Travel Risk Management

Is It Safe To Go To Russia for Attend The World Cup?

Frank Figliuzzi is the Chief Operating Officer of ETS Risk Management, Inc., a global provider of travel security, Travel Risk Management, executive protection, threat intelligence and major event security. Frank is the former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, and recent head of Investigations, Special Event Security and Workplace Violence Prevention for General Electric.

How safe is it to visit Russia?

Virtually no travel to Russia is without risk.  Russia travel risk assessment is driven by three factors:

  1. Location specific inherent risks;
  2. The nature of the travel;
  3. And, the individual traveller.

For example, hate crimes against foreigners, minorities, and the LGBT community occur in Russia because of an apparent tolerance for such conduct as reflected in weak legislative prohibitions and an unwillingness to prosecute. Deadly terror attacks happen in Moscow, the north Caucasus and, most recently, St. Petersburg because of long-standing organic ethnic, religious and regional strife such as the Chechen/Russian conflict including possible sympathies for ISIS within the Chechen region.

Travel in connection with special events or sporting matches raises the already well documented daily risk of tourists targeted by pickpockets and muggers, often by organized gangs in major cities. Individual travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent or who simply “don’t look like they belong” in the eyes of certain locals should exercise particularly enhanced vigilance.

Business travellers should understand that electronic devices are frequently targeted for intrusion via malware and other means in an attempt by the Russian intelligence services to access proprietary corporate information for a competitive edge.

Despite the inherent risks, travellers who make the effort to seek the “ground truth” of their destination through their own government alerts, reading current country risk profiles offered by established security firms, and who maintain vigilance and a low-profile, can easily mitigate the risks and enjoy a memorable trip to a vast and proud nation.

How safe will it be to go to the World Cup?

Travelers to the World Cup are advised of the significant risk posed by organized hooligans who seek to engage in brutal fights with opposing fans from countries like Britain, France and other nations.

Russian hooliganism is marked by elements distinct from traditional hooliganism in the UK and Europe. Law enforcement agencies with decades of experience in securing soccer competitions have documented observations of Russian thugs who are highly trained and prepared to fight. These hooligans physically train in body-building and fight techniques and they make a point of not drinking alcohol during matches to maintain an advantage over their UK or European counterparts.

Disturbingly, Russian government leaders seemingly encourage such behaviour with Russian Ministers quoted saying “Keep up the good work”, and Putin himself observing how Russian fans had quite literally beaten the English fans.

However, a major world event such as the World Cup is likely to be secured by the highest level of Russian national security agencies who understand the negative impact globally of any major incident during the World Cup.  The largely incident-free Winter Olympics in Sochi, even under threat of terrorism, is evidence that Russian can secure a major event when it chooses.

What are the biggest risks?

Opportunistic crimes such as pick-pocketing and other thefts are common in major Russian cities. This risk includes theft from hotel rooms and theft from vehicles. Cases are well-documented of visitors whose drinks were spiked at bars for the purpose of robbery, rape or other violence. Unconscious victims are often left outside sometimes with life-threatening implications especially in the cold winter months. Further reports exist of criminals impersonating police officers for the purpose of harassing and robbing tourists.

What are the overlooked risks?

Travel Risk Management

Travel Risk Management

Travellers to Russia often overlook or dismiss the reality that the Russian government is in near total control of infrastructure which facilitates intelligence service targeting of western business and government travellers to include remote intrusion into their devices, or, even outright theft of their laptops, smart phones and other devices.

Similarly, hotel frequented by western travellers are particularly notorious for intelligence collection, entrapment and attempts to compromise western business and government visitors. This fact poses a dilemma for travellers seeking to avoid such targeting by possibly choosing a local, non-westernized hotel.

However, such a choice often increases the odds of opportunistic crimes such as theft or assault and can antagonize the intelligence services who may become perturbed by your diversion from the usual hotel chains.

How should people mitigate this?

Risk mitigation remains similar to advice given for most international travel.

Specifically, avoid open display of wealth, including expensive jewellery, and anything that may identify you as a tourist. Avoid walking alone at night. Be vigilant for pickpockets in main tourist areas and around the main railway stations, and keep your passport tightly secured. Always buy your own drinks at the bar and keep them in sight at all times.

To mitigate the risk of being victimized by “fake” police officers, always insist on seeing identification if you are stopped.

What duty of care provisions should employers sending staff to Russia have in place? What should employees ask for?

Business leaders sending employees to Russia are advised to include professional risk management measures into the travel plan.

These measures should include physical security guidance, protection of intellectual property, and potential medical consultation and even evacuation. The addition of enhanced security enables your team to focus on business objectives within minimal constraints or distractions.  Employees should ask for loaner devices to take that contain only the data needed for that trip and bring a reliable communication device.

