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Securing the Super Bowl

When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers face off against each other at Super Bowl LIV next Sunday, all eyes will NOT be on the field.

In secure command centers, field outposts, aircraft, vehicles and on foot, hundreds of security professionals will be diligently watching for any sign of threats on Game Day, augmented by thousands of cameras and sensors capable of detecting everything from chemical and biological agents to conventional explosives and suspicious activities.

The security teams deployed inside Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and surrounding areas will consist of law enforcement and emergency personnel from the host city and nearby municipalities, as well as regional and state government officials and personnel from federal government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and certain ‘three-letter’ agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. After all, the Super Bowl is routinely designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE) due to its attractiveness as a terrorist target.

Nor is this a one-afternoon event. The Super Bowl is in reality a week-long affair, chock full of VIP parties, fan fests and of course the multi-day Super Bowl Experience, which kicked off on January 25th.

At Haystax, we’re proud to have been entrusted with security monitoring at eight of the last 11 Super Bowls. In each case, Haystax augmented its off-the-shelf analytics software platform by assembling a team of specialists who uploaded data and photos of critical assets within the Super Bowl perimeter, assessed key buildings for likely threats and potential vulnerabilities, entered data on hundreds of scheduled events, established channels to monitor digital media feeds, deployed mobile field reporting apps and much more — with all of the data precisely geo-located on digital maps for enhanced domain awareness.

Here are some examples of prior Haystax Super Bowl deployments:

Super Bowl LI

In 2017 in Houston, Haystax helped security teams and first responders maintain total situational awareness and get ahead of their most serious threats. Using advanced analytics, the Haystax team looked for behavioral patterns that might indicate an attack. Data sources included chatter on a ‘dark web’ site, stolen vehicle data and suspicious activity reports. Each of these data points represented risk indicators, and bringing the pieces together into a single analytic environment enabled security decision-makers to get a better grip on whether the likelihood of a terrorist attack was going up or down. This was a classic example of analytically ‘connecting the dots.’

Super Bowl 50

In the San Francisco Bay Area during the 2016 Super Bowl, the Haystax team pulled in data from a number of sources, including police and fire dispatches, weather reports, maps, news agency articles, social media activity and video camera feeds. Finely tuned algorithms then processed the huge amounts of collected sensor data, which was studied in real-time by analysts to deliver critical information in the form of actionable intelligence alerts to the event’s key security decision-makers. In Santa Clara, site of Levi’s Stadium, a myriad of public safety and security agencies leveraged the Haystax software to keep an eye on the threat landscape, giving first responders a shared operating platform – and a leg up in responding to potential incidents. It was used many times throughout the week, including during an unexpected protest by taxi drivers that disrupted travel to the game.

Super Bowl XLVIII

The 2014 Super Bowl and more than 200 related events in the preceding week spanned police jurisdictions in two states (New Jersey and New York), several counties and multiple cities, and of course several federal agencies as well. The Haystax system made headlines for its central role in enabling analysts and federal intelligence officials to assess a potential biological incident that turned out to be a series of envelopes filled with a harmless white powder, averting major disruption to key events.

Super Bowl XLVII

During the now-infamous power blackout that occurred in the middle of the 2013 game, Haystax software in the New Orleans Emergency Operations Center discovered Twitter postings referring to ‘power outages’ at the venue, BEFORE the actual outage occurred. All related suspicious traffic and information was forwarded to an FBI representative at the EOC, who quickly determined the threat was not credible or even linked to the actual blackout. As a result, the game could proceed without any major fan disruptions once power was restored.

According to an intelligence director at Super Bowl 50, “Having the ability to use Haystax applications — where you can literally take a quick note or a snapshot and say this is the situation right here, right now — clears up those radio channels and allows people to feel more freely about reporting things that they may otherwise not have reported until things escalate.”

Nor does Haystax limit itself to championship sporting events. In the past we additionally have managed security awareness for other NSSE events like the 2015 U.S. visit of Pope Francis, as well as national political conventions and high profile gatherings like the Oscars and the Indy 500.

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Note: Want to read a play-by-play account of an earlier Haystax Super Bowl deployment? Download this free white paper on how we secured Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

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