Terrorism Modeling Possible Using Social Networks: RMS

Chris Westfall
Chris Westfall

The frequency of a terrorist strike can be modeled using a combination of social network and “interdependent” statistical analysis, according to a report issued Wednesday by Risk Management Solutions (RMS),

“The ability to realistically model the annual frequency of major terrorist attacks can seem as impossible as the ability to forecast individual human actions,” the modeling firm says in its report. “However, RMS views frequency modeling to be a realistic and necessary component of terrorism risk management.”

The primary basis for understanding terrorism attack frequency lies within social network analysis, the report argues, saying that the frequency of attacks is “regulated by the universality of human social networks.”

“Communications between terrorists and those in their social networks can be intercepted by the law enforcement, security, and intelligence services to interdict plots before terrorists move toward their targets,” RMS says. The reliance on social network analysis also allows the model to focus less on “qualitative expert judgment” which, the report argues ,reduces “uncertainty.”

Once the social network of a terrorist cell is determined, other factors including successful counterterrorism measures and “political suppression” can be used in the model to determine frequency, the report says.

Using this method, RMS estimates that there are maximum of 10 planned attacks per year in the U.S. with a mean value of four “macro planned attacks.” The modeling firm describes the estimate “conservative.”

“[Over] a multi-year time horizon, this element of conservatism is warranted, as the activity rate for future attempted attacks is likely to remain high,” RMS states.