Monday, December 17, 2012

On the Sandy Hook School shooting

Sandy Hook school staff and administrators did everything they could security-wise, from plans to systems to procedures to drills. But a determined attacker willing to die will sometimes get through. At that point security is about response and mitigation.

Security is a component of risk management, not risk elimination. Reasonable physical security measures, especially for a public building or place of business, are designed to detect and delay an intruder, allowing people to take appropriate action.   

The school security plan involved locking doors during the day, with a visual monitoring system used to allow entry. This did not prevent the gunman from shooting his way into the building, however. Most school districts - even those in affluent communities - have limited funding for measures such as bulletproof glass, man traps, or sophisticated access control. 

Credit needs to go to those teachers who, trained in lockdown procedures and what to do in this situation, responded quickly and correctly to the crisis, and kept their students out of harm's way. The last line of security is the individual, and by all accounts they performed that function to the best of their abilities. Using the class announcements PA system to warn the other classrooms was also reportedly effective in communicating the danger, and in allowing other teachers time to move their students out of sight. 

In addition, emergency response to these types of events has come a long way since Columbine. Police are now well-trained to deal with active shooters in school environments, and how to react quickly in order to minimize loss of life. The use of Reverse 911 in notifying parents of the crisis was also particularly effective. The lessons learned from other events such as this are used by first responders across the country, even in small towns where "no one expects things like this to happen here." 

The perpetrators of these crimes will always seek out the softer targets, so our security awareness will need to raised in more and more areas - places where we may be unaccustomed to it. Vigilance and knowing what to do in these situations is key. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Post-post 9/11 Era of Security

We have seen massive changes in the aviation industry since the events of September 11, 2001, and greater government involvement in securing the skies in the form of TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Since the recession which began in 2008, however, businesses - including airports and air carriers - have been under pressure to reduce costs to maintain profits or even stay afloat. Jet fuel prices remain high, and North American carriers have seen negative growth for both passengers and freight this summer. There has also been increased focus on reducing government spending to balance federal, state, and local budgets. The recent spending battles on Capitol Hill are also being echoed in state legislatures across the country, and DHS grants were reduced by $780 million in FY2011, $1 billion in FY2012, and $484 million for FY2013. Lastly, save for a few unsuccessful attempts to hide bombs in shoes, underwear, and toner cartridges,  the aviation industry has been relatively incident-free since 9/11, with no major terrorist successes.

These three factors have contributed to an economic and regulatory environment where all entities are seeking to scale back. Business are reticent to expend more money and resources on security and other non-revenue producing operations. As for the TSA, they are shifting their focus and priorities as well. The recent RAND study published on August 30 on "Efficient Aviation Security" proposes using cost-benefit strategies to ensure the most security for the least cost; the TSA's behavioral-detection and trusted-traveler programs demonstrate a shift from the layered approach to a risk-based approach to security. Even the terrorists are scaling back, a result of the marginalization of Al-Qaeda and the decapitation of their leadership structure, and the move by their affiliates towards smaller-scale and lone-wolf attacks.

Eleven years on, we have entered the beginning of the post-post 9/11 era. The business environment has changed, the availability of public funding has changed, and the threat has changed. The security mindset must change as well.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FBI — Economic Espionage: A Foreign Intelligence Threat to Americans Jobs and Homeland Security

FBI — Economic Espionage: A Foreign Intelligence Threat to Americans Jobs and Homeland Security

Espionage is becoming it's own form of a drag on the US Economy and Jobs.  China is among the leading countries, trying to leap frog it's technology efforts on the backs of US Companies and Universities, and for the most part Universities are not  really concerned with espionage, but I think they will have to rethink that soon.

China has the world thinking that they are working the cyber espionage angle only, but actually are trying virtually any angle they can.  Israel has helped them in the past, either knowingly or duped one is not sure.   Talking with Government security types, it turns out the huge counter espionage desks, formerly reserved for the Russians are now focused on China.  It is about time US Business, & Academia does as well.

At the moment all most see is the profits to be made with the China business, what they do not seem to see is the down side of China's long term plan to leave us in the dust.  Other countries are in the game as well, from India, Russia, and the usual suspects.

What is needed is for the US to get in a adversarial mode. playing the nice guy is not going to work.  Yes, the US has a group playing counter spy, but what is needed, is a more "positive" approach, using our  abilities to move back into a cold war mode.  I am not sure the current administration is ready to play hard ball, there is this belief that the US is the big dog, and must not take advantage.  Those days are over, have been for a while, we need to take a closer look, advantage is on the side of the folks actively gathering data.

What is needed is a large surge, we need to know where the other country is going with what they are taking from us.  Not just the information, but also the reason and direction they are taking.  In five years what is the goal.  It is not just making what we make, it is leading the field, and anticipating the market.

This is going to take some real out of the box thinking, and a new policy of not just looking at defense, but at business espionage as well.  Our Businesses need to also become more proactive, they can not rely, on our government, who still has issues about helping US businesses with data they have received by their attempts.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Alarm Systems are they worth it?

I think alarm systems are usually well worth the investment.  The key is to buy one that you will actually use, and can easily afford.  For 90% of you, the basic alarm system you see on TV for $99 installed (and a monthly fee) is all you should need.  Bad guys are normally not as sophisticated as they are depicted in movies and TV shows; a simple alarm will often make them choose someone else, which is all you really want.  There was an old adage in the US Secret Service that we just had to make our principal the hardest guy to hit, so the bad guys will go somewhere else.

This is also true for car alarms as well as offices.  A simple, easy to use alarm system that you can teach your family and office staff is best.  I blame the alarm company salesmen for most of the unused alarms installed out there.  They try and sell you a system that will stop a governments, that is never needed, and two, I have never seen an alarm or lock that with my government training and resources could not bypass.

The solution is a simple alarm system with minimal ways to malfunction.  This means simple door contacts, window contacts, or a simple passive IR detector.  The more intricate you make the system, the more likely it is to malfunction and that you will stop using it.  To defeat a simple system takes almost as much effort as it does to defeat an expensive, complex system. 

