still remains.

Masses of People

Events with large crowds will always be attractive targets to extremists, whether the reason stems from religious extremism or a political motive. In the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, 58 people were killed when Stephen Paddock opened fireon a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 22,000 people were in attendance when Paddock began spraying bullets indiscriminately into the crowd. When a threat goes undetected before the attack, it can be very difficult to thwart once it is in motion due to the unorganized chaos that follows. Frighteningly, Paddock had reserved hotel rooms overlooking the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago a few months before the Vegas massacre and was reported to have searched online for information regarding Fenway Park and associated Boston music festivals.

Despite the efforts of officials in recent years to prevent attacks on soft targets, large-scale casualties have still occurred at musical events with an alarming frequency. Officials recognize that these targets are difficult to harden by their very nature. Therefore, new approaches are needed to detect and monitor relevant activity that may indicate the planning of such attacks.

Lumina’s risk sensing capabilities illuminate areas of emergent unrest by monitoring online behavioral patterns consistent with the means and motivation of attack planning. By predictively identifying these online behavioral patterns, Lumina empowers organizations and venues to identify and mitigate potential threats to their physical security.