Threat Assessment 101 for Corporate Security Teams
Modern software tools and data collection make building threat assessment easier and better communicate risk. Leading corporate security teams understand the value of a threat assessment and how it fits into their overall risk management system.
A threat assessment helps security managers and company leaders gauge risk. When done correctly, the assessment process helps to engrain specific security standards across assets and employees. In addition, threat vulnerability assessments give security managers the information they need to assign resources designed to limit and deter threats.
In a world where companies face increasing physical and cyber risks, understanding exposure and ways to improve security measures are essential to protecting assets, people, and reputation.
Learn how to build and optimize the threat assessment and management process to understand various threat landscapes. A clearer view of what’s out there empowers teams to plan for and respond to security issues before they become significant problems.
Why Is a Threat Assessment so Important to an Organization?
The threat assessment is one of the most efficient tools security teams use to recognize and respond to physical security threats or information technology risks.
One of the most significant benefits of threat vulnerability assessments is they standardize the approach to threat across a corporation. In a large company, for example, security managers often have teams in different countries or use vendors as guards, supervisors, and inspectors.
Imagine a situation in which each country or individual was responsible for assessing threats. Typically, people let past experiences, cultural differences, and their interpretation of risk get in the way of objective reporting. For example, how someone in India interprets crime threats will likely vary significantly from how someone in Singapore views crime.
A standardized threat framework changes that. It holds everyone to the same standard when assessing risks to buildings, employees, operations, digital technology, and other assets. Moreover, even standards better guarantee uniform security responses across an organization, which makes everything from resource management to future investment in security software simpler.
How Different Corporate Security Programs Use Assessments
Threat assessment often broadly refers to an organization’s measure of a given risk. A site security assessment, for instance, is typically a report highlighting a facility’s security measures and assessed ability to detect or deter threats. On the other hand, an investigations manager uses threat assessments to understand the impact of any threat of violence in the workplace.
Here’s a look at how different security functions use threat analysis and risk assessments.
Executive protection teams are usually on the receiving end of threat assessment reports. For example, intelligence analysts, protective intel teams, or regional security managers feed information to close protection teams to keep them abreast of ongoing security threats or conditions on the ground where they travel.
Protective intelligence teams at large corporations typically receive threats and unwanted interactions that target company executives. As a result, they manage cases and produce reports that go to executive protection team members, security directors, and c-suite clients.
Regional analysts, or protective intelligence analysts, create threat assessments to communicate risk across the organization in response to terrorist attacks, political unrest, social upheaval, crime, and other security conditions.
Investigators manage cases related to everything from insider theft to workplace threats of violence. They investigate the loss of digital assets and identify retail shrinkage trends. Threat assessments help them manage resources and risks to the company.
Global Asset Protection
Asset protection teams vary, but most are responsible for protecting high-value assets like source code, formulas for food products, or hardware on display in retail locations. Threat assessments help them make informed decisions on how much money to spend on cybersecurity and physical security measures to stop bad actors by protecting corporate assets.
Cyber Security Threat Assessment
Cyber security teams use network threat assessments and IT threat assessments to prevent attacks against their networks and digital assets.
Aligning the Risk Assessment Framework with Corporate Values
Creating a functional threat assessment program requires building a framework that defines acceptable risk levels. Every company must accept some risks to facilitate business and make their organization a place where employees and customers want to be.
For instance, technology companies tend to favor more open offices with fewer physical security barriers. Compare entering a Silicon Valley tech space with trying to get into a defense contractor located in Virginia. You’ll quickly notice the difference in how each approaches risks or perceived security threats.
The point is an experienced security threat assessment team will go to lengths to understand the company’s values and risk tolerance. Then, they’ll build their security and risk mitigation framework inside those boundaries to fit corporate strategy and build the safest possible environments.
This approach also increases the security team’s ability to win partners across departments. They’re more likely to have the resources they need to implement security plans when viewed as an enabler rather than a roadblock to progress.
A strategic threat and risk assessment tells company leaders how to do something instead of why not to do it.
How to Build a Threat Assessment Template
A threat assessment template should be the first step once a security team cements its risk framework. The concept is simple; when everyone uses the same template, it leaves little room for misunderstanding. Everyone knows what information to provide, whether a new hire is doing their first assessment or the work is contracted out.
There are plenty of threat vulnerability assessment templates available online. A security team can likely get templates by asking vendors they hire or partners in the industry. However, the real work involves personalizing the template to fit individual organizations.