Employees traveling for lengthy periods, particularly to more remote areas of Russia, should understand that the local hospital blood supply may not be screened for HIV and other diseases as is the standard in the US, UK and other nations. Therefore, employees should ask about medical evacuation plans in the event of an unexpected need for surgery.

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insider threat programs

How to Build an Insider Threat Program

What your company spent years to develop can be lost in an instant at the hands of one bad intentioned employee. The statistics on employee theft of intellectual property (IP) paint a dark portrait of what employees do when disgruntled, moving on, or stockpiling for a rainy day. William Evanina, the U.S. government’s National Counterintelligence Executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says, “As a corporate leader, the single most important investment in protecting your proprietary information and sensitive trade secrets is developing a viable and enterprise-wide insider threat programs”.

To paraphrase the well-worn mantra on hacking and apply it to the pandemic of Insider Threat: There are two types of companies, those whose employees have already stolen IP, and those who simply don’t know it yet. No matter where your company is along its journey toward an effective insider threat program, success or failure is measured by the last harmful egress of research, formulas, algorithms, strategies, service manuals, or other critical business information (CBI). Whether your effort to detect, deter, and prevent CBI loss has become an industry model or is still a nascent vision, three common components can help build a new plan or help review and adapt a mature program.

Security professionals exploring insider threat fundamentals can take a lesson from first year journalism students. Budding reporters are trained to instinctively repeat basic questions designed to get to the truth, and three of those questions drive formation of all Insider Threat programs: “What?”; “Where?”; and, “Who?” Security leaders should make it their practice to ask these three questions of their staff, key partners, and operational components of their companies. What is it that most merits protection? Where is this most critical information located, physically and in cyber space? Who amongst us requires regular access to CBI?

As the past head of counterintelligence for the FBI, a former corporate security executive for one of the world’s largest companies, and now a risk management consultant, it no longer surprises me to hear new security professionals struggle to answer these basic questions. Security practitioners sometimes perpetuate the long-standing C-suite myth that “security’s got this” when it comes to everything from a missing gym bag to a missing gyroscope. The perception that someone, somewhere, must have already addressed, planned for, or is in the process of resolving the concern of the moment, provides comfort to our senior executives and job assurance for those of us in the profession. But the comfort is dangerous and the assurance is hollow. Rather, we should work to dispel the notion that security can or should protect everything. To do that, the savvy security executive endeavors to first identify and then deeply understand exactly what represents the future of the company, where it resides, and which employees have stewardship of this lifeblood. Done correctly, in partnership with key stakeholders including Human Resources (HR), Legal, IT Risk, and Engineering, Science or Business leaders, this approach provides laser-like focus on what really matters, shares ownership across components, and generates confidence in a process designed to protect against existential threats to jobs and share price.

Build Your Team

Successful implementation of insider threat programs hinge on assembling the right team. IP protection is a team sport and should not be carried out by one component alone. The team requires willful senior level participants who are convinced the time is right to defend the company against the threat from within. Leadership is often motivated to take this step by a crisis sparked by the loss or near loss of a trade secret at the hands of a departing or on-board employee or contractor. But waiting for such a crisis is not advisable. Gather data on losses suffered within your industry, supply chain, or customers. Talk to FBI corporate outreach contacts and ask for examples of economic espionage targeting your technologies. Talk to HR about where employees go when they depart and ask those employee’s former managers whether cumulative losses pose a concern.

insider threat programs

Meet one-on-one with a senior thought leader in Legal, IT Risk, HR, Business Development, or Research and ask them to partner with you to assemble a team and form an Insider Threat program. Next, meet unilaterally with each proposed team member to brief them on the threat and risk to proprietary data and seek their support to more strongly defend the company. In some non-defense corporate cultures, using the phrase “Insider Threat” can still generate privacy, trust, and culture concerns. In one large company, a security leader’s proposal to discuss such a program was met with this question from the head of HR, “Do you not think we should trust our employees?” The security leader responded, “I do, and I think we should have mechanisms in place to defend our trust.” Meeting first with each partner will allow you to listen to their concerns. Limit the team to five or six decision makers from key functions. When the team is assembled start asking the first of the Journalism 101 questions.

What?

Whether a newly appointed security leader or seasoned veteran, the question at the heart of IP protection is, “What exactly are we protecting?” Responses provided by security and business leaders to this single question help measure the need for an Insider Threat initiative or the maturity of an existing program. Common responses from the security ranks include; “I’m protecting these buildings”, “I’m protecting this campus”, “I’m protecting people”. Even security professionals in large, sophisticated corporations frequently do not cite, “ideas”, “research”, “technologies”, or “critical employees”, when asked what they protect. Follow up questions on which campuses, buildings, or people are more critical than others are sometimes met with silence or criticism that the question implies some employees are more important than others. One long-tenured security leader responded by displaying his daily automated reports advising him which doors, hallways and offices were entered, but, he could neither articulate which company functions occurred there nor how his data was relevant.

