• Since the 1960’s, every decade has brought new shifts in security.
  • The pandemic will cause a new shift, technology solutions will help.
  • Threats will shift to residences from corporate.
  • We will return to the old.

For those who know me, or have read my books or writings, you know that I am a student of protection history. My official career in protection began in 1981, but truly began when I was in high school. In 1973, an Israeli diplomat was shot and killed in my neighborhood by a killer from the Black September Organization, of Munich fame. I never forgot that murder and thirty-seven years later, I solved the case.

As I look back into the modern history of protection, every decade has caused shifts in how security and executive protection teams operate, both in the private and government sectors. I’ve been fortunate (or not) to have been involved in some of those changes that were brought about through outside enemies and forces: terrorism and assassins. The pandemic is unique and does not appear to be man-made, but will be another change agent into how protection and security personnel operate.

The 1960’s brought a need for corporate security professionals due to the domestic bombings of corporate offices, political unrest and horrific assassinations; and in the 1970’s event security was changed forever by the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Munich. The 1980’s brought a decade of terror, with embassy bombings, kidnappings and hijackings and brought the first true wave of technology solutions to protect people and property. Also, in the 1980’s, the concept of protective intelligence really began to take shape, centered on analysis and surveillance detection. I was fortunate to be a part of those developments. The 1990’s brought the World Trade Center bombing, the New York City terror plots, and Oklahoma City. And in 2001, the world and security were changed forever by Osama Bin Laden with his strategic strike on America.

As I look back over the last thirty years, technology gets better and more refined; and tools evolve. On a practical level, how will the COVID-19 pandemic change operations for corporate security and executive protection? What technology solutions can help, with executives hunkered down at their residences? How will health monitoring evolve? For example, every protection officer learns early on that three to seven feet is the trouble zone on a protective detail, where threats lurk and assassins can strike. COVID-19 is like a ghost that can enter into your protective bubble and you would never know it.

First, I believe health protection will become the new frontier for protection officers and will be part of that shift. Technology solutions will help.

Second, as executives and staff work from home, threats will shift from corporate headquarters to private residences. To help mitigate this risk, technology solutions can help, for example, social media scans, surveillance cameras and license plate readers.

Third, we will return to the old. In the 1980’s, as a special agent with the State Department, we created a discreet counter-surveillance (CS) model as a layer of protection to keep a close eye on the likes of Princess Diana, Yasser Arafat, and the Secretary of State. The concept was based on distancing, i.e., being on the outside of the traditional protection “bubble” looking for threats before they entered the close-protection team’s inner ring of security. The model is truly simple and focused on distancing, discrete observation, and reduced resources. In sum, one protection officer can be leveraged across many platforms of protection. Counter-surveillance can be a powerful force multiplier, combined with protective intelligence and enhanced technology solutions.

However, I’m also a realist, old habits die hard, but how we have operated in the past, will no longer be the reality of the future.

Fred Burton is one of the world’s foremost experts on security and counterterrorism, and serves on Ontic’s Board of Advisors.

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