Thankfully, there are now more options than ever that make creating and managing templates more efficient. While some companies probably still use pen and paper to note the location of broken locks and cameras, better choices are available.
Key Elements of a Threat and Risk Assessment
What are some of the critical elements of a cohesive threat assessment process? What should people be looking for to gauge and mitigate risk properly? Here are some things that every good threat assessment needs.
- Public Profile Examination – A big part of assessing risk is looking at publicly available information about an individual or an organization. How can bad actors like criminals, competitors, or saboteurs use that information to gain access?
- Documented & Potential Threats – Maintain an updated record in the threat assessment of actual threats and look at potential hazards that may be around the corner.
- The Physical Environment – Physical environments impact risk. A high-profile celebrity is usually at greater risk of assault from an obsessed fan than a less well-known corporate executive. The same goes for differences in local security conditions in places like the United States versus Ukraine.
- Current Security Measures – How do your current security measures address documented threats and potential issues yet to develop? Take a look at whether security postures must change based on the other elements listed.
These four elements are the baseline for an effective threat assessment. Each organization will likely vary to some degree in what they look at and how they implement threat assessment findings.
Investing in Threat Risk Assessment Software
The most innovative threat assessment tools use software and cutting-edge data collection to better gauge threats and security responses. Here’s a look at how security managers and their teams use the latest tools to assess and respond to threats.
Cloud-Based Threat Assessment Platforms
Security software empowers teams across locations and functions. For example, on a shared platform, a person of interest (POI) investigator can update a report that informs a regional security manager on security incidents so that they can assign protective resources faster.
The cloud means corporate security has access to active threat management processes built on a specific threat assessment model wherever they are. In addition, your data stays safe with built-in business continuity workflows.
One of the main problems with traditional threat assessment techniques is they only capture the threat at the time. However, conditions constantly change in a turbulent environment, making regular updates critical.
Now, no one has to wait for the analyst to update the assessment template with the latest threat of violence or when an earthquake happens near a manufacturing facility in China. Instead, empowered team members can update cases, make comments, or provide feedback on analyst projections. As a result, the threat assessment becomes a living document that sits on a single database instead of pieces of information spread across different email inboxes.
Outside Data Feeds
One major advantage of security software is that it gives teams access to public information feeds that inform decisions. Whether it’s tracking crime around colleges for a campus threat assessment or following social media threats in response to an executive’s public statements, the latest security software provides more information in one place than ever before.
Feed all the relative information into one platform instead of paying multiple vendors and sifting through feeds manually. In addition, users can filter data based on what is needed at the time with access to public information relative to the overall threat assessment.
Cohesive Cases & Reports
People, particularly non-security stakeholders, are increasingly unlikely to read long security reports or assessments. Instead, they favor short, direct reports communicating events, data, and facts. One of the benefits of a threat assessment software platform is that it can quickly generate reports with just that. Security teams can choose to add insight, but they can also send out a be on the lookout (BOLO) report before the next annual shareholders meeting with a few mouse clicks.
The software allows security groups to scale much faster. Users can generate threat assessments for locations, facilities, POI activity, events, and other intelligence requirements on a cloud-based platform.
Clear Escalation Paths
Many organizations have detailed threat matrices that help security supervisors and directors understand what response is appropriate in the face of any given threat. There will be, of course, exceptions to most rules, especially in unpredictable situations. However, a shared threat assessment on a software platform helps everyone better understand when and how to escalate any security threat.
After the Initial Security Threat Assessment
Most corporate security programs have processes that outline threat assessment protocols. However, what to do with the threat assessment after completion is usually a significant roadblock. Either the report quickly becomes outdated, or different departments generate additional reports because they can’t find it or don’t know it exists.
The latest threat assessment software changes how teams use the results to inform action. Threat assessments are living documents constantly updated according to current conditions and security postures. As a result, security teams can adjust faster to new threats and how they’ll respond using scenario-based intelligence.
The audit trail of a digital threat assessment also facilitates after-action reviews (AAR), where companies can assess resourcing and how they respond to incidents or suggestions in the assessment. In addition, departments can identify security gaps by looking for trends based on how certain security measures lowered risk exposure in real dollar and life safety terms.
Software also offers new employees simulated threat assessment training that readies them for real-world experiences. For example, supervisors can task new investigators with creating cases, updating files, searching for social media keywords, and other components of a comprehensive threat assessment.