Importantly, your team should pose the “What” question to key business leaders including the CEO, General Counsel, CFO, Supply Chain leader, Research or Engineering executives, Business Development or Sales heads, and corporate audit manager. Provide context by framing the question as an attempt to identify the small subset of proprietary information that would most damage the company if it fell into the wrong hands. Various formulas and thresholds can be customized to help guide this discussion and quantify the degree of damage to finances, share price and reputational risk.

Where?

Security professionals can only truly protect that which they know is there. Once CBI is identified, the team must learn where it resides, in both physical and cyber space. In large companies with thousands of employees and facilities, this question is more easily asked than answered. Yet, the answer is vital to learning how your CBI is exposed. One large company locating its CBI discovered a proprietary formula sitting in an open folder accessible by its entire employee population. Audit of the folder revealed that employees in high risk nations had visited the folder without any valid reason.

When countering the insider threat, the physical and the cyber security of CBI must be viewed as one holistic endeavor. The behavior of data and the behavior of humans are inextricably linked and the partnership between IT Risk and Physical Security should be seamless. Once aware that specific buildings, offices, or laboratories contain CBI, protocols and checklists for enhanced safeguarding can be drafted. This initiative counters more than just the internal threat. Upon learning the location of a sensitive manufacturing process one company found the process was part of a public tour route.

Who?

The seemingly simple “Who” question can generate more consternation than the previous two questions combined, particularly from your partners in HR and Labor & Employment Law. While answering the first two questions is often labor intensive, this last query raises issues of policy, organizational culture, and law. Companies may learn that some CBI is assigned to contractors, and the team must wrestle with the issue of whether people with less allegiance, and more transient tenure, should be entrusted with the firm’s future. Yet, identifying employees who require access to CBI is easy compared to planning how to relate to them. This discussion should include: standards for employees to receive and maintain CBI access; policies on travel and device security; enhanced computer monitoring; and, governance protocols for investigative response to suspicious conduct. Importantly, the approach to such vital and often singularly knowledgeable employees should be an inclusive one that views them as special stewards with more responsibility than the average employee.

If approached carelessly, insider threat plans can breed mistrust, alienate key employees, erode company culture, and even violate labor or privacy laws. But, a quality program can be a leader’s most important legacy, reaping tangible dividends in loss prevented, jobs saved, and relationships forged.

Originally posted in the Security Magazine https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/88644-insider-threat-programs-a-beginners-guide

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Worrying about Terrorism Security Services in Ukraine

The looming shadow of terrorism is pervasive. The recent suicide attack that targeted a music concert in Manchester, UK; the vehicle attack in London, UK, two months prior;  and compounded further by regular images across the media of marauding attacks in cities such as Paris and Berlin. These acts of extreme violence are perpetrated by individuals who embrace death as part of the objective of their actions. The very thought of this is no doubt extremely worrisome, but what are the chances of falling victim to terrorism? The simple answer: very small indeed.  Worrying about terrorism to the neglect of more prevalent threats, however, may actually increase your risk.

Business travelers quite often have irrational or misplaced fears that can lead them to not feel secure, when in fact they are, while conversely some often feel secure when abroad but are actually far from it. A significant number of travelers fear the risk of terrorism and, in doing so, neglect those risks that are statistically far more likely to kill or injure them.

“Security is two different things – it is a feeling and a reality. You can feel secure even if you are not and you can be secure even if you don’t feel it,” says security technologist Bruce Schneier.

Schneier further explains certain biases in risk perception:

Human beings tend to exaggerate spectacular and rare risks and downplay common risks.

  1. The unknown is perceived to be riskier than the familiar.

Why and how do these relate to business travel safety?

  • Bias #1: Human beings tend to exaggerate spectacular, rare risks and downplay common risks.

This has led to many people being overly focused on the risk of terrorism. In turn, business travelers and those responsible for the security of business travelers often neglect those threats that are statistically far more likely to kill or injure, such as road traffic incidents, crime and drowning.

What is most likely to kill you when traveling?

The U.S State Department maintains records of all registered deaths of U.S. citizens abroad. The details identify for the majority what they died of and where. The results may surprise you. See the two charts in the images above for details.

In Figure 2, it is interesting to note the correlation between deaths due to Terorism (Yellow) and that of deaths due to Pedestrian accidents (Orange).

  • Bias #2: The unknown is perceived to be riskier than the familiar.

Security Services Ukraine

Regular travelers to certain city or location may likely become complacent, especially if they have not been directly affected by any of the dangers or hazards that may be present. This is also referred to as “Boiling Frog Syndrome” – named from the phenomenon that a frog if put into boiling water will immediately jump out, but if you place the frog in cold water and slowly heat it up will stay in there and eventually boil to death.  Not an overly joyous image, but one that paints the picture accurately.

