Threat Intelligence Blog

Posted November 8, 2013

How a Proactive Defense and Online Monitoring Can Help Corporate Security Professionals Better Protect Executives

Any experienced security professional will tell you that preventing a threat is better than reacting to one after the fact. Within the typical physical security incident response model, an alarm alerts a key individual to the need to assess the threat and determine the level of severity. Once the individual has assessed the severity of the threat, they can execute a set of strategically designed security responses to mitigate it.

Though developing a proactive defense is the most effective strategy, many corporate security officers are still reacting after the fact to social media and other Internet-based threats to executive officers, spending much more time addressing incidents after they have occurred. So how can security professionals be proactive and minimize the threats that originate from the Internet?

The solution lies in understanding where the threats are and minimizing them as much as possible before they grow. By understanding where the biggest points of exposure are, security representatives can better manage threats to executive officers through simple mitigation techniques. These techniques can range from securing an executive’s social media presence to verifying the executive officer’s family is using social media responsibly. Another way to help improve safety is to ensure executives participate in regular cyber safety training.

Finding and eliminating references to home addresses in commercial databases and online can reduce the risk of in-person encounters. One recent example of how public records can lead to an increased security threat was when a fan trespassing on an NFL quarterback’s property took pictures of his home. There are a few simple steps that can make it more difficult for an ill-intentioned individual to positively identify a home or family member, and managing property records is one of the easiest.

Corporate biographies, media interviews, and news articles are all major sources of exposure for executives, too. Who could blame successful people for using these forums to showcase their achievements and their companies? However, over-sharing can lead to personal and professional overexposure. Family names, former educational institutions, and other personal information can all add up to a list of data points that can easily be used to target the executive and his or her family. Actively monitoring and managing what appears in corporate biographies and media interviews is one way to help address this issue.

Lastly, developing a responsible and managed social media presence is the most important step one can take. As a corporate security representative, understanding how the people you protect interact with the world is extremely important. Cautioning executives to avoid suspicious social media exchanges and connections is a necessary preventative measure to reducing their online footprint and risk. Most social media sites have an array of privacy settings that can limit the amount of exposure posed to a user, although many of these change frequently. For instance, up until recently Facebook allowed users to omit themselves from results derived using the site’s own search tool. Twitter still allows users to define ‘protected tweets’ that are only visible to approved followers and do not show up in online search results, but again, since policies change often, it’s critical to keep up to date with these changes and advise executives to update their account settings accordingly.

The key to start understanding how the Internet can increase the risk to an executive’s safety is to understand where the danger exists in public records databases, self-disclosures in the press, and social networking. Combining this knowledge with the ability and confidence to prevent future threats, while taking action to eliminate the ones that already exist, can go a long way to reducing an executive’s exposure.

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