A relatively new mobile social media application, Yik Yak
, is prompting security concerns as teen users have been utilizing the anonymous platform to post various threats. Yik Yak is an app similar to Twitter, except its posts are anonymous and location based, meaning they can only be seen by other users within a 10 mile radius. Additionally, the posts only stay up for a limited amount of time before they disappear completely. The app was apparently made for “college-age students and above,” and it requires users to be at least 17 years old to download the service to their smartphones. However, middle school and high school students have been using the app to post bomb threats or cyber bullying messages. The app has prompted schools across the country to evacuate its students or issue lockdowns due to bomb threats and has now been disabled in the Chicago area:
MSA's Research and Intelligence Analysis (RIA) Group has been monitoring this situation closely and has identified the following implications:
- March 6, Chicago, IL: Four Chicago area high schools issued warnings to parents about Yik Yak over the past two weeks, with school officials urging parents to remove the app from their children’s phones. In response, Yik Yak’s co-founder stated the app would be disabled in the Chicago area.
- March 6, San Clemente, CA: A bomb threat posted to Yik Yak prompted a shelter in place at San Clemente High School. The local bomb squad searched the school until the situation was deemed safe.
- March 4, Marblehead, MA: Marblehead High School evacuated its students at 10:55am after school officials received information of a bomb threat posted to Yik Yak. The school was cleared and reopened by 12:15pm, but a second threat was received at 1:30pm and the school was evacuated again.
- January 31, Montrose and Olathe, CO: Montrose High School, Olathe High School and middle schools within the Montrose/Olathe district were forced to shelter in place after a bomb threat was posted to Yik Yak. The message reportedly stated, “I have a pipe bomb and I’m going to set it off during passing period 1053-1030 today.”
As a result of the Yik Yak app, there has been a growing trend in bomb threats targeting middle schools and high schools, which has led to evacuations, lockdowns and a “drain on public safety resources.” Due to the anonymity associated with the app, it is difficult to identify the source of the threat and hold the perpetrator accountable, making it an attractive forum for young people who may want to disrupt the school day. Out of an abundance of caution, schools and police continue to take the threats seriously, even though none have been credible thus far. At this time, there does not seem to be any indication that threats posted to Yik Yak will target businesses or corporations as the app seems to have a young user base. However, security personnel should be mindful of how threats can evolve through social media applications and networks. Social media monitoring can be a useful tool to identify or mitigate against potential threats.
MSA Security's Research and Intelligence Analysis Group provides real-time intelligence on events and worldwide threats as they evolve.
(Image Credit: yikyakapp.com)