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I am an international security consultant. A licensed bodyguard. Publisher and author and the Managing Director of Concept Tactical Worldwide.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

For your information.

Information is valuable, your personal information is especially valuable.
Therefore you should carefully control who has access to it.

I am writing this piece in response to a recent YouTube video doing the rounds on the Internet about a girl who joins the popular social networking website, Facebook. She displays pictures of herself in various sexy outfits and bikinis and begins to attract the attention of a number of "male" Facebook users. According to the video she accepts "friend" requests without thought or question and without actually ever having met the "friend requester" in person and soon enough has hundreds of "friends" on Facebook. One particular "friend" starts to make sexual advances towards her. She spurns his advances and "un-adds" him as a connection. Unfortunately according to the video it was too late -- as the "bikini girl" had published her address details on her page and the sexual predator had them. A couple of days later the girl is found by the police dead in her home.

While I do not believe this particular video tale to be true I think the message behind the video is important none the less. Protect your information and be careful of who you interact with on social networking websites. The story of the "bikini girl" could very well be true, in the past or in the future. The basic and perhaps obvious message in the video is that you must not display your home address on your Facebook page. Not only that, show commonsensical discretion about what images of yourself you publish on the net.

Be aware that Internet predators and data collectors will not only look for your home address but for the following information:

Your age and more specifically your date of birth, your gender, who you live with, who your family members are, your partner’s name, your family members’ names, where you work, who you work for and with, what your job description is, where you socialise, if you have pets and what their names are.

Additionally they will try to find out if you have any vices - do you gamble, do you drink excessively, do you take drugs.

The reasons for seeking this information about you could be several -- from simply looking for market research information and how best to deliver the right kind of target advertising to you, to more sinister motives such as kidnap and ransom or robbery.

However, according to many law enforcement agencies one of the most common criminal activities perpetrated on the world wide web and through social networking websites is of a sexual nature by perverts and predators who want to take advantage of young children.

So if you have kids, then it is absolutely your primary responsibility to ensure that your children interact on the web in a safe and responsible manner. The potential threat facing children on the web is a very real one and as a parent you should be as mindful of this fact as you are of the perils of letting your child play on the streets at night unsupervised.

Financial Benefit

If not for any other reason, you should protect your personal information in order to safeguard your finances. Access to some of the information I have listed above can allow a cyber-criminal to open the door to your bank account and e-mail accounts.

I shall explain why:

Your password - Answer the following questions honestly:

Does your password contain your date of birth?
Does your password contain your partner’s name?
Does your password contain your pet’s name?

If you answered yes to any of the above three questions, do not be surprised that I knew you would. You are part of the massive majority of Internet users. Cyber-criminals and criminal syndicates have taken full advantage of this fact and have created computer programs that only require your date of birth and the names of the people and pets in your life as well as various other commonly used password elements such as number sequences frequently used by virtue of their place on a common keyboard. They then input this information into these programs which then generate hundreds of combinations using these elements.

These combinations are then systematically entered into your social networking and e-mail accounts - either by program or by human intervention.

A vital part of information that you need to protect but which is often thought of as being the least harmful is your e-mail address. This is an essential part of the process of getting into your accounts and accessing your information. Therefore, never disclose your e-mail address on social networking websites. To further protect yourself from cyber attack, use different e-mail addresses for different purposes. It is a good idea just to have an e-mail address to create social networking website accounts -- then never disclose this e-mail address to anyone.

Also, take note of the domino effect that can take place once just one of your accounts has been breached. For instance, if cyber-scum disguised as an innocent school teacher or hospital nurse becomes your friend and is able to see your e-mail address they can immediately get to work.

They have your e-mail address so they know where your main e-mail account is hosted. All they need to do now is figure out your password. And if you have been as free with information on your personal profile about your pet’s and your partner’s names, then, alas, more than likely your date of birth is freely displayed as well.

The criminals now have the most common elements that make up Internet passwords. All they have to do now is work on the combinations.

Now imagine they crack your password and are able to access your main e-mail account. They are now able to systematically access and change all your passwords on all your accounts linked to that e-mail address.

Remember, when you request a password change on a networking site, the way in which the site asks you to verify who you are is by accessing a link which they will send to the e-mail address you used to create the account in the first place.

A top tip is to have different passwords for different accounts. This makes the chance of the domino effect taking place minimal if just one of your non-main e-mail accounts is hacked.

Another very important fact to remember when on social networking sites is that according to commonly found Internet statistics, between 40% and 50% of all profiles are fake!