Asking for Outside Perspectives
People usually adapt to security threats around them. Someone’s normal can feel very dangerous to someone unaccustomed to living in a high-risk environment. On corporate security teams, leaders must ensure their threat assessments aren’t clouded by assumptions or acclimation.
Asking for outside help from threat assessment professionals is a terrific way to identify gaps or new ways of thinking. Working with experts in the threat assessment field often leads to new ideas on managing risks to a company, its assets, or its employees.
Effective teams call on experts for support with complex threat assessments or other unique situations. Whether you’re creating a new program or want a refresh, some very experienced security providers will lend a hand.
When selecting outside support, find someone familiar with threat assessment software and the latest tools to empower the entire security team. They will work with you to establish best practices around using threat assessments and action plans for future growth.
The Value of Threat Assessment Beyond Security Teams
Evolving threats and more security risks mean more people are likely to rely on threat assessment tools and threat risk assessment software to guide companies forward. Gone are the days when the assessment was passed around between security managers and filed away. Now, the benefits of modern threat assessment techniques extend beyond physical security.
For example, legal and human resources teams can use shared security software platforms to take advantage of the audit trail they provide. Each case or report has a digital fingerprint from everyone who contributed to the report, which makes collaboration faster.
In addition, regional and enterprise incident management teams (IMT) can access shared platforms to assign tasks, establish a clear threat assessment process, and model future scenarios.
Tools for Strategic Reviews
Threat assessments are fantastic tools that help teams perform strategic reviews. Leaders regularly examine existing practices and resources as they look toward building security plans for tomorrow’s threats. Detailed threat assessments highlight the effectiveness of a given program or point to holes that must be filled.
Years ago, most corporate security teams conducted strategic reviews by sending out surveys or spending thousands of dollars on airfare to bring groups to one location for meetings and discussions.
Now, however, that’s no longer necessary. The modern threat assessment provides a timeline of events and actions taken throughout an incident. For example, suppose there was a security incident at a live concert. In that case, a security team can conduct a deep dive into the pre-event security checklist, assess any POI reports, how well the team involved local law enforcement, and other factors to understand what they may have done differently.
In addition to specific security incidents, an updated threat assessment is fantastic for spotting trends in data that indicate either an increase in physical or cyber security investments or a scaling back based on reduced threats.
Start Building Your Threat Assessment Training Program
The best corporate threat assessment programs involve a unified approach across teams that is consistent and adequately addresses risks to the company. In addition, security managers must have confidence that whoever is reporting, updating, or escalating threat assessment reports will follow protocols and, when necessary, make the right decision to protect people, assets, and reputation.
This is only possible with effective training. Employees and stakeholders need regular exercises to understand the threats facing the company and how to manage risks. When people know what to look for and how to respond, threat assessments make more sense.
In Ontic’s 2022 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence Report, 98% of survey respondents said threat management training or behavioral threat assessment is important for their team to do their jobs successfully.
Here are some things to consider as you build your threat assessment program:
- Standardized checklists & protocols
- Involve threat management experts
- Use real-world scenarios
- Step-by-step threat assessment software demos
- Address various risks (business continuity interruptions, the threat of violence, etc.)
An effective threat assessment training program helps security teams design relevant training across corporate departments on:
- Threats of violence
- Natural disasters
- Long-term power interruptions
- Terrorist attacks
Overall, formal threat assessment training clarifies roles and improves communication across teams. As a result, people know how to react. Doing the right thing is critical in high-risk situations or when a lot is at stake.
Managing the Expanding Threat Landscape
Corporate security teams face challenging security environments that will test their ability to protect their people and assets. Not only do managers have to respond to higher crime rates across many cities and countries, but they’re also dealing with what seems like permanent changes to how we work.
For example, remote work is on the rise, and it’s likely to stay in some form despite gradually returning to normal operations in a post-covid world. How do security departments extend their threat prevention and risk mitigation to the home versus traditional school safety settings?
In addition to generation shifts in how and where we work, there is an increasing confluence between physical and cyber security threats. Even today, many cyber and physical security teams remain siloed. Unified responses are essential for organizations to respond to modern and future security breaches.
Building a comprehensive threat assessment program allows security teams to integrate with others to address cyber security concerns, legal threats, and reputational risks. The threat assessment then becomes the baseline for a company’s response and helps them refine practices for the future.
Learn how Ontic’s team of SIGMA experts can help your organization establish a consistent, unified approach to threat assessment and management with a free consultation.