Linguist is waging web war against ISIS and narcotics

Jessica Matchett, a senior analyst with Chenega International Consulting. She is based at Ulster University in Belfast.
Jessica Matchett, a senior analyst with Chenega International Consulting. She is based at Ulster University in Belfast.

A Belfast linguist has revealed details of her very 21st century profession - fighting cyber terrorists such as ISIS and the drugs trade via the internet.

Jessica Matchett, who is originally from Portadown, works for Chenega International Consulting (CIC), a subsidiary of Chenega Corporation’s Military, Intelligence and Operations Support (MIOS) strategic business unit, based at Ulster University in Belfast.

Her role as senior analyst involves researching cyber terrorism and developing eLearning courses with Ulster University.

Areas she currently researches include tracing cyber crime on the surface web, dark web and social media; detecting fake news hacks and online radicalisation and extremism.

“For example, groups such as the Taliban and Daesh / ISIS have official Twitter spokesmen,” she said. “These spokesmen tweet regularly about attacks. When you get to know certain styles of writing you can generally tell whether they are authentic or not.

“Many of these accounts disappear either because the account holder thinks such countermeasures help with their security or they are suspended by platform providers as quickly as they appear.

“Consequently, an important aspect of our research is to use our tools to find the accounts when they reappear. We estimate that 400 hours of video is uploaded by extremists per minute worldwide, which gives you some idea as to the scale of the problem.”

In a typical day she would use specialist software to collect data from public websites, blogs, fora, social media on.

“I assess the data sets and analytics, compile my findings into a report, forward onto management for review, then onto the client.”

One of her biggest successes has been in the war against drugs.

“We were able to identify several key players involved in the possession and distribution of narcotics and other illegal activities. This equipped our client with the ability to put in place targeted activity to deal with the problem.”

Jessica learnt fluent French and Spanish with intermediate German in her first degree and is currently taking beginners Arabic as well as a Certificate in Terrorism at St Andrew’s University.

She later completed a Masters in International Relations at Queen’s University, covering global terrorism, security and conflict intervention and leading into this career.

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