I personally know of one particular Facebook user who has created at least 7 fake accounts. I know it is the same user as I look for and have identified the following traits within all of the fake accounts:

All of the fake profile pictures are partially obscured or completely individually un-identifiable. All the profile names have been similarly concocted. All of the fake profiles act towards the same goal -- obviously as it is one person the grammar and writing style are near-identical. Additionally this user always has the fake profiles back each other up. In other words he makes the fake profiles look genuine by using the other fake profiles as a sort of pledge -- by writing on “each other’s” walls and commenting on “each other’s” stories.

Now this user’s goals are simple and not so sinister. This user is trying to sell a company name and product through word of mouth and recommendations through the fake profiles. What amazes me is how many genuine Facebook users seem to eat it all up and fall for what I can only describe as very poor con artistry.

Another tell tale sign of a fake profile is that they often call other accounts – genuine ones -- fake in an attempt to ward off anyone questioning their own authenticity. The alarm bell here for me is that this is taking place in security industry circles and is largely being bought, hook, line and sinker.

While I am on the topic of the security industry, another risk involved in social networking is security professionals such as bodyguards often putting at jeopardy their client’s safety through unbelievably unprofessional and stupid status updates, tweets and photos.

Identifying who their client currently is; pinpointing the exact location of themselves and their client at a concurrent moment; sometimes giving away the fact the celebrity for instance is in another country.

As you probably know, all you have to do to find out a star’s home address is to search the Internet or buy a "Hollywood stars" type map. If you know the star is out of the country -- bingo, free house robbery.

And of course there are numerous stories of people being fired from their jobs because of what they have said on social networking sites.

So protect you information on-line - what you put out and who and what you let in.

It is important not only to be tactically aware of your surroundings but to be tactically aware of your patch of Cyber-Space.

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com

Monday, 14 June 2010

A salute to the South African Security Forces - So far so good.

Congratulations are in order - congratulations to the combined efforts of the South African Security Forces under the leadership of the South African Police Force (SAPF).

Their work in ensuring a safe and terrorist-free start to the 2010 Soccer World Cup has been commendable and should be applauded. Be under no illusions that a terrorist attack during the early stages of the games was not a serious risk - notably to the opening ceremony and match as well as the England vs USA clash.

The SAPF and FIFA played down any terrorist threat and basically denied that any threat existed at all. I don't quite understand why they chose to take this approach as opposed to stating that there was a threat but it was being adequately and significantly dealt with.

The seriousness of the danger has been widely accepted and documented by respected security experts and institutions globally.

And anyone living in South Africa would be able to testify to the fact that all the preconditions needed to be able to carry out an attack on South African soil are in place. Access to weapons. Access to fraudulent identification. Access to sensitive information. Corruption and porous borders.

Interestingly, an argument put forward by some security experts on why a terrorist attack in South Africa is unlikely is that terrorist groups would not want to upset the current status quo of South Africa as a logistics hub for them. Al-Qaeda suspects in many parts of the world have been found to have South African passports...

Additionally, considering that cash in transit heists carried out by between 12 and 24 criminals armed with AK47 assault rifles are almost a common occurrence in the country as well as ATM bombings involving explosives obtained illegally through South Africa's large mining sector, it is easy to see how by simply changing the motive from cash to wholesale terror the objective could be easily achieved.

The tournament is of course far from over with just over three weeks of footballing drama still to unfold on the field. The World Cup still presents a very appealing target to those cowards we call terrorists.

Therefore these congratulations are not premature praise but rather a thoughtful appraisal of a job well done thus far.

Good luck South Africa and remember to keep your eye on the ball!

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Bothered Bodyguards in Africa.

The Soccer World Cup is upon us.
Held in Africa for the first time in the competitions history.

South Africa actually and nervous international spectators have brought their own muscle to SA to protect them from the frightening statistics they have been hearing about, the 50 murders a day, the armed robberies, the assaults, the hi-jackings and the rape - alas it seems the bodyguards themselves are bothered.

I am receiving reports across South Africa that European and American bodyguards are fidgety and anxious. Out of their depth in a first world / third world mix that they simply don't understand. They feel threatened by the street vendors and safe at the sight of police officers... hmmm in Africa nothing is quite what it seems.

I feel pensive at the moment and prefer to just watch. Watch, wait and observe. This will be interesting I have no doubt. Good thing the majority of these American and European protectors are unarmed. Otherwise they may just get themselves into some trouble and strife.