This complacency prevalent with certain travelers often leads to their safety and security decreasing whilst the chances of them being a victim to crime, or neglecting risks increasing. If our feelings match security reality – we make better trade offs.  To improve our personal Security Services Ukraine it is important to understand these two key biases.

“If it is in the news don’t worry about it, as by definition news is something that almost never happens,” says Bruce Schneier. The solution, therefore, is to know what the risks are – and obtain “Ground Truth.” This should involve research into your destination. What are the main dangers of the country or cities that you will be visiting?

Crime, natural disasters, health issues and political instability are all important factors to consider. Consider also specific and current issues such as date rape drugs being utilized in a tourist hotspot, or a spate of recent muggings in certain locations. Study the U.S. State Department website, or the equivalent travel advisory guidance of your country of origin.

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security transportation united states

Why Business Travel Secure Transportation Is Critical?

Duty of Care for Business Travelers – Why Secure Executive Transportation is a Critical Aspect

The need for employers to meet their duty of care requirements to employees is a complex process to navigate for many organizations. Understanding what measures you can take to manage this level of risk remains a considerable challenge. Incorporating the use of secure executive security transport United States into your travel risk management plans is a prudent move to reduce this risk and keep your people safe. Now, more than ever the need arises as to how best to meet this legal obligation for staff and employees who are traveling overseas on company business. The constituent groups this affects are varied, ranging from executives, accompanying spouses and dependents, students, teachers, volunteer groups, contractors – the list goes on.

Duty of Care – A Definition

security transportation united states

The broadly accepted definition of Duty of Care is: ‘is a legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.’ Moreover there is now a growing recognition both in the courts and with potential plaintiffs that breaches of duty of care occurring abroad can be heard in U.S. courts. The number of cases being presented has increased and employment lawyers are particularly alert to the issue.

Secure Transportation Considerations when Overseas

This sets an additional standard to be met by employers – in that the measures in place to meet the requirement at home may not suffice abroad. In fact, it is almost certain that it won’t. Your senior executives and traveling staff members will likely be most at risk and exposed to hazards when in transit – particularly when traveling by road or awaiting transportation outside of an airport, venue or business premises. If you are not paying attention to the additional safety and security needs for staff on travel abroad then it is highly likely that you may be placing your own organization at risk – both in terms of their physical safety, but also of potential future litigation.

Increasing levels of risk for the Business Traveler

The much publicized case in 2015 of former NGO worker Steve Dennis provides an excellent example. Dennis, a former staff member of the Norwegian Re (NRC) is sued the agency, claiming gross negligence and failure in duty of care after he was kidnapped and shot in Dadaab, Kenya. Dennis was traveling in a convoy through the camp when his car came under attack. The driver was killed, Dennis was shot in the leg and he and three other colleagues were taken captive. Interviewed in 2015, Dennis stated that: “Like everyone going into a risky situation for work, I believe there’s a minimum level of training and procedures required and when it’s not there I believe there should be accountability for it.” This case absolutely highlights the need to have deliberate and sensible measures in place for employees traveling abroad – especially in an environment where there is an increased level of risk. Not only is transportation key, but also training employees – click here to learn about the Explore Secure® online travel safety training.

How Secure Executive Transportation can protect your Company

Employers and HR managers can help protect their staff (and indeed themselves) by reviewing their procedures and policies. Consider the use of pre-travel training packages or courses to prepare their people for the trips. Then, consider what can be done in-country to further reduce risk. As most issues and incidents tend to arise when people are in transit (especially traveling in vehicles on roads) a further consideration must be the use of secure executive transportation – with trained and vetted drivers. In higher risk environments with an increase likelihood of criminal activity, you may wish to use the enhanced services of a close protection officer in conjunction with secure transportation. It will keep you out of the courts – but above all will set conditions for a safer workplace abroad which in turn will allow your staff to focus on your organizational goals.

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Travel Risk Services

Does You Know How To Travel Security work?

Secure Transportation & Ground Truth; Key aspects of Business Travel Security In Mexico

National Risk Assessments Are Not Useful

The business traveler to Mexico is ill-served by a national or regional level risk assessment approach.  Rather, Mexico Travel Risk Services must be viewed through the lens of locality. For example, risk levels in Cancun are not nearly the same as Monterrey. Corporate security organizations wedded to general travel advice for Mexican regions will not only find themselves saying “No” to business opportunities in safer towns but saying “Yes” to potentially life-threatening visits to villages that should be off-limits.  More than ever before, business travelers unaware of the risk distinctions from district to district, and neighborhood to neighborhood are either placing themselves at unprecedented risk or missing out on closing deals in places where the risk is manageable.