When I see an alarm system fail to work, 99% of the time it is because it was turned off, because it was broken in some way, or was too difficult to use. A panic button is the only thing I would add to the system, if your alarm does not already have one (most do).

If you have the option, you want the alarm hard wired in place, but the new wireless systems are very capable.  If you are an apartment owner, the alarm may have to be a wireless system.

The next issue is the alarm itself. Some cities have a huge problem with needlessly loud or false alarms. They are very hard on the alarm installers, responders, homeowners, and neighbors.  This is also why there are such heavy fines for alarms going off, up to $500 after a certain number of times.  You really do not need to have a huge siren or blistering emergency sound going off. The bad guys can hear a simple alarm bell and often that is enough; they do not want to be there when police or security arrive, and they do not want neighbors taking note of them as they leave. 

The next issue is who the alarm notifies, and how.  Most alarms are monitored by the installing company with varying options.  Simply instruct the alarm company how you want people notified. In most cases it is cheaper to have them call you or a family member first, and then, depending on the nature of the alarm, either they or you may call the police.  Some simple alarms actually can be set to call  your cell before proceeding with any further notifications, avoiding the company's monthly monitoring fee of $20-40 entirely.  Personally I would use the monitoring company, and if you only paid $99 for the installation, then you probably will need to sign a contract for a year or more of monitoring. 

The office and car alarms should be treated the same way.  The use of CCTV is a big deal these days, but I would concentrate on the alarm for now; the cameras will be addressed in another post.

Remember, simple is good, because there is a better chance you will continue to use it, and there is very little to go wrong with the system.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mexico violence: Fear and intimidation, what can we learn

BBC News - Mexico violence: Fear and intimidation

The violence is still mainly drug dealer vs. drug dealer for this type of beheading action.  But they are making mistakes quite often, and killing people on the edges of the trade.  Being close to the drug trade used to be sexy, and a lot of kids wanted to be there.  But now it looks like that fringe is being targeted by the rival gangs.  For families this can be difficult.  In at least two instances on the McAllen side of the river, homes have been attacked as gangs look for family members involved in the trade, and then just took the people they thought would bring the guy out.  On the Mexico side, it is much worse - the gangs are using low level members who just drive where they're told and shoot everyone at the home, or in the car, or at the party.

This brings some tough decisions for many families: people associated with the drug trade are possible targets, and every time you are around them it puts you and your family danger.  

People are already learning which bars and restaurants are frequented by the drug trade folks, and make decisions based on this.  Unfortunately, if the family is not with them, they often still go to these establishments, since many of us like the thrill of flirting with danger.  In this case it can be a very bad move. These drug gangs have used hand grenades and automatic weapons so the attack from start to finish could be less that 30 seconds, with lots of indiscriminate damage.  

It will normally happen to fast too really react, but if you're in an establishment used by those in the drug trade, stay away from the front doors, situate yourself deeper into the room, and make sure you know a second way out.  For everyone the key is to get down and away. Tables are often the only thing to hide behind, and tipping them over helps.  The table top often will not stop the bullet, but may reduce the power of it, plus it takes you out of sight.  

This is hard to say, but staying away from establishments even family members that are associated with the drug trade is the safest move.  If you enter an establishment and feel something is not right, I would act on that feeling and find another place for dinner, or to have a drink. 

When driving or walking, if you hear gun fire move in the opposite direction and get something between you and any possible stray bullets flying around.  Most people tend to freeze in place when and incident starts, so take anyone around you with you, even just pulling their arm for a second will help break the freeze, and get them moving.  

I was involved in a drive by in LA a year of so ago while getting gas, bad planing on my part I knew this was a dangerous part of town.  The two SUVs involved started exchanging gun fire as they passed in front of the gas station. Two young boys walking by just stood there watching; I pulled both down just as the front window of the gas station disappeared behind us.  If you are the one thinking, you may be the only one - so you need to help those around you.

By the way, the targeted SUV rolled to a stop with all dead inside. The other SUV rolled through the gas station looking for people taking too much interest in the shooting.  I had moved us behind the vehicle as they rolled by, always putting the vehicle between us and the shooters.  

Keeping a calm head will help, but the biggest help is to not get into the situation in the first place. If I had planned better, I would not have needed to get gas in that dangerous area.  Keep thinking! That is your best defense. 



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Aviation Bomb Threats: Underwear Bomb and the Internal Body Bomb

The recent plot to bomb an airliner, foiled in Yemen, raises the issue of potentially deadly threats to aviation security. To be clear: the old metal detectors in use have absolutely no chance to find these devices. None. There's no metal in the device.

The TSA units have two types of body scanners: one is x-ray based, the other is a high frequency radio wave. Both penetrate clothing and the very outer layer of skin.  Of the two, the x-ray unit probably has the best chance to detect these underwear/body devices; it penetrates the body more deeply than the radio wave system does.  This type of x-ray is called a back scatter. It is not meant to penetrate through the body like a medical x-ray; it reflects off the surface of the body and primarily shows what in on or against the body, not necessarily what is in it.

Bottom line: even the x-ray backscatter designers say it had a 50/50 chance that it could detect the Christmas underwear bomber's device.  Probably a little less in my opinion, but still there is the possibility. Remember, there is no chance the metal detector would catch the device.  50% chance of being caught is not a good business percentage for business, let alone terrorists.

We need to talk a little bit about the difference between Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and what I call Al Qaeda lite (or what is often called Al Qaeda AP, for Arab Peninsula).   The original Al Qaeda’s first fatwa called for no attack to go forward unless there was at least a 75% chance of success.  This was actually written in their manual.  So a 50% chance of a device being detected by TSA machines really gives the original Al Qaeda a problem.  Now, the Al Qaeda AP actually had a Imam at the helm (before we killed him and his son in a drone attack), who gave a much broader reach to his followers.  He called for everyone to work for the great jihad, and stipulated that if all you have is a gun, even a pellet gun, then use it, or if all you have is a tape recorder, then use that to tape a bomb or gun fire going off, and play it in a movie theater to cause a panic.  These Al Qaeda AP do not have the problem with the 50% chance of being found; this is where most of the lone bombers and attackers come from.  I do not think the original Al Qaeda has gone away, I think they are still planning and plotting. But what we are seeing is the AQ lite.

