Preventing School Threats
Types of threats we address in schools:
Our first product is called SAM. It first hit the market in 2017. We worked with state police, FBI, local PD, and school officials to develop it. Senator Chuck Schumer funded our first project by providing funding to a school to obtain our SAM product. At that time, no one could figure out how to stop the swatting calls. We did.
2022 was a Turning Point
In 2022 things changed with the Uvalde shootings. The number of threats has risen dramatically. In addition, we now have quite a few terror/criminal organizations that make threats as a service. They charge $50-$75 per threat and offer discounts for return customers and volume. BTW: in 2017, our first customer was the target of an overseas group that charged $25, per school threat. The number of these groups has grown dramatically (google Torswats, as one example). Today state-sponsored groups are believed to be in the game as well. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, they sent bomb threats to 1,000 schools in Ukraine. The technique is called the “hybrid war” ¹.
Before we tracked all this data for our internal use to make our products better, in the last two years, we realized the public is more aware of the swatting problem, and when we would tell them how much a swatting or school threat event costs, they were very surprised. In the last year, we became more focused on researching and collecting information on as many school threats as we could. Recently we started to provide the data to the press, and it has resulted in a great deal of positive attention.
SAM (School Access Manager)
Our SAM product uses pattern recognition to identify good and bad calls. We understand the patterns associated with school swatting calls.
BTW: Our database has identified 1.5 million bad calls, resulting in thousands of patterns.
Other School Threats
Over time we started looking at more than just threats that were called in. We realized if we could prevent other threats, our solution would protect more students. The two other threats that we were seeing were social media threats and notes left in schools (mostly in bathrooms). We looked at several technologies for the social media solution but found that the main solution was to track keywords on social media posts. Social media companies became concerned that if they let law enforcement monitor all keywords on their platform and if young users found out, they would stop using the platform. As a result, social media companies stopped sharing that data without the user giving written permission. As you can imagine, no teenager or adult is going to agree to let you monitor them. The products that were in the market that did keyword searches started to lose customers because of social media companies cutting them off.
Addressing the notes left in school was a different problem. Most solutions today put cameras outside of the bathrooms, and if a note is left in a restroom, the school goes through the videos to determine who was in the restroom before the note was discovered.
School Threat Prevention Program
School Posters - We came up with a different, proactive prevention approach. We studied thousands of school threats and determined that most were viewed as harmless pranks. Even though we had a solution to prevent swatting, most adults and students still viewed most school threats as pranks. Our approach was to develop a database that could put a value on the threat. We felt if we could show the cost of a threat, it would start to change the perception from a prank to something more serious. We met with just under 50 school business officials and explained our methodology. By the time we were done, we had a formula that was acceptable. It took a great deal of work because every state has different requirements for the number of days and the number of hours. It took us over a year to collect all of that. Then we had to collect all the school budgets to apply our formula. That is a huge ongoing task.
Apple Airdrop Threat Prevention
One of the newer threats is sending Apple Airdrop messages with threatening messages in them. The typical event is a student sends a picture of a gun while they are in the lunchroom to everyone saying, “I am going to shoot up the school at x time today.
Unfortunately, even Apple does not have a way to track who sent an airdrop message. The students found out the messages are not traceable, and it is becoming a bigger issue by the month. Now airlines are having a problem with people sending Airdrop threats on planes. The airlines have started to chat with us about solving this.
We developed an AirDrop product that keeps a log of who sent an airdrop message and the picture they sent. Our software allows a school or an airline to identify the sender of an airdrop message in a matter of seconds.
911 Centers - Threat Prevention Program
We have started helping 911 centers make it harder for unwanted calls to be sent by overseas actors looking to deliver school threats.
Plus, we are working on other products that will address upcoming threats that haven’t become mainstream yet.