The spread of false information, unintentional misinformation, and intentional disinformation has evolved from a nuisance to a serious cyber threat. What was once seen as merely an issue for the political arena now poses real business risks. The World Economic Forum has identified the rapid proliferation of misinformation and disinformation as the #1 global risk in 2024. 

The coordinated narrative attacks on online channels enable the scale and impact of misinformation and disinformation campaigns on the Global 2000 and national security like never before. Organizations that fail to recognize narrative attacks as a cybersecurity risk leave themselves vulnerable. Cybersecurity teams must prioritize this emerging attack vector or risk being caught off guard.

I recently did a video podcast with Ed Amoroso of TAG Infosphere about the dangers of narrative attacks caused by misinformation and disinformation and how organizations can protect themselves. Ed and the TAG team are cybersecurity experts, and I value our conversations as they make us a better company. Here is a summary of our discussion below, but check out the video podcast in the above link to watch it on demand. 

Ed: What is a narrative attack?

Wasim: While we're all familiar with misinformation – the unintentional spread of false information) and disinformation (the intentional spread of false information – Blackbird.ai has identified a new and alarming trend they call “narrative attacks.” 

At Blackbird.AI, we define narrative attacks as “any assertion that shapes perception about a person, place or thing in the information ecosystem that can cause harm.” This goes beyond simple misinformation to coordinated campaigns intending to harm corporations and national security.

For example, an activist group could seize on a vague health concern posted online about a product and use bot networks and sock puppet accounts to amplify the narrative aggressively. Even if the original report was true, spinning it from a single post into a massive campaign targeting a corporation or an industry amplifies the risk and causes significant financial and reputational damage. 

Ed: Who is vulnerable to narrative attacks?

Wasim: Narrative attacks can target organizations, public figures, national security - anyone with an online presence. High-profile companies are frequent targets, as we’ve seen with recent activist campaigns against brands over environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues. Narrative attacks have cost consumer product companies billions in lost revenue and tanked stock prices almost overnight.

But activists aren’t the only ones weaponizing online narratives. Nation-state actors are also playing the disinformation game, and a real or false narrative about a data breach could devastate a company’s share price and consumer trust.

Ed: Why do current tools fall short? 

Wasim: Many organizations rely on social listening or threat intelligence tools to monitor online conversations. However, these tools were designed to see individual posts, not narratives, as they scale and become harmful. They need to gain the sophistication to detect coordinated disinformation campaigns and assess the actual risk to the business.

Without the ability to analyze the influence behind online narratives, identify bot activity spreading posts, and connect the dots between malicious actors, companies are caught unprepared when a small spark catches fire online. Current tools only help organizations play defense and lack visibility into harmful narratives. What’s needed is an AI-driven narrative Intelligence approach to see and get ahead of emerging threats.

Ed: How is Blackbird.AI fighting back? 

Wasim: Blackbird.AI was founded in 2017 to apply AI and machine learning to the growing misinformation and disinformation problem. Our flagship product, Constellation, collects and analyzes millions of data points online to identify narrative attacks as they emerge. 

The key is looking at the behaviors and patterns instead of focusing on what’s true or false. Our platform detects attempts to manipulate the reach and velocity of online narratives artificially - providing warning signs of an attack and the narratives that sprout out of them once the harmful narrative is in the public eye.

Constellation gives you visibility into trending narratives and analyzes their influence, who is propagating them, connections between accounts, and usage of automation. It generates threat scores assessing potential business impact so that security teams know which fires need immediate attention.

Blackbird.AI also offers Compass, a new product that lets anyone easily check any claim from social media, news articles, videos, and images. It provides instant context from thousands of reliable sources and provides a summary report with sources. This allows individuals and organizations to navigate misinformation and disinformation with context and clarity.

Ed: What Are the key takeaways for security leaders?

Wasim: Security leaders should ask themselves, are we aware of the:

  • Most harmful narratives?
  • The contagion effect of the narrative?
  • Bot-driven manipulation?
  • Hyper-agenda-driven threat actors behind the narratives?

If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, cybersecurity leaders are at substantial risk of a narrative attack blindsiding their organization.

Here is a strategy you should follow:

Monitor for Narrative Attacks: Threat Intelligence and social listening tools only look at posts (not narratives) and must be more comprehensive. Dedicated monitoring for coordinated narrative attacks is essential for getting ahead of threats and seeing narratives as they scale and become harmful.

Assess Business Risk: Focus on detecting attempts to manipulate narratives and analyzing real potential impact rather than debating factual accuracy.

Get Visibility: Understand who is targeting your company, how they are connecting and propagating narratives, and how automation, like bots, is accelerating reach. 

Move Faster: Early warning allows organizations to respond quickly to minimize damage rather than reacting after threats have spiraled out of control.

Consider Counter Narratives: Blackbird.AI talks about empowering organizations to take “opportunistic approaches” to counter disinformation within the context. Objective data also helps leaders make better strategic decisions during crises.

Add Narrative Intelligence Expertise: Security teams may need dedicated expertise in analyzing and defending against narrative attacks, just as they have experts focused on endpoints, networks, malware, and other cyber attack vectors.

Take This Seriously: Narrative attacks caused by misinformation and disinformation are a new threat vector that can cause financial and reputational harm to any organization. Companies that ignore this are putting their organization at substantial risk in today's information environment.

Misinformation and disinformation were considered problems for society and politics but less relevant to enterprise security. Today, they are urgent problems that require attention from security leaders. The weaponization of social platforms and amplification networks make narrative attacks a real emerging threat to organizations. If security teams aren't looking at this vector yet, they risk being blindsided by attacks on the corporate reputation and bottom line.

‍To learn more about how Blackbird.AI can help you in these situations, contact us here.

Wasim Khaled
BLACKBIRD.AI protects organizations from narrative attacks created by misinformation and disinformation that cause financial and reputational harm. Powered by our AI-driven proprietary technology, including the Constellation narrative intelligence platform, RAV3N Risk LMM, Narrative Feed, and our RAV3N Narrative Intelligence and Research Team, Blackbird.AI provides a disruptive shift in how organizations can protect themselves from what the World Economic Forum called the #1 global risk in 2024.