What is Executive Protection? A Complete Introduction

Executive Protection (EP), also called Close Protection (CP) or executive personal protection, refers to private risk mitigation and security measures designed to ensure the safety of individuals (principals) and their families. Principals may require executive protection services due to higher personal risk related to their employment, geographic location, net worth, affiliations, or status.

Classic attack scenarios targeting executives have focused primarily on physical surveillance of the executive or their family members, followed by an actual or attempted attack. However, criminals and other malicious actors have added a host of new tools and techniques in recent years, opening up many new types of attacks and pre-operational surveillance that EP teams must understand and mitigate. Additionally, cybercrimes and cyber surveillance – including spying on targets, stealing their personal information, or engaging in fraudulent cyber activity related to an individual or their identity – no longer require substantial technical acumen, and can allow attackers a fair amount of anonymity as they prepare or carry out attacks. To counter these threats, executive protectidon personnel must create thorough and holistic executive protection plans, while engaging in a continual process of risk assessment and mitigation in coordination with all members of the executive protection team.

Robust EP is far more than physical prowess. Highly skilled, well-trained executive protection professionals deploy intelligence and technological tools to survey and assess sites that are important to the protectee, including commercial buildings, corporate facilities, educational institutions, residences, and religious buildings. Effective executive protection teams must master classic physical protection tactics, including planning for individual events and protection of physical facilities, while also learning about new technologies that have changed the protection industry, including real-time information monitoring and tools that can help the team connect the dots between siloed data.


What is the Role of a Close Protection Officer?

An executive protection officer or close protection officer (CPO) has specialized training and tools designed to provide protective security. The daily responsibilities and duties of close personal protection can vary significantly, especially depending on the contract that controls the relationship and the geographic area of protection. Typically, the CPO is an executive protection specialist who always has as their main goal the prevention of any sort of loss, damage, injury, or death to the principal. Their primary responsibility is the planning and execution of a strategy for keeping their client and perhaps the client’s family safe and away from harm. As part of these goals, the officer may also conduct ongoing assessments for risks, threats, and vulnerabilities.

The role of close protection officer can overlap with a variety of similar responsibilities, including concierge services, driving, event facilitation, liaison with airports, hotels, venues, and staff, and safeguarding confidential and highly sensitive security information. Depending on the circumstances, CPOs may be deployed alone or as part of a larger team. The ability to work as part of a larger, cross-functional team of professionals is an essential soft skill for a close protection officer.

In many cases, close security protection officers flex far beyond their assigned duties to adapt to the constantly changing work situation and requirements of principles. This is especially true when the protection officer is also responsible for protecting family members of the principal. Flexibility is critical. The best close protection officers weave themselves into the daily operations of the principal and their family members, ensuring safety and security with as little disruption as possible to normal patterns of life.

Finally, anyone who serves on a protective team must build trust with the client. Close protection officers who can consistently demonstrate honesty and transparency in their decision making, while also being flexible in the means of executing the protection mission are typically most successful in establishing a trusting relationship with their principals.


How Does an Executive Protection Officer or Close Protection Officer Implement the Executive Protection Program?

EP officers engage in substantial and continual planning to create layers of protection surrounding their clients. These plans typically include a variety of contingencies in order to ensure the principals remain safe, regardless of the changing circumstances. For example, the advance or planning stage of any executive protection program involves mapping transit routes, understanding ingress, egress, and parking within any locations of interest to the protectee, and designing multiple contingency plans in place if any of the primary plans become non-viable or if an emergency arises. The officer’s ultimate goal is to deliver effective safety and security measures while providing their clients with a comfortable cushion of normalcy in their daily lives.

To do this, the close protection officer must leverage their knowledge of the principals, security skill sets, and a variety of tools to understand, mitigate and respond to threats. When given the choice, any CPO would prefer to proactively mitigate a problem before it becomes an actual threat, rather than being forced to confront emerging threats without warning. EP teams that incorporate protective intelligence into the core of their programs are the most successful in proactively understanding and combating threats to their principals.

The CPO or another member of the executive protection team will conduct background investigations on the principal, their family, and any individuals determined to be threats to the principal, both to understand exactly how the digital footprints of their principals and their families are exposed through the patterns created by technology vulnerabilities and individual decisions, while also assessing the threats posed by other actors. Information uncovered during these background investigations can be used to inform the CPO and the team about the most likely threats facing their day-to-day work, while also helping them to understand the best ways to keep the protectee safe, both during normal situations and in unusual circumstances, like travel. These threat assessments help to form the foundation of elite executive protection operations, ultimately mitigating the identified risks.