The AQ lite is trying things out by actually using them in attacks, like the Christmas bomber and the New York Times Square bomber.  They apparently are getting better, but are sending out devices that are not fully tested.  In some cases the AQ lite is just putting the method on web sites for others to try.

Now let’s go to the threat. PETN is a potent explosive used by militaries and construction crews to clear away areas before construction. PETN is still found in some blasting caps, but most military folks have seen it in the form of a det cord (see pic below).  Det cord is a explosive device in the form of a rope and normally is used to link explosive charges together.  It comes in different colors and grades. The military version looks very similar to a fuse, but has a white center.  That white powdery center is PETN.  Now a single line of det cord will not cut a 4x4 piece of wood in half, but will probably cut a 2x4.  SWAT teams have used it for fast entry through dry wall, taping it to the wall they are going through.  So while it is a powerful explosive, in small amounts it has limited effectiveness.

Now let’s look at the method of carrying the device, the way the Yemen bomber was going to use and the body bomber may use.  The human body is mostly water, which has the effect of taking a lot of the power out of an explosive device.  In fact, the one that actually went off in the Saudi Arabia attack on the Prince killed only the bomber, and wounded a bystander or two.  On a plane, this is probably all that would happen as well.  If detonated inside a body, with no outside surface contact, this will probably be what a body cavity bomb's effect would be as well.   Now, with enough explosive it could penetrate the plane's body, but normally would not.

It should also be stated that all explosives are poisons if swallowed, so if a person swallows or has a device implanted in themselves, if the explosive packaging is penetrated the bomber will get sick and probably die very quickly.  So like drug mules that swallow drugs, they have to be very careful moving around so as to not break open a package.

So bottom line, the threat is real, but the chances of success are limited, and good intelligence is the best way to find these guys or girls.  But they still could show up on a TSA agent’s radar by acting suspect.  In fact, as they go thru a body scanner, they may get really nervous since there is always that chance it will be detected.

I think we are fine, and I would fly with out worry, though I may move away from someone that started to smoke or stab himself with a syringe during flight.


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Box approach to Executive Security:

The Box approach to Executive Security:

In developing a security posture it is often very wise to develop something called a "box" approach to security development.  The US Secret Service and others have often used variations of this approach. If you look at your home as a box, that you can secure, and your office as another box you can secure, then your greatest vulnerability is between those two boxes.  Travel status of any type increases your vulnerability level, and that is why most attacks occur while a person is in that status.

Once you get into your vehicle, it can also be considered a box, since it can provide a degree of security as well.  Now your greatest vulnerability moves to the extremely critical times when you are between your office or home box, and the vehicle box.  This is a best reason to have your vehicle housed in a garage: you can get into it and obtain a level of security prior to exiting the garage.  Since this is a critical point it is a very good idea to have a view of the street or alley way where your garage opens up to.  This can be a window that looks over the area, a mirror, or even a CCTV camera that shows the area...anything that will let you know something is wrong before you open the garage door.

Think of the places someone could lay in wait for you as your first leave. Where are the critical points before you can get to a reasonably safe 20 miles per hour?  These are where most ambushes will occur. They have two things in their favor: one, they know you always pass that point, and two, your vehicle is easier to hit and/or stop while it is moving less than 20 mph.   If there are options, like using another way out of the alley or turning another way out of your drive, do so every once in a while, to keep the bad guys guessing.

Remember that the vast majority of the time you will have been under surveillance prior to an attack, so this is the time to notice the bad guys.  Your attackers may be using a vehicle that can be traced to them; during most attacks, they will use stolen vehicles.  Jotting down plates and descriptions is not only helpful, but it keeps you more aware of your surroundings.  Say them into your phone's voice recorder, or better still, call a phone number that has a voice recording capability, since your attacker may also obtain your phone as well.

Many offices do not have secure garage space for your vehicle, in fact are often dimly lit and are prime areas for attackers to wait.  When possible, park your car where lots of other people can see it, and may notice any bad guy around it, or watching it.  Once again, try to get a view of the car and its surroundings prior to leaving you office secure box.  Mirrors or CCTV cameras can be a big help in viewing the parking spot of your vehicle.  Before you leave, check your office building's security system, which should have cameras that view areas around the building.

Most importantly, never leave your office or home box without a way to return to it, if needed.  This means have your office keys in your hand, ready to use, as well as your car keys. You want to be able to move to a box quickly if you see anything suspicious. 

Use the box method for any movement you make consistently that a bad guy can observe and plan his attack.  In Madrid, Spain, a high ranking official had a habit of going to a small chapel in a building on his way home everyday.  The bad guys spent over a month setting up a bomb under the road, right where his driver stopped the vehicle in the same place every day.  If he had altered his parking spot by even a dozen feet every day, he would have survived.  So look at other boxes as well: schools where you drop of your children, gyms where you work out on a consistent basis.  These are many areas with some level of security that you need to assess.

Another time we will work on how to assess the security of your box, and even improve it if needed.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Surviving Drive By Shootings

Drive by shootings can happen anywhere, but being aware of your surroundings can aid you in surviving them.   Be aware of what is going on around you.  If you know someone is in a gang or is affiliated with the drug trade, standing next to them is not a good move.   Always look for cover: benches, cars, telephone poles, anything you can duck behind that can provide even minimal protection.  Remember to protect your core body parts, the ones most critical to your life; even getting parts of your body behind cover is very important to saving your life.

Cars slowing down without an obvious reason should be considered suspicious activity, as this could be the start of a drive by or even a kidnapping.  Windows rolling down as the car passes should merit your attention.  None of these mean a shooting is about to occur, but they should at least get your attention and you should be looking for the nearest cover.