Last year, the U.S. State Department issued strict “do not travel” advisories for five Mexican states because of violent crime and gang activity. While the State Department has long recommended travelers exercise “increased caution” in Mexico in general because of widespread homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery, the new warning elevates the five states to level 4, the highest level of potential danger. This advisory puts the states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero on the same level as battle-weary countries like Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Yet, many businesses have chosen to interpret the “do not travel” advisories for those five states as precluding travel to even the surrounding regions adjacent to those states. In doing so, those businesses are foregoing opportunities by not seeking out the finer details of Mexican travel.

Security in Mexico, Questions You Must Ask

Travel Risk Services

One question should be foremost in the mind of any business traveler to Mexico, whether pre-departure, upon arrival, and around the clock while in the country. That ever-present core query should be, “What’s the ground truth?” and ‘How can I get from A to B safely, commensurate with risk?”

Whether it’s Mexico City, Oaxaca, or Juarez, getting to the ground truth means asking the right questions designed to determine the specific risks. Mitigating and managing risks can only happen once you understand the distinct dangers of your locality.  Specific and practical risk questions are those that are directly linked to the where, who, why, and when of your Mexico travel.  For example, mapping the routes between your airport, hotel and business site allows you to learn if any of those routes are prone to incidents.  Assessing the crime near local hotel and dining options permits you to plan for possible overnights in alternate locations.  Allowing security professionals to research known gang activity, robberies, and assaults at your destination over the last 30 days offers an understanding of the modus operandi of the local criminals and the potential to plan mitigating countermeasures.

Acknowledge and Understand Risks in Mexico to Better Overcome Them

Acknowledging the risks and planning for them is the first step toward enabling smarter business travel to Mexico. Remember, high-level security professionals, special forces and elite units around the world are not successful in their operations because of ninja-like capability.  These professionals succeed in the harshest of travel environments due to planning and preparation complemented by a pro-active situational awareness.  Learning of and thinking through every threat, assessing actual vulnerability to that threat based on hard data, and planning with professionals to avoid or manage that risk makes the difference between winning a contract or watching a competitor get the deal.  A simple but important example is in the risk of Kidnap.  In some locales in Mexico, Kidnap is high-risk, and most Kidnaps happen in or near a vehicle. Mitigation measures include pre-booking a vetted security driver with the right looking, low-profile vehicle, and varying travel routes each day.

In Mexico City, often non-armored vehicles with a security driver and a solid pre-travel safety briefing is commensurate with risk. In the orthern border regions, one may require a low-profile vehicle e.g. truck, and a covert advance asset to run the route and help fly under the radar. Alternatively, sometimes high profile armored vehicle convoys act as a necessary deterrent. One size definitely does not fit all in Mexico. The answer is to search out subject matter expert advice.

What if?

Preparation for higher risk business travel must also include preparation for the possibility of the risk materializing despite mitigation measures.  This is where vigilance and situational awareness combine to help answer the question “What if” question.  For example, “What if that person watching me leave the hotel every morning has criminal links?” “What If my driver suddenly veers off route and says he is picking up a friend?”  “What if a car screeches up beside me and two men run towards me?”  The simple act of asking the “What if” question better prepares you to successfully and calmly react to the threat and survive it.

With planning and preparation, use of available data, and consultation with security professionals, business travel to Mexico can be both savvy and successful. But, with zero question two key pieces to the risk management plan must include Ground truth and a solid secure transportation and journey management plan.

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Why Secure Transportation is Critical – Duty of Care for Business Travel

The needs for employers to meet their duty of care requirements to employees is a complex process to navigate for many organizations. Understanding what measures you can take to manage this level of risk remains a considerable challenge. Incorporating the use of secure ground transportation USA into your travel risk management plans is a prudent move to reduce this risk and keep your people safe. Now, more than ever the need arises as to how best to meet this legal obligation for staff and employees who are traveling overseas on company business. The constituent groups this affects are varied, ranging from executives, accompanying spouses and dependents, students, teachers, volunteer groups, contractors – the list goes on.

A Duty of Care – A Definition

The broadly accepted definition of Duty of Care is: ‘is a legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.’ Moreover, there is now a growing recognition both in the courts and with potential plaintiffs that breaches of duty of care occurring abroad can be heard in U.S. courts. The number of cases being presented has increased and employment lawyers are particularly alert to the issue.

secure ground transportation1

Secure Transportation Considerations when Overseas

This sets an additional standard to be met by employers – in that the measures in place to meet the requirement at home may not suffice abroad. In fact, it is almost certain that it won’t. Your senior executives and traveling staff members will likely be most at risk and exposed to hazards when in transit – particularly when traveling by road or awaiting transportation outside of an airport, venue or business premises. If you are not paying attention to the additional safety and security needs for staff on travel abroad then it is highly likely that you may be placing your own organization at risk – both in terms of their physical safety, but also of potential future litigation.