Once the EP team has created a baseline threat assessment and determined the best means of protecting the principals, a capable closed protection officer will continually evaluate emerging security issues and offer assessments of the threat. They are highly skilled with pattern recognition and can identify anomalous behavior. Ideally, these officers are also well trained in the use of technology and tools to detect threats and identify patterns in areas where human eyes cannot always be present.

Learn more about the principles of executive protection and what it means to be an executive protection officer.


Executive Protection Officer or Close Protection Officer vs Bodyguard or Security Guard

Although the roles share some responsibilities, an EP officer or close protection officer is distinct from the bodyguard or security guard role. The main difference is reactive versus proactive.

A close protection officer and bodyguard might both keep a client safe from physical threats such as assault, invasion of privacy, kidnapping, stalking, theft, and even assassination. However, bodyguards react to situations as they arise, whereas close protection officers proactively focus on risk mitigation to keep their principal out of harm’s way.

Bodyguards and security guards often serve as a highly visible deterrent, convincing potential attackers that there will be significant resistance or cost to their attack. Close protection officers are typically a less visible but integral part of the larger safety strategy surrounding the principal. They are less likely to fit the movie stereotype of being the person in a black suit with an earpiece, but are often much more effective at preventing adverse incidents.


Who Needs Executive Protection Services?

People often think that only celebrities need private executive protection, but this is a common misconception. Actually, there are many kinds of people who find themselves in need of heightened security, far beyond anyone who would interest the paparazzi.

Anyone whose status might leave them vulnerable to any sort of attack, including virtual or online, might benefit from executive protection services. This includes anyone with governmental influence, such as politicians or judges; industry leaders, and researchers with access to trade secrets; high net worth business professionals; and high-profile individuals or families who seek to protect their privacy or anonymity.

Here are some people who might benefit from VIP executive protection:

  • Celebrities
  • Dignitaries
  • Executives and CEOs
  • Musicians, Actors, and Performers
  • Political Figures
  • Professional Athletes
  • High Net Worth Individuals
  • Other VIPs

And while the cost of executive protection and EP rates can be prohibitive for some organizations, there is also a price for being caught unaware and unprotected from substantial threats. The cost of an actual or attempted attack may be more expensive – in terms of both real damages and reputational harm – than proactively addressing these issues with executive protection services.

Who Should Use Corporate Executive Protection Services?

There are several situations in which executive protection services make sense:

Corporations seeking to protect executives who are at high risk of assaults and kidnappings

Corporations taking extra measures to protect sensitive intellectual property

High-profile clients need protection and to limit access in situations where discretion is important, or in circumstances where a threat is likely or difficult to mitigate

Many organizations recognize their “duty of care” toward executives – the legal obligations that arise due to that person’s service within the company and any accompanying threats – and implement an executive protection program to meet those obligations. An can ensure that those organizations are adequately protecting those individuals and their family members from threats that are likely to occur.

However, corporate executive protection programs do not need to handle all aspects of the program in-house. Engaging with other companies that provide specialized services can help to augment the knowledge, skills and training of the executive protection team on an as-needed basis. For example, many companies benefit from the services of an executive protection company for overseas travel and assignments that demand high threat executive protection.

These firms typically engage employees in target areas who can assist in assessing the threat to executive travel in these areas and are experienced in understanding and mitigating the likely risks during travel. Executive protection firms who augment travel security programs may also help ensure the executive is following all local travel regulations, while also conducting on-the-ground contingency planning.

Similarly, executive protection teams can also engage firms that provide technology solutions that augment their skills and abilities. These solutions can assist in conducting executive threat assessments, collecting and storing information about potential threats, and analyzing potential threats.

And of course it’s not just high risk employees or executives who can benefit from executive protection programs. Executive protection tips can help keep high profile employees safer in-house from other kinds of danger, like active shooter attacks or hostage taking situations. Whether your team uses an actual service or you’re just sticking to a basic executive protection checklist for physical and cybersecurity threats, it is smart to apply this kind of proactive safety and security planning throughout the organization.


Why is EP Important to an Organization?

Implementing a robust and effective executive protection program helps to ensure an organization is meeting its obligations, while also preparing to mitigate potential problems before they become serious and ensuring business continuity.