I have been involved in a few drive by's...never the actual target, but way too close for comfort.  In one case I pulled two young men down behind my car as the shooting started.  Bullets can ricochet in  any direction; when President Ford was shot at in California, a bullet hit a sign pole and ricocheted  at a right angle and hit a bystander 60 feet away. You need to get down and away from the gun fire, in some cases if the target returns fire, even more bullets are going to be flying. 

In the Gaza strip I pulled back on a reporter who wanted to get a view of ongoing fire just as the doorway he was leaning on was annihilated in a hail of bullets.  You always want to move down and away from gun fire, and remember( as bad as it sounds) other people make great cover as you move away.  Don't put anyone in danger, but moving away from gun fire by ducking behind people already down on the ground is not cowardly.

Trying to get a description of the shooter, although laudable, is not a good idea. Your mind will probably not be functioning correctly to really get a good description, and if you did happen to glimpse the shooter, your mind already has what it needs. Just get down.

You can buy bullet resistant vests, if the threat is that high; they even sell bullet resistant back packs, similar to what students carry, that can be used to mitigate danger. In my view if the threat is that high, you probably should not be there in any event.  I do like the back pack system, since if you are moving down and away as you should be, it does protect key parts of the body.  But a few books in a back pack will do almost as well.

The main key is to be aware, even while talking with friends. Just keep your eyes moving and stay alert. If a car passes a few times, this in not normally a good thing and should have raised your suspicions, enough that I would be looking for the nearest cover, and begin to move in that direction.

Believe it or not it is very difficult to hit someone from a moving vehicle, and if you are moving as well, it will take a pretty lucky shot to get you.  Keep your eyes open, if something does not look right head for cover, and be ready to drop down and away from the danger.  If it turns out to be a kidnapping attempt, move, move fast away from the attackers, even ten to fifteen feet can make all the difference.  Every foot the attacker has to go delays them, and increases their risk of being recognized or even stopped.

Being aware gives you a few seconds on the bad guy, use them to your advantage.  Being embarrassed as you get up off the ground, is far better than being shot or kidnapped.  By reflex I drop down behind cover when hearing shots, I know how far bullets can travel, and cover is the only thing that stops them.

I hope this helps. Being aware is not being scared, it is being practical, and could save your life.


Five Arrested in plot to bomb Cleveland area bridge | Government Security News

Five Arrested in plot to bomb Cleveland area bridge | Government Security News

There are things to learn from this "Anarchist" bomb plot.  One is that we need to take a deep breath; most people that are part of the Occupy movement are not the terrorist type.  In fact I think most Occupiers would have booted these folks out.  But it also points to the fact the Occupiers should be the ones to report folks like these to the police; just kicking them out will not defuse the situation, and actually may provoke them into action.  Folks like these just hurt the cause that Occupy is trying to support.

I remember sitting on the set at CNN with the Former FBI Director Webster, the day after McVey's bombing of the Federal Building.  We both discussed the fact that McVey had been kicked out of a number of Militia Groups prior to his escalation plotting a bomb attack.  When approached by myself and others after the fact,  the groups all stated they never would have supported a bombing, most definitely not where innocent children could have been hurt.  But none had even thought of contacting the police, which is where the problem arises. 

Two, this is not the first time Anarchist types have become violent.  McVey was a type of anarchist, but even before him anarchists have bombed Wall Street, the Capital, Pentagon, and various corporate offices around the world.   In most cases we find a person with an existing criminal record joining a mildly militant offshoot, who convinces the group to move from talk to action.  The authorities have to be careful when infiltrating these groups, and not become the catalyst that moves the group from talkers to action takers.  This would be entrapment, which is probably what the arrested suspects will claim as a defense.

Three, most of the time the majority of the players like McVey will not have a criminal record, so will pass most background checks, like the folks joining the Pre-check Program the TSA is setting up.  As such, they pose a huge risk, and could easily become an insider threat problem.  This problem will be covered more in depth in future writings.

Four, Anarchists types (which many would consider the Occupiers to be a type of anarchist), are normally not considered a dangerous problem, and in fact some schools actively promote student activity in these movements.  As such many Occupiers may know of these little off shoot groups, but not say anything, mainly because they feel they would not act out in that way, so why would these folks.  This gives the group a hiding place to work on their plans, and escape back into in the future.

Five, unlike the Islamic based groups we are more familiar with, the Cleveland anarchists did not want to hurt innocents, so may make threat calls to evacuate buildings or in this case, were contemplating  putting safety cones on the bridge entrances, to reduce the chance of death, in the end they did not warn anyone, but killing does not further their cause, so may give warnings.  So now is the time to dust off those Bomb Threat Plans, and Bomb Threat Phone calls forms.

Six, there are lots of online places to learn how to make and used bombs.  Back in the 60's, 70's & 80's a book called the Anarchist Cookbook, was available at book stores, in fact the last one I found was misplaced in the actual cook book section of the store.  People need to be aware of folks that are visiting these sites, or buying books like these.  This maybe the only warning we will get.

So in closing, do not overreact to talk from folks in the Occupy movement, or similar groups, but keep an eye out for behavior that goes beyond the talk, and starts to take action on their talk.  Yes, the Feds are trying to infiltrate these groups, but can not get into all of them, and after this arrest it will get harder for the police to make inroads into the groups.  This leaves the groups themselves to police themselves, or people close to them like family members to keep an eye on suspect behavior. 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Insurgents Attack Governor’s Office in Southern Afghanistan -

Insurgents Attack Governor’s Office in Southern Afghanistan -

There is so much to be learned from this incident,

I am not a big proponent of  the whole body imager,, but my problem is more in the way they use it, by they I mean the TSA.  It can miss things, but it can also find things the walk thru metal can not.  So I do not find the breach all that surprising, many in the industry know we can beat the unit.  But I also have to say, I can beat a walk thru metal detector as well. 