If you, yes you reading this, just happen to be a bodyguard not from Africa then please listen to these written words;

Take heed - use caution, be prudent and be nice. You may just survive.

Boo!

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sophisticated adaptability.

“This is the car in which they shot my husband through the head” she said. “This is where I found him, dead. Now they are after me and my son, now they want us dead”.

These were the words of my client to me on my first day on the job, on her farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.

She had taken up my services as a bodyguard on the advice of the deputy commander of the South African Urban Commando Unit, a man who trained me and under whom I worked.

She needed my protection because a court case involving the suspected murderer of her husband was about to take place. Her private investigator, an ex-South African Special Branch apartheid-era police officer, had solid intelligence that the culprit and his gang were planning to take out the only two witnesses to the killing – my principal and her son.

It was now my job to protect them.

Adding to this was another court case running concurrently regarding ownership of the farm. The previous farm manager and an ex-wife of my principal’s late husband both wanted a piece of the estimated 23-million Rand estate. Speculation was rife that both of them were willing to do anything to get their hands on a slice of that cash.

This was Threat Level Maximum. Attack Imminent.

For the record, I was able to ensure that no harm befell my clients. Perhaps in a future piece I will be able to divulge the specific details of this intriguing tasking.

Fast forward a few years and I am now in London protecting high profile celebrity clients from a different kind of shooter. The Paparazzi.

The two operating environments couldn’t be more different – in fact they are worlds apart.

In South Africa I was equipped with a 9mm Heckler and Koch USP Compact and Level III Body Armour. In London I am unarmed and soft skinned.

However in both countries my job description is the same. Protect my client from harm -- from all forms of injury whether it be physical or mental.

So what is the key to being able to successfully carry out my objectives, however different they may be? The answer is -- adaptability.

Adaptability is everything. Not only to the different kinds of dangers my clients may face but being able to adapt to an ever-changing close protection market.

An amalgamation of adaptability and sophistication is required. These two words, side by side, are the golden keys to success as an operator in the field of close protection.

Sophisticated adaptability is now demanded of you from the client and more importantly by the modern-day threats to which our principals are exposed. Gone are the days of the BG standing in the background in dark glasses and a suit – this no longer cuts it, not that it ever did. Unless of course it is part of a multi-layered protective shield being employed, if indeed you know what I mean.

Sophistication shall be found in the details.

In 2009, while I was running the security detail for the Dutch Royal Family, as one of their 50-member family held a wedding reception, attention to detail was my fundamental necessity.

I had operatives whose specific duty was to ensure that no guests came too close to the poisonous plant section of the botanical gardens. Members of my team were placed as lifeguards at the water’s edge of the two fish ponds within the beautiful gardens. I had an operative man the entrance to the bee enclosure – wouldn’t want anyone getting stung.

This total security is now expected from any reputable and indeed successful security adviser and company.

But it is not always provided -- and it is noteworthy that a member of the Dutch Royal Family congratulated my team for "the most discreet and efficient security we have ever experienced".

This complete security methodology is at the core of being able to successfully look after high net worth, high profile clients.

Coupled with an unparalleled understanding of client brand protection and the subtle nuances involved in making secure some of the world’s most famous and successful personalities.

What are the credentials needed in order to be afforded the opportunity to provide close protection to world renowned personalities and business leaders, you may ask…… Besides an appropriate forces background, years of related empirical experience and the appropriate training, qualifications and licensing?

*The confidence to be friendly while still being strong and protective.

*Discretion, intelligence and sophisticated adaptability -- the highest understanding of what modern day clients expect from their bodyguard.

This understanding is what makes clients employ the services of successful protection specialists again and again.

On that note, if there is any “advice” I feel compelled to dispense to upcoming and hopeful bodyguards it would be simply: to smile!

As a Close Protection Officer one of the greatest signals of strength and security that you can convey to your client is by smiling at them.

The truth is that the tougher you may try to appear, the weaker you look.

Smile.

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com

Saturday, 29 May 2010

American Heavy in London.

Another high profile celebrity event in West London. The main act being an American chart topping singer performing in aid of her charity. Supported by various musicians from both the United States and the United Kingdom. I headed the twenty man security detail on the night.

Business as usual? Not quite. As on this occasion the main act had brought along her own personal bodyguard and security manager. Relatively unusual as we typically provide the Personal Protection for the star.

Not a problem I think to myself - I have worked with my American counterparts on many occasions and have always found them to be highly professional and experienced operatives. I look forward to the pre-event operational meeting with her security manager.