Employers have a duty of care to workers—a moral and legal obligation to keep employees safe while on the job, and to some extent, to provide a safety net for employees after work hours. Wherever they are and whatever they are doing, protecting executives from likely and identified risks benefits companies. Since executives are among the most critical assets of an organization, ensuring their continued safety and security should be among the most critical tasks of an organization that seeks to maintain business continuity.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, crisis preparedness can also create a substantial competitive advantage for organizations. Protecting executives, information, and assets with actionable intelligence can be a part of ensuring any organization is not only prepared for a crisis when it occurs, but is also actively taking steps to prevent crisis situations. For executive protection and other private security professionals, successfully implementing real-time intelligence tools as part of a larger executive protection program can be an invaluable step in the process.


How can an Organization Improve Their Executive Protection Plan?

While it’s critical to employ a team of dedicated professionals who are well-trained and skilled in physical security and protection tactics and techniques, adding technology solutions can supplement these efforts in critical ways. Many threats that may not be immediately visible to on-the-ground security personnel can also be uncovered and understood by utilizing technology-focused executive threat protection solutions that can help collect, monitor, and analyze threat information. Implementing technology solutions that help the executive protection team holistically connect the dots among potential threats can be a critical addition to a comprehensive executive protection plan.


Technological Security and Risk Mitigation in the EP Industry

While there may be no way to control a crisis once it occurs, companies can do more to see problems coming, mitigate their impacts, and control how they respond. To make this strategy work within EP teams, it’s important to have the tools that allow senior-level security executives to maintain situational awareness, map out likely threats, and plan for any potential incident response. They must monitor and analyze data in real time and respond as crises happen with informed decisions—or anticipate problems in advance. Using the right combination of threat monitoring, collection and analysis tools can enable the team to identify emerging threats rapidly and avoid risk to executives and their family members by effectively allocating security resources and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies.

When assessing executive protection technology solutions, organizations should first develop a clear set of goals for what technology will do for the team and the types of threats they seek to understand and address. For example, this might be controlling access to a specific, sensitive location at an executive residence, or improving executive safety during travel. Then evaluate how each solution might address each security goal.

For example, to improve executive safety during travel, the executive protection team should have access to dynamic, responsive, real-time information that clearly illustrates what is happening from place-to-place and moment-to-moment, rather than simply having a static PDF file. As executive protection planning occurs related to the travel, aggregated data can highlight event trends in selected locations, enabling trend-based analysis.

Any executive protection software or other solution should also attempt to integrate previously collected information where possible, to ensure that data points about persons of interest and previously identified threats are not lost.


Technical Security Countermeasures (TSCM) vs Executive Protection Solutions

Technical security countermeasures (TSCM), sometimes known as “bug sweeps”, are designed to detect listening devices, the leakage of RF or radio frequencies, or hardwired listening devices across a phone, for example. While these tools and techniques focus on a different level of analysis and exposure than most executive protection solutions and analysis, they are often part of a holistic executive protection strategy. Such solutions are frequently used when an executive has access to business critical trade secrets, is engaged in sensitive negotiations, or if the executive has been previously targeted by malicious elements.

While most executive protection officers are not trained to conduct TSCM sweeps, these tools and procedures should be part of any executive protection toolkit. Executive protection analysts and officers should assess the threat of technical surveillance to their protectees, especially in geographic areas where such problems are more common, and engage with the appropriate professionals to deploy these tools, as needed.

Does Ontic Have Executive Protection Tools?

Yes. Ontic’s executive protection solution empowers teams that protect corporate executives and high-net-worth individuals with access to critical intelligence anytime and anywhere. Proactively monitor threats and keep principals safe at the office, at home, or on-the-go. Ontic’s purpose-built software helps executive protection teams see around corners and proactively manage threats.

Working from a mobile-enabled platform that provides real-time awareness of POIs and their geographic and personal associations, your executive protection team can prioritize what matters, manage security threats, and instill confidence in your program.

Efficiently keeping all executive protection officers and analysts up to date with real-time data thanks to thorough POI profiles and one-click BOLOs lets everyone on your team focus on the most critical signals as quickly as possible. Ontic provides a single location to find an up-to-date and comprehensive view of threats with real-time visibility of pre-incident indicators, enabling continuous monitoring of threat activities with the situational awareness and sharper insights your team needs.

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