Increasing Levels of Risk for the Business Traveler

The much-publicized case in 2015 of former NGO worker Steve Dennis provides an excellent example. Dennis, a former staff member of the Norwegian Re (NRC) issued the agency, claiming gross negligence and failure in duty of care after he was kidnapped and shot in Dadaab, Kenya. Dennis was traveling in a convoy through the camp when his car came under attack. The driver was killed, Dennis was shot in the leg and he and three other colleagues were taken captive. Interviewed in 2015, Dennis stated that: “Like everyone going into a risky situation for work, I believe there’s a minimum level of training and procedures required and when it’s not there I believe there should be accountability for it.”[1] This case absolutely highlights the need to have deliberate and sensible measures in place for employees traveling abroad – especially in an environment where there is an increased level of risk. Not only is transportation key, but also training employees – click here to learn about the Explore Secure® online travel safety training.

How Secure Executive Transportation can Protect Your Company

Employers and HR managers can help protect their staff (and indeed themselves) by reviewing their procedures and policies. Consider the use of pre-travel training packages or courses to prepare their people for the trips. Then, consider what can be done in-country to further reduce risk. As most issues and incidents tend to arise when people are in transit (especially traveling in vehicles on roads) a further consideration must be the use of secure executive transportation – with trained and vetted drivers. In higher risk environments with an increased likelihood of criminal activity, you may wish to use the enhanced services of a close protection officer in conjunction with secure transportation. It will keep you out of the courts – but above all will set conditions for a safer workplace abroad which in turn will allow your staff to focus on your organizational goals.

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Pprotective

Reasons To Protective Surveillance

Protective Surveillance

The nuances of personal protection and the specialist options available to High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI’s), VIPs and Celebrities are never ‘one size fits all’. With each client, the situation and threat level will vary, as will their requirements and appetite. When it comes to security there is a myriad of options available, often (and hopefully) with multiple, complementary components working together in harmony. One weapon in the personal protection armory is Protective Surveillance. This article attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of a service that has multiple benefits, quite a few limitations, and several misrepresentations.

What is Protective Surveillance?

Protective surveillance is the creation of a covert security team around an individual or group, forming a protective bubble around the client in a covert manner. The Protective Surveillance Team (PST) watches those that may be watching the client. The primary role of a PST is working to control spaces and areas that would be used by hostile surveillance and potential imminent threats. Their objective is to pro-actively identify hostiles and threats (achieved through counter surveillance, behavioral analysis, and risk assessment). The other role of a PST (that runs concurrently) is to be able to react as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) if required in extremis.

Why Utilize Protective Surveillance?

Hostiles normally use some form of pre-attack surveillance – whether rudimentary or professional. This may be short-term surveillance e.g. perpetrated by an individual opportunistic criminal looking for the best time to strike, or a high-level, multi-person surveillance team on a high-value target for hostile intent e.g. kidnap or murder. The PST will also be set-back from the Close Protection Team (CPT) and will likely have more of an over-arching perspective, able to dynamically risk assess without being caught ’in the weeds’.

protective surveillance 1

Why Do Hostile Gangs/Terrorists Undertake Surveillance?

Hostile individuals or groups need to gather intelligence on their target. To increase the chances of a successful attack it is useful to know the comings and goings of a target, their habits, and routines. What security they have, its strengths and weaknesses. What are the opportunities and threats? A hostile surveillance team will be trying to answer all these things and more. It is with this information that they can formulate a plan to attack their target more effectively and with a greater chance of success.

One example of hostiles undertaking pre-attack surveillance is the kidnap of Anneli-Marie in Germany, 2015. The kidnappers told police after being caught that they followed her for weeks, gaining information. Eventually, when the time was right they struck. Anneli-Marie was walking the family dog around the estate near her house when they attacked, dragged her into the car trunk and zip tied her. This incident, unfortunately, ended badly after the kidnappers panicked when they thought she saw their faces. They killed her, and still tried to obtain the ransom.

Protective Surveillance Teams – A pro-active resource

Identifying threats early is vital to ensure time to react. If one has time to react then the chances of a favorable outcome are increased dramatically. Any aggressive force normally has the advantage of surprise. The attack occurs on their terms. Very few aggressors will attack if they don’t feel they have the upper hand, they do so at a time of their choosing, and probably after extensive planning and preparation.

The assassination of Denis N. Voronenkov in March 2017, a former Russian lawmaker who was killed in Kiev in a widely publicized killing, identifies what happens when security does not have time to react. Denis Voronenkov, who’d been a Communist member of Russia’s lower legislative house before he left, was fatally shot outside a hotel in broad daylight. The assassin walked up behind the target and his personal security, then shot Voronenkov, after which a gunfight ensued and both Assassin and security were shot, and the VIP left dead.

There is an increased chance that a PST would have identified the threat early, communicated with the CPT and been able to pre-empt the attack or intercept.