With all that said, two old Secret Service adages come to mind.  One never have just one layer of defense, any system can fail, have multiple layers.  Two, screening does not mean everyone is without a weapon or ability to hurt someone, screening just means we probably have more fire power that the other guys.

Multiple layers of defense come from as far back as ancient China, Sun Tzu, writings brought down thru the years, has spoken of this.    TSA and the security community as a whole I think realize this very well.  If you look behind the scenes, you will see a multi path system of security being constantly developed for our safety.  Too often we look at one part of the system and say it is not working, but please remember it is but one part of the system. 

When we analyze security, a screening check point is one of the stronger points, insider threats are still our biggest vulnerability. 

The key is still multiple layers, and not to ever think 100% secure.  During my first divorce, the Govt. took me off active work where I could cause a problem, and let my colleague's assess how I was handling it.  After a week, it was determined by the colleague's, the people that knew my best, that I was not a threat, and I was put back on active duty.  Now days actions like that are considered not politically correct.   But it still is the best way to get to insider threats.  When we see something out of hand or a friend or colleague not acting like they normally do, we too often do not speak up about them.  This makes us vulnerable to work place violence issues more, as well as any insider threat issue. 

We need to be more humanistic in our security, not a big brother state, in an Orwellian way, but more of we are all in this together.

There is even more to learn from this incident, so I will use it again.  Like always having an escape route, a plan for using them.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Airport Travelers Urged To Keep Eye On Items At Security Checkpoint - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh

Airport Travelers Urged To Keep Eye On Items At Security Checkpoint - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh

This type of scam has been around for years, DFW has a video of a team of these folks stealing bags from people as they go thru screening.  The have hand and arm signals, the team is usually 3 to 5 people.

They have look outs that pick the right people to hit, then they start the play.  The deal is to get two people in line in front of you.  One goes thru, and then stall waiting for his bag, the other waits till you put you bag on the x-ray belt, they may even help you.  Others watch for TSA folks keep to close an eye on things, and will call off a play if they think they may get caught.  Once you bag is going thru, the 2nd guy in front of you will have a problem getting thru, and delay you, the 1st guy in line will wait for your bag and grab it as it comes thru.

They normally stuff computers in bags, then just walk off, but they also have special bags they carry that will fit over your whole bag and take it all.  Most of the time they will get on a plane to a nearby location immediately, or simply go back out the exit lane - the key is to not get caught.

Dallas and Houston had teams that would fly and steal from one airport to the other,  the teams are often from South American countries, and use the language barrier to help confuse things.  They have even used it to claim a mistake if caught. One man or woman teams are also out there, and they are just looking for an opportunity, if it takes a few times that is fine. The key is to not draw attention, so they can wait all day if needed.

What you want to do is not let your bag go into the x-ray until you're next in line if possible, if not keep an eye out for a delay team. 

Like always, awareness training is a great way to reduce the chance of this happening.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What Cocktail Parties Teach Us -

What Cocktail Parties Teach Us -

There are about 5 studies mentioned here, all had a great effect on how researchers have focused on our ability to both filter things out, and focus things in.

One I think that is probably critical at this time is the one about driving, it is the attention span more that anything, cell phones on speaker, are just as bad as cell phones in a persons hand.  Now texting and such has proven to be more dangerous, because it takes more time and attention.  But if you go back to the 70' & 80's kids tuning radios where considered the cause of a great number of accidents, and folks wanted to ban them as well.  Get back to the key factor, our brains take in information from hearing, eyes, all senses, plus they go off on tangents of their own.  Sometimes called  road hypnosis, where the person arrives at the office or home, and has no real memory of the drive, they where thinking about vacations, or a spat they just had, something.

Yes, police are trained at keeping a wider focus, but it is training, that is backed by practice.  Sit in a patrol car sometime, the radio is turned low, lots of voices are being heard, yet the officer hears that one call for their number or code, or even event in the nearby area.  You did not hear it, thru all the background but they did.  It is the same with a mother that can hear her baby's crys over all the other noise in a room. 

The key is to open the the senses to see and hear more, yes if you consciously try and process it all it would drive you crazy very quickly.  That is why a lot of the filters are in place in our minds, to protect us from the onslaught of information our senses bring our mind.

But there is a middle ground, and we can work to make both that middle ground bigger, and make it work for us better.  It takes training, (probably didn't a million years ago) and practice, and and, wait for it.  trust.  We are going to have to learn to trust that pin prick of intuition that something is not right.  Then we need to train ourselves to come off focus, let more information in, and then let that cave man instinct buried deep in our brains look for dangers.  The filters will still protect us from going crazy from the input, we are just letting more in at a deeper level, (actually it already is coming in,we just don't recognize it because our filters block it), we are just trying to see, hear, & feel more.

The eyes are the easiest for me to deal with, and I think the quickest return on investment of time and practice.  Try this, close your eyes, very gently, don't slam them shut just gently, now think for a moment, when you open them, do not focus, let you eye's see everything from top to bottom of your vision, from left to right.  Ok, open your eyes gently, it will take some time to get the hang of it.  But as you get better at it, you will notice that you still notice things, the car that passed, the people getting out of a car, the bird landing on a tree.  All non threatening, so they just pass by, and we do not have to react.  But if something does go off course, like the people getting out of the car just staring at you, now focus, see what the issue is, ah they think you are staring at them, or they are looking behind you.  Once you can put it into a normal box, let you attention and focus widen again.  You will probably have to close your eyes, and start over for a while.

I will as I always do bring in the breathing, if you can take deep slow, rythmic breaths, you will calm down a lot of the brian activity, and the filters will settle a bit more, making it easier to notice danger.

I know this will help, and that it works, I hope you can get to the point it works for you.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Basics of Defensive Driving for Carjacking or kidnapping attacks:

Basics of Defensive Driving for Carjacking or kidnapping attacks:

When leaving a facility to your vehicle have your keys in your hand, and look around for anything suspect, if in any doubt if you can sound the emergency signals on the car, you can always apologize later.  Bad guys will be looking around to see who is watching, everyone else will be looking at your or your car.  By the way everything will look suspect the first time, but once you get into the habit, you will notice the suspect behavior.

