DENVER — Foreign influence operations, including covert actions by foreign governments to influence political sentiment or public discourse, can increasingly be predicted and tracked using open-source information, industry experts said.

Darryl Murdock, national programs account executive at ManTech, said the company developed a model that uses open-source intelligence to measure the level of foreign influence in any country in the world.

This is an area of interest to the U.S. government, as agencies seek to tap into the growing availability of data and artificial intelligence to generate intelligence, Murdock told SpaceNews

ManTech is a U.S. government contractor that has multiple contracts with intelligence agencies. Murdock said the company developed a foreign influence intelligence prototype in response to interest from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. NGA issued a sample task order for industry, said Murdock, and the prototype was funded internally by ManTech.

“So we took that idea and built a minimum viable product using open source information,” he said. “We looked at how we could actually predict what non U.S. actors are doing.” 

The same model can be applied to any country, he said. “We looked at Latin America and also at activities that are happening in Ukraine.”

The primary source of data for the project was a free platform called the GDELT database, or Global Database of Events, Language and Tone, said Murdock. Hosted by Google, the GDELT Project monitors the world’s broadcast, print, and web news in over 100 languages and identifies the people, locations, organizations, themes, sources, emotions, counts, quotes, images and events.

“We focused on critical infrastructure,” said Murdock. A lot of open source information can be tied specifically to activities at ports, investments in communications systems and facilities. “So you follow the money,” he said. “You know that somebody put their money where their mouth is if they actually invest in some level of critical infrastructure.”

This type of insight is not necessarily new but can now be developed relatively quickly and inexpensively using software and AI tools, he said. 

ManTech called the prototype for tracking foreign influence “Project Syracuse,” named after the Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse.

At the GEOINT Symposium in Aurora, Colorado, ManTech unveiled its new machine learning, AI and data analytics platform, named Archimedes. The wizard-driven platform was used to develop Project Syracuse. 

“The beauty of open source information is that there is a ton of it,” said Murdock. “Open source data is ubiquitous.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...