Protective Surveillance is NOT Close Protection

A normal CPT will have a multitude of tasks and duties to perform that require their undiluted attention. Their focus must when moving with the client, be on the there and now, able to react at a seconds notice to the immediate threat. They provide the necessary ‘close’ protection.

Although a CPT will likely carry out anti-surveillance, taking actions to determine whether they may be under surveillance, a CPT cannot be protective surveillance, and a CPT cannot carry out counter-surveillance. It is the author’s opinion that effective hostile surveillance detection on high-level adversaries can only be undertaken as an entirely covert separate entity. To have complete separation to the CPT and be no way linked over time or by proxy minimizes the chance of being compromised – this is key to successful Counter-Surveillance.

What is the Difference Between Counter-Surveillance and Protective Surveillance

Counter-surveillance is when a third party is utilized to identify whether an individual or group is the target/subject of surveillance. A dedicated counter-surveillance team utilizes multiple methods both physical and technical to determine covertly whether someone is under surveillance. This terminology is often horrendously misused within the industry from commercial ‘experts’ causing extensive confusion.  Please click here to learn more about Hostile Surveillance Detection.

A protective surveillance team carries out counter-surveillance as one of its main roles but also has an underlying objective to protect the client from all threats, unlike a counter-surveillance team that remains covert and disseminates intelligence; a PST is in position, and trained to react to threats if necessary, and to break cover in the interests of client safety if required.

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Why does the CPT not just carry out Anti-Surveillance?

Accurately and efficiently identifying surveillance comes down to a large number of variable factors, the core ones being; the skill of the surveillance team and the skill of the anti/counter surveillance operators. It is very easy to look, but actually quite hard to see. Meaning: Many so-called surveillance ‘experts’ know the theory, but few have quality experience e.g. counter-terrorism, counter-espionage at a Government level, and/or extensive commercial experience.

Many close protection officers and self-titled hostile surveillance experts have only done at most a week or two of surveillance training or only commercial operations. The majority, have never been operational against surveillance aware, government level targets in challenging and dynamic environments. In most cases, this is just not enough to have a comprehensive ability to identify organized surveillance teams. A trained surveillance team should be able to identify anti-surveillance being carried out by a CPT and avoid it. Likewise, poorly implemented counter-surveillance is easily identifiable. This is compounded even further if the people carrying out the anti or counter-surveillance do not know what they are looking for and when – leading to a false sense of security.

How Can Hostiles Identify and Avoid Good Counter-Surveillance?

If done correctly, effective counter-surveillance is extremely hard to identify and nearly impossible to avoid. If a professional counter-surveillance team carries out the role, the hostile surveillance team will never know they have been identified. This is what the PST does, they undertake counter-surveillance in a dynamic role, but ready to function in other roles including as a QRF.

Protective Surveillance is NOT Low-Profile Protection

Low-profile protection is not to be confused with Protective Surveillance, low profile is not covert, low profile is not counter-surveillance. There are multiple uses and reasons for the application of low profile security, but the key objective of this article is the description of Protective Surveillance. A PST, to be effective, must remain covert and separate from the close protection detail.

What Are the Objectives of a Protective Surveillance Team

The PST’s main objective is to remain covert at all times, working constantly to covertly identify hostile surveillance and any other potential threats to the principal. By conducting Counter-Surveillance there is an increased chance of identifying hostiles in attack-planning stages or identifying pre-attack indicators of hostiles. If such hostiles are identified there are normally (but not limited to) three follow up options:

  • Inform the close protection team of a potential threat so that the Team Leader can make an informed decision e.g. the removal of the client to a safe environment, but without highlighting that a threat has been identified.
  • Aim to follow the hostile surveillance team to gather intelligence on them (conduct surveillance on that hostile surveillance team – sometimes incorrectly referred to as Counter-surveillance), obtain intelligence, positive identifications etc. so that the necessary authorities can deal with and extinguish the threat.
  • If the threat is perceived as being imminent the PST can either disrupt, defend, pre-emptively attack, or supplement.

When Should Protective Surveillance Be Utilized?

Protective surveillance is best suited to individuals, families, or groups at high risk of kidnap or attack. It is, due to the covert requirements, a resource-intensive role. To source experienced operators and have them working in a protective surveillance role requires significant investment. Sometimes a blend of close protection, low profile protection, and hostile surveillance detection may be commensurate with risk, or better suited to budget.

Protective Surveillance for High-Risk

For a high-risk client, it is imperative a security team is pro-active and not reactive. Too many times history has shown that systems are put into operation too late. When it comes to high-risk clients, protective surveillance must only be used in conjunction with a close protection team. The two teams though separate, are symbiotic. They work hand in hand towards the shared goal of keeping the client safe and secure. A PST on its own would likely be able to identify certain threats at an early stage and act accordingly. However, they would rarely be close enough to protect the client from an impromptu attack, or act as a last line of defense. They are also not an overt presence that acts as a visual deterrent to potential threats. This is why the two teams work perfectly together, each with a different scope of work, yet entirely interlinked.