When you get in lock all doors and start the car, put it in gear. Now look around again, get your car out at least two feet, that should give you enough room to jump the curb if you have to and give a person attacking a moving target.  If you have a front wheel drive car, the back makes a pretty safe battering ram, so any speed gives you an edge even over a heaver car.

One of the strangest things I have found over the years, that even in a life and death situations people do not like to damage their cars.  Get over it, that is what you have insurance for, if needed hit the other car, or newspaper stand, the key is to move.  In most situations the danger zone is a fairly small area, one expert just wrote in another blog about the X get off the X anyway you can.  Actually most ambush areas are around 30 to 60 feet, but if you can move the 64 feet you are out of the zone, and actually have the bad guys shooting into them selves in some cases to get to you.

When driving you always want to be able turn around the vehicle in front of you, a quick rule of thumb is that you need to be able to see the tires of the vehicle in front of you touch the road.  When you come to a stop, remember that the key is to be able to get around the vehicle, and as always be able to move your car even a few feet to shake off an attackers aim.

If possible always try to be in a curb or center lane, so you can move to one side or the other to get away, remember jumping curbs is not something you want to do, but it can be done quickly, at worst you will lose the tire, and maybe a wheel, but it should climb the curb.  There is a lot of science on this but once again try and get a 20 degree turn into the curb to jump it, less and you may not make it, and even take the chance of folding a wheel over, by breaking the tie joints.  Sounds  like beeping the horn and if it work sounding the emergency from the key chain are still good, if it does not effect the bad guys it will at least get the attention of other drivers and people near by.  None of which is good for the bad guy.

Let's take a quick look at your route, look for areas where the bad guys can block you in the easiest, if you feel any threat, then make sure you do not use those routes if possible.   If you use Google maps, you can often see your route when you pin for instance your home and your office.  Google often will give you the option of a second route, even a third, take a look at all of them.  When US State Department teams go out and survey routes for employees in foreign countries this is what they are doing.  You look for choke points where it is easy to stop or block you in, or things like alleyways that allow for a blocking maneuver by having a car pull out in front of you.   This actually can take a lot of time and effort, but is well worth both.  I have spent hours on doing this for clients all over the world, it does take a little time, but in many cases I have known the attacker best choice before they did, and we caught them setting up surveillance at the point we picked out.

If Google does not automatically offer other route options, take the pin out of the home or office and move it over to a main street nearby, that should give you more options.  Now comes the work, you need to take these different options at times so you know them, and the bad guy has to guess what you will do. 

When we look at route we also look for two other things, one is a place we can go to that has police or other armed security, two is a place we can brush off folks following us.  In McAllen, Tx the airport has both, there are always police and federal officers there, and if you pull into the short term parking you can leave immediately with out having to pay.  The following car will either have to follow, or move at high speed thru the airport to catch back up to you.  If you had any suspicion this type of maneuver will make the bad guy show his hand.   Even driving thru a strip mall parking lot can be effective for a quick brush off, that will tell you your being followed.

It always looks good on the movies to see a high speed chase, with the one car trying to out run the other.  In any case I have ever seen, this is a bad move.  The key speeds are over 20 and under what ever you feel you can safely drive.  Remember at 110 miles an hour, if the other car is chasing you they often have an effective speed difference of 0 miles per hour. and they have more people in the car to take aim and shoot at you.  If you are going no faster than 50 miles per hour, then you can speed up or slow down changing the effective speed of the following car by well over 20 miles per hour.  I like to stay in the lead, but that does not mean you have to stay in the parade, turning off to another road, puts you back in the lead again, and as long as you have done your home work you know where you are going.

If you have been doing this type of awareness defensive driving for a while there is a very good chance you will pick up the surveillance long before they are actually ready to act.  In fact it is often reported to me by clients that they have pickup surveillance on another car before they did on their own.  There is a good reason for this, you have a chance to see the surveillance car as they are following, they are not looking for you, they are looking for someone else.

Other quick tips, keep the windows up, and at least a 1/4 tank of gas in the vehicle at all times.  Use your cell phone to call someone and talk to them in you feel something is not right.  If you can not reach anyone, call your voice mail and leave yourself a message, with descriptions and routes you are traveling, anything that will help us find you.

I practice saying the plate number of cars around me out loud, science tell us this helps remember things better, even writing a plate number on the palm of your hand with a finger, helps in memory recall.  

Awareness is like anything else it takes practice, and your life can often depend on it.  I have briefed many people over the years with high threat potential, and a few where attacks have been thwarted.  In every case if they practiced awareness, they had a step on the bad guys.  Cameras and other high tech devices can and will help, but you are the first and last line of defense for you and your family.

This is Rich,  till next time stay safe

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homeland Security's 'Pre-Crime' Screening Will Never Work - Alexander Furnas - Technology - The Atlantic

Homeland Security's 'Pre-Crime' Screening Will Never Work - Alexander Furnas - Technology - The Atlantic

If, and it is a major if, the program is only to help decide which people in the future, will be screened a little more intensely, perhaps even asked a few questions as they go thru screening, I think the system will work, and should be the future of screening.    The rub is that is not the way they intend to use it.   When the behavioral analysis teams where first conceived, they where just to give a heads up to the screeners to pay a bit more attention to this guy, or group, which is a great idea, and well within the skill set we can train people to at this point.  But no it got to a three tier system, that calls in cops to basically arrest people. 
As others have said, there is no technology that can tell us enough to arrest you on suspicion,  and this is where all these programs fail.  Use it correctly to provide a risk assessment as to who should be screened a little more thoroughly, and I will get behind both programs.  They also then will help provide a greater security for us all.
I can not end this without pointing to the fact that a random selection program, that pick people at random to be screened more thoroughly will strike more fear into would be terrorists than any of these programs.  Two collages have provided algorithms to airports to insure true randomness, this means the terrorist can never be sure he will not get a real through screening, and they have to rethink the approach.  Add this to any new program, and you will have better security.