Unfortunately alarm bells ring when I am told his name, which I won't mention here. Not because he has a bad reputation, yet, or anything. Or that I have ever heard of him before but because it is simply corny - the first part of his "name" being an adjective. Yes seriously.

Anyway I decide not to judge a book by its name and move on to the meeting. Indeed it was not love at first sight. His name matched his appearance. He was rude. He was brash - I think he may have thought that he in fact was his client. Even though his client was polite, softly spoken, feminine, talented and glamorous.

The cherry on top was his personalised, diamond studded ear piece which had his "adjective first part of his name" initials on it. Yes seriously.

Ah well. The personal protection industry has not quite completely evolved just yet - getting there though.

Within an hour of being on site the "adjective first part of his name" door blocker had started a full on swearing match with the London Paparazzi. I could already see the next day's headlines "Bodyguard loses it with London paparazzi". Without instruction one of my men stepped in and controlled the situation through intelligent dialogue. I now realised I was going to have to constantly monitor the situation and deploy manpower I was already short of to do the door blockers job for him.

By the end of the night "adjective first part of his name" had requested twelve of my men to create a human chain from the principals luxury tent to her car at a distance of no more than two and a half meters. This was to protect against an entire frightful army of five paparazzi who were left at the end of the event. Yes seriously.

My men stood in that "human chain" for over an hour. One of the paparazzi remarked "In all my time this is the most pathetic thing I have ever seen on the streets of London". It was embarrassing.

Now if there were forty or fifty paparazzi outside, which often happens in London, waiting to pounce on foot as well as in vehicle's and a hoard of excited and crazed fans, potentially much more dangerous than paparazzi - as sleazy as they may be, perhaps I would have understood this gratuitous and heavy handed use of man power. Alas there were just five photographers - four men and one woman, all of whom I know by face. Perhaps "adjective first part of his name" was aware of a secret group of Ninja- Python-Assassin-Paparazzi that were waiting to pounce. I had no intel on them and surely didn't see any.

I can only put "adjective first part of his name" approach to security down to paranoia. Paranoia and a lack of sophistication and training.

He also obviously has not read my work on Sophisticated Adaptability - a piece I wrote as a favour for a small in-house publication with limited readership. I shall post the work here so that it may reach a wider audience.

The point is that the correct and proper manner in which to provide personal protection to high profile celebrity clients is different all over the world.

However one thing remains the same on an international level. A celebrities bodyguard is an extension of their own brand. And if not managed carefully an oaf of a bodyguard will inevitably negatively affect the client.

I have no doubt that sooner or later the celebrity in question will be branded as a spoilt diva who demands more protection than the President of the United States and who allows her guards to beat on her fans and photographers.

I can guarantee you though that the client has no idea of the thuggish way in which her bodyguard behaves and would be shocked to find out.

Eventually he will damage her reputation and brand and endanger her safety. A real shame.

- In an unrelated incident involving a different bodyguard - Type in the words "bodyguard loses it" into Google and you will see that it is the name of the bodyguards rapper client that comes up first and that makes the headlines - not the name of the thug in the video.

Oh yes, let me not forget to mention the fact that we had two more ultra high profile Hollywood celebrities attend the event. They however had professional, highly trained, personal protection agents looking after them. They left the event without the slightest incident. We got them through a side door and into a waiting car. Nobody even knew they were there...

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Command and Control in the business world.

A strong and well established Command and Control structure is a given necessity for any modern military force or police service but does it have a place in the civilian world of business? Absolutely.

Without clear lines of command and control employees at the bottom end of a business structure may start to get self serving ideas and rise above their stations. While under certain circumstances this may prove positive and have a beneficial result for the company over the short term in the long run the inevitable outcome is harmful.

Without a strong command and a clear line of communication from the top downwards minor conspiracies and plans of action between employees are bound to be formulated - raising individual desires and aspirations above those of the company.

The effect of a lack of formidable control will also be felt outside of the confines of a company's premises and head office but will filter down to branch offices and areas of operation on the ground.

Any successful or failing operation will begin from the time a client is engaged on the phone or by email to the time of service delivery on the ground in the field.

An on site duty manager, supervisor or team leader can only be effective in carrying out his duties if his orders and objectives are made clear to him through a comprehensive and consistent line of communication.

Most important to the success of any company involved in providing man power and service delivery is a consistent approach to man management. Unreliable and wavering supervision will be the catalyst to high staff turnover, poor quality personnel, ill discipline and eventual loss of business.

For more info visit http://www.concepttactical.com