The Growing Threat of Alt-Social: Hacking the System to Stay Ahead of Virality 

In anticipation of GSX, we sat down with presenters of upcoming sessions in order to get a better understanding of the topics at hand. This week we are featuring, “The Growing Threat of Alt-Social: Hacking the System to Stay Ahead of Virality” presented by Rebecca Jones, COO & Co-Founder at Pyrra Technologies Inc., and Welton Chang, CEO and Co-Founder at Pyrra Technologies Inc. Read on for what they had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2023

Q: How did you become interested in your topic? 

RJ: I’ve always been fascinated by the role of disinformation – propaganda – how it’s used to convince, rally and justify.  The serious damage it can do. As humans we have taken this to the next level with social media, and we have really seen it escalate in the US following the election (and electoral loss) of President Trump. That’s when I really started to take interest in how alternative social media is being used as a weapon against individuals, minority groups, companies and even governments.  

Q: Tell us about your presentation and why should security professionals have this topic on their radar? 

RJ: When it comes to the risks and dangers of alt-social we find that the security, risk and intelligence professionals who are all over it, are the ones who have already taken serious hits. Their principals, their companies have already been victims of malicious disinformation and reputation damage, victims of doxxing, victims of physical violence, victims of hate speech.   But many in the field are still learning.  Maybe they have heard of a couple of high profile examples, maybe they have heard of Telegram and 4Chan…but they don’t yet know what threats they should really be monitoring for, and how to stay ahead of them when they emerge.   Our presentation will help with that. 

Q: What advice you would give security professionals interested in this topic? 

WC: Unmoderated social media is a rapidly evolving ecosystem fed by disinformation, controversy, anger and hate. There is a site for everything: conspiracies, antisemitism, racism, targeting of lgbtqi+ people, hatred of women… the list goes on.  Security professionals cannot be expected to keep up to date with the evolution of this ecosystem, nor can they realistically collect and respond to these threats the way they have always done – we need to evolve even faster than the ecosystem to stay ahead of the threats. This session will help you to better understand the threat landscape, how you can better respond and arm you with information to educate executives as to why this is a problem now. 

Q: How do you see this issue evolving in the next 2-5 years? 

WC: Over the next 5 years, we expect this ecosystem to grow to an unmanageable size and the users of this ecosystem to become increasingly more tech-savvy, deploying all the tools in their arsenal to cause serious harm.  We expect an exponential number of businesses and their executives to fall victim to malicious disinformation campaigns resulting in significant reputational damage, financial losses and even physical harm. This problem is about to reach a tipping point – and within the next few years, companies will be viewing the threat of disinformation the same way they view cyber threats.