Balance Training for EP professionals, but helps us all

As an EP practitioner you often  find yourself in a crowd being jostled and shoved as people try and get around your protectee.   When I first left the USSS, I was still a fairly thin little guy, and working in such small teams, and even alone at times, it left me getting moved off position at times.

We developed a balance training program, that just grew, as more legal issues became a problem.

Take a heavy bag - I used a 4 foot long 80 pounder - and mount it from the ceiling to where the bottom is around your knees.  Now start by just standing under the bag, so the chain would be coming down thru the center of your head.  Now just try turning and shifting your weight, yet retain your balance, and stay directly under the bag.  With a little practice your body will start making adjustments to handle the weight.  If you have others around you may want to ask them to gently pull the bag back and let it fall into your space.  This will help you take the weight, like a shove, and learn to regain balance quickly.

Now for the legal issues, it seems that when we get into legal trouble it is like getting a foul in basket ball.  When you open your arms to grab or shove people, that is the foul.  So try keeping your hands tucked in, you may want to start by grabbing your shirt, this prevents elbow throwing to a great extent, another foul, or in your case legal issue.  Practice standing your ground, then practice moving in and out of the bag's center area.

After a little time this also becomes more of a second nature, and you do not have to think about it, or go into some defensive stance. 


Monday, April 2, 2012

DHS Active Shooter Guide for all of us

Gunman kills at least 3 at Oakland college, others wounded | Reuters

Gunman kills at least 3 at Oakland college, others wounded | Reuters  

Like many situations, people on the edge, tend to act, when they see others acting out.  Just like when an attack on the President happens there is a period of time that a lot of threats will happen. Unfortunately the same is true when a suicide occurs, other near the edge tend to follow.

There are 9 people shot, up to 6 killed at this time,  in the Oakland college area., following the Ohio shooting, more can be expected.  It is to soon to know what the cause or weapon used is, but follow on reports will help clarify.  This is a mixed use area of businesses and the college, so the possibility of a workplace violence shooting has not been totally ruled out.

Having plans that include lock down of entrances to the college and even nearby businesses are the biggest mitigation factor in most of these situations.  Having places in rooms that can be fortified to minimize random shots from entering thru walls, windows, or doors are also very helpful.  Even putting desks on their sides and creating a safe space behind them is a workable solution.

At that point stay safe, and if you have communications contact the police, with information as to how many people are with you and your location.  They will ask questions, like does the shooter sound near, or moving away.  They will not want you to put yourself in danger, they just want your best idea of the situation.  The biggest help you can be to the rescuers at this point is to stay safe till they can get to you.

Things like descriptions are not as helpful in these situations as you would think, a more helpful piece of information is how rapidly are they shooting, or how often does it sound like they are reloading.  All this can be obtained by simply listening and not putting your self in any danger.

Rich for the Disguised Weapons video, and for other training videos.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Should George Zimmerman Be Charged For Killing 15-Year-Old Trayvon Martin? | Fox News Insider

Should George Zimmerman Be Charged For Killing 15-Year-Old Trayvon Martin? | Fox News Insider

This is a case that needs to be studied in depth, regardless of the final verdict,   There are a number of issues here that could have a huge impact on all our safety in the future. 

Issues like should a citizens watch person be armed, this is a huge subject of what rights convey.  Many areas, or firms hire off duty police officers, and some do not allow them to be armed, while on duty.  Having a permit to carry a weapon for a citizen, and then using it to arm themselves during a citizens watch patrol, is something we need to address.  As cities and other jurisdictions try and save money by cutting back on police, things like a citizens watch program become more important.  But carrying a weapon with minimal training to protect yourself, and carrying a weapon in furtherance of duties like a citizens watch, are far different. 

For instance a carry ability in Fla for your personal weapon does not allow you to carry a weapon as a professional bodyguard, or even a guard.  Both require much more training, less than police officers get, but far more than a civilian carrying a weapon for personal protection.  Making the decision to use a weapon is one of the toughest things for a police officer, let alone a citizen watch.  Which is part of the training you need, pulling a weapon of any type can have huge influences on the psychological well being of both the person pulling the weapon as well as the  person having a weapon pointed at them.  Both can act in very (for them) uncharacteristic ways.  That often lead to over reactions on both sides.

Other issues, are the protection of a civilian watch person, it is a real concern, but I think most police and judicial folks would rather they observe and report, rather than putting themselves in actual conflict.  For most people, and many will argue even police, a weapon tends to convey a feeling of power and control that makes for decisions that can lead to to incidents like these.  The word defense takes on very different meanings when you are  in a defensive posture, than when you are actively moving toward a person.

I think the stand your ground law is fine for self protection, but not for a civilian acting under any color of law.

I would like to hear others comments, not of the actual case as much as the over reaching issues.


Friday, March 16, 2012

China Corporate Espionage Boom Knocks Wind Out of U.S. Companies - Bloomberg

China Corporate Espionage Boom Knocks Wind Out of U.S. Companies - Bloomberg 

China is targeting not only corporations, but DOD and the other departments of the Government.  In fact it is not only our government, but virtually all governments and their corporations are being targeted.  When I was in the US Secret Service, the Soviet Union was our main threat, with France, Israel, both Korea's, Japan and a few others, China was a very small blip on the radar.  All still are threats, and often still attempts by them are discovered, but China has taken the lion's share of the attention at this point. 

In a slow or bad economy, China looks and is a very big market for technology firms, even firms that are vendors of technology firms.  Often everything from cleaning crews, building maintenance, even delivery firms are approached by agents of China to help them spy on high tech firms.  Often they will supply laborers to these vendors, so they can gain access to the high tech firms.