Let us look at a real-life scenario, highlighting where protective surveillance could have fitted perfectly in conjunction with close protection to help engineer a very different outcome.

Protective Surveillance – Case Study  – A Colombian former interior minister Fernando Londono in Bogota was attacked during a vehicle convoy. His two-car convoy was held at a set of lights (one free lane to its left, two free lanes to its right) A bus then joined the left lane followed by cars to the left and right. Then a man crosses the street approximately 20 meters behind the cars carrying a large object. He circles around the bus and approaches Fernando Londono’s car attaching a limpet mine to the left front side. Within 30 seconds the mine explodes leaving two dead and 48 injured. Fernando Londono was very fortunate to survive; his level 5-armored car played a significant part in this. Some of his security detail was not so lucky.

It seems highly likely that the attackers in this instance would have had to have put Londono under prior surveillance to establish his routes, what car he traveled in, what security he had with him, did he have a pattern of life? Where best to carry out the attack and how to escape (the attacker ran down an alley to a waiting motorcycle).

A multitude of questions would need to have been answered to carry out such an attack. Protective surveillance would have most likely identified hostile observations and highlighted the imminent attack planning. Further, a PST follows the client at distance to observe the surroundings. There is a good chance that the team would have spotted a car following the client and more so an individual carrying a large suspicious object purposefully walking towards the client’s vehicle. As mentioned earlier identifying threats early is vital to allow time to react.

To further delve into this case study, Londono survived and was removed from the vehicle (via the trunk) injured and dazed within 30 seconds. His surviving close protection officers did a great job of extracting him through the crowd. What if there had been a second wave attack though? Let us imagine that the attackers had mounted a small arms assault post-explosion.

There is a good chance the surviving officers would have been overpowered due to their trauma and the focus on removing the principal. A PST also acts as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and would have been able to move in and work to protect the immediate vicinity, and help counter any secondary or tertiary attack. Thus, a PST can provide the necessary cover and support so the CPOs could withdraw to the protective surveillance’s vehicles and extract the client. This is obviously in an ideal world, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the principle is valid.

A QRF does exactly as its namesake; it is a force (in this case a PST) able to react quickly in case of emergency. The covert nature of the team would be disregarded at times of extremes to act as a suitable support team. Whether this is as an assault team, a medical support team, or an extraction team. The fact that they would be covert right to the last moment provides an extra level of surprise and advantage to the protection detail.

A Focused Tool

Protective surveillance is a specific and focused tool in the provision of security to an individual or group. In the case of High-Risk protection, it is ideally suited to work hand in hand with a close protection team. Their symbiosis allows for a greater level of protection to be in place and most importantly allows TIME TO REACTFor a PST to be effective it requires operators skilled and experienced in surveillance and counter-surveillance, as well as preferably Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and dynamic Hostage Rescue. Able to remain covert at all times whilst being in the right place at the right time to identify threats, and then react accordingly. This is why ex-Special Forces (UKSF and Tier1 US SF) and former Government level operators are perfectly suited to PSTs.

Covert protection – Unknown to the Protectee/s

Protective Surveillance can be used without the client knowing they are being protected. This is often used in cases of children that may be at risk from abduction or kidnap but do not know the risk for whatever the reason or the guardians require a greater degree of peace of mind. High net worth individuals and celebrities, for example, may have close protection teams but their children do not and have no appetite to do so. Yet the risk still exists. Kidnaps and abduction are a significant risk for these individuals as was identified in the Anneli-Marie case in Germany.

There are multiple limitations to this form of protection. As discussed prior, there would be no ‘bodyguard’ or person/s close to the protected at all times. Although not providing the level of protection that a CPT does, a PST can mold to this requirement of covert protection, allowing a parent to have peace of mind that their children are being observed, and overseen by a security team.

Point to Note: With reference children, a PST can be supplemented by a Close Personal Protection Officer Male or Female that operates in a Nanny, or Child Minder role (overtly responsible for safety and welfare of the child) but covertly they are trained CPOs, medics and in constant covert communication with the PST.

Protective Surveillance – Client Not Wanting Overt Security and Willing To Accept The Limitations

Whilst protection may be required, overt bodyguards or close protection teams may not suit the client. Certain clientele desire covert protection, not wanting the attention gained from having an overt team in close vicinity at all times, yet wanting the confidence that someone is watching over them, and working to protect them. Just like earlier there are multiple limitations to this form of ‘protection’ as no person is close to the client at all times. But, if done well a PST can adapt and constantly work to control the areas around the client, be in the best position possible, at the right times, undercover. This method is often expensive, more suited to short-term, set-itineraries, but can be achieved.

This article was written by Mark Deane, the CEO of ETS Risk Management Inc. and previously published in the Circuit Magazine.

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