One that has been used very successfully is vendors that supply and maintain plants for offices.  The plants come in planters that can hold very sophisticated espionage equipment.  The nice part is the vendor can replace the plants as batteries go dead, or equipment malfunctions.

People tend to think all attacks are cyber based now day, when lower tech attacks, are more prevalent than ever.  Often the approach someone like China would use, is to keep themselves in the background, and let the person they are using to approach the high tech firm, think either a competitor company is behind the attempt, or even another country.  This is often a way for the spy to think they are not doing anything that bad.  The Soviets often used agents that posed as being from Israel, so that the people they used did not think they were doing something that bad, since Israel is a friend to the US.

The MI-5 rolled up a number of these type of attacks back in the 70's, as did the FBI in the US.  When they told the people working as spies, who they actually where working for, the usually rolled on their handlers very quickly.  Some unfortunately never could be convinced that they where actually working for the Soviets, and went to prison thinking they still where working for a friendly country.

No Country is clean, the US is also actively working to gain information from other countries, but China like Japan in the late 50's all the way to the late 60's is trying hard to catch up technology wise to countries like the US, even Japan, so are pulling out all the stops. 

Awareness and training are the key elements to any counter espionage effort, and US firms need to be actively working on their programs.

Probably the newest type of attack, is thru our schools of higher learning, China has students in most of our major schools, the US has many going to China as well, but the difference in students is key.  We tend to send over 17 to 22 year old's to learn about China itself.  China tends to send older more knowledgeable students, that work in engineering and other high tech learning.  Many even stay to work at high tech firms here in the US, till they are either caught, or have what they came for an head for home.  This type of attack has become so prevalent that FBI and DOD counter intelligence have teams doing nothing else but vetting Chinese students here in the US.

Expert Says Women Taking Important Roles in Cartels | | CHANNEL 5 NEWS | Breaking News Breaking Stories

Expert Says Women Taking Important Roles in Cartels | | CHANNEL 5 NEWS | Breaking News Breaking Stories

One of the key roles women play in these situation are as look outs and surveillance prior to  assassinations and or kidnappings.  People tend to over look women when they are looking for suspect activity, making them  perfect for close surveillance, setting up a person for the team that will either grab or shoot the target.

Detecting these women requires people both women and men who maybe targets to be able to look beyond their biases and see possible suspect activity as what it is.  Even the use of children to make them look even less suspect.   The fact that it is reported that the cartels are using very attractive women is usually not a  what a team would look for.  Men even women tend to remember attractive ladies, so I would not be surprised if when young ladies are used, they are dressed down. 

The red brigades from Europe , used to use couples as their key surveillance teams, they even used couples as attack teams on a number of occasions, so that is another bias that you need to be aware of.  We all tend to not associate couples as a possible suspect activity, making them perfect for the job. 

Women can get closer to men than other men can with out raising the same level of suspicion.  Where they quite possibly be the killer part of the team, they are more often used to divert attention as another person often a male closes in.

A big part of awareness is recognizing our own biases that can tend to both over look possible suspect activity, or on the other had distract us from noticing the real threat.

Using this reporters story is a good way to bring a little clearer vision into our security awareness capability.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Suspicious Letters Containing Powder Found at 3 Locations in DC

Suspicious Letters Containing Powder Found at 3 Locations in DC

This can be a real threat, and not all that hard to do. The letters sent in the US after 911 where weaponized , ie made more effective by a very difficult and dangerous laboratory action. This appears to be not be a weaponized version of the cell structure, since no one was apparently harmed by it. Most anthrax exposures, are not deadly, but all could or can be.

It at a time was called the sheep herders illness, since people that hand cut sheep wool, would at time pickup the spores. In the US a group of angry white supremacists, went to a spot in the desert, that they knew sheep had been buried after coming down with the illness. They planned to use the spores they dug up, mixed with a hand cream, and spread on the stair rails in court houses. They where turned in by a scorned girl friend.

If you suspect you have been around a letter or item laced with the spores, do not panic, but get physically away from it. Wash your hands very well, and then once you have done this then wash your face and other areas that may have been exposed. Call the police, and report the incident, do not let anyone into the area, and you may want to keep away from others as well. When possible, take off the clothes you had on, and take a good long shower with a strong soap. Bag the clothes before you shower, and try and not touch even the outside of the bag after you shower and put on new clothes.

Wait till the authorities give you an all clear before going back into the area, or touching the clothes or bag holding them. In most cases, you will be fine, and at worse may get a rash or other skin irritation.

In this last case the powder was white, in most cases it will be a dull brown, but could be mixed with a powder of any color, so be careful.

Please see video for more info:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pakistan says anthrax sent to premier's office

Pakistan says anthrax sent to premier's office

This can be a real threat, and not all that hard to do. The letters sent in the US after 911 where weaponized , ie made more effective by a very difficult and dangerous laboratory action. This appears to be not be a weaponized version of the cell structure, since no one was apparently harmed by it. Most anthrax exposures, are not deadly, but all could or can be.

It at a time was called the sheep herders illness, since people that hand cut sheep wool, would at time pickup the spores. In the US a group of angry white supremacists, went to a spot in the desert, that they knew sheep had been buried after coming down with the illness. They planned to use the spores they dug up, mixed with a hand cream, and spread on the stair rails in court houses. They where turned in by a scorned girl friend.

If you suspect you have been around a letter or item laced with the spores, do not panic, but get physically away from it. Wash your hands very well, and then once you have done this then wash your face and other areas that may have been exposed. Call the police, and report the incident, do not let anyone into the area, and you may want to keep away from others as well. When possible, take off the clothes you had on, and take a good long shower with a strong soap. Bag the clothes before you shower, and try and not touch even the outside of the bag after you shower and put on new clothes.

Wait till the authorities give you an all clear before going back into the area, or touching the clothes or bag holding them. In most cases, you will be fine, and at worse may get a rash or other skin irritation.

In this last case the powder was white, in most cases it will be a dull brown, but could be mixed with a powder of any color, so be careful.

Please see video for more info: