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Executive Travel: Using Threat Intelligence to Maintain Situational Awareness

Business travel provides opportunities for executives to develop relationships with a larger network, learn from industry professionals across the globe, and increase sales.

The number of global flights in the airline industry reached an all-time high of 38.1 million in 2018, reflecting a 14.3 million increase since 2004. Corporations are taking advantage of this increase, with an average of 445 million business trips occurring annually at a total value of $488 million each year.

The Importance of Executive Travel

Business travel provides opportunities for executives to develop relationships with a larger network, learn from industry professionals across the globe, and increase sales. Whether a company is a global enterprise or not, executives are dedicating more time and money to travel as 90% of professionals believe that business travel is crucial to company growth. They are not wrong in this belief considering that there is a $2.90 average increase in profit and a $9.50 average increase in revenue for every dollar spent on corporate travel.

Executive Travel Risks

Executive travel opens a whole new level of threats that security teams need to stay on top of. As shown in Figure 1, the level of threats in each country differs. It is integral that security teams are well versed with the different threats that exist in the areas their executives are traveling to. 

According to a study from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 29% of travel managers reported that they do not know how long it would take to locate employees at risk and only 50% said that they could locate their employees within two hours or less. Within this time frame, executives are being exposed to additional risks each second they are not located and protected.

Figure 1: 2019 FAM International Security travel risk map displaying different levels of security risks by country

The planning process of business travel is integral to ensuring the safety of your executives and is often an expectation that is underdelivered. Only 50% of business travelers receive pre-trip information before traveling which leads to under-informed executives, leaving them as a target for more threats.

Having a strong understanding of the culture, laws, threats, and risks associated with the country will better prepare your security team for the unpredictability of traveling. Relying solely on close protection services to effectively protect your executives is a high-risk practice that doesn’t involve proactive measures. Security teams need to acquire the same level, if not more, of expertise and knowledge in the country their executives are traveling to as they would in their domestic country. 

Threats are the main catalyst for changes in travel plans, with 58% of modified travel itineraries being due to security risks and threats. Whether it be modifying transportation, accommodations or event plans, risks involved in executive travel requires security teams to have all the pertinent information to generate the most effective strategy.  While planning out each step of the trip is important, having the tools in place to enhance situational awareness and properly modify itineraries are key to managing threats every step of the way. 

Incorporating Threat Intelligence into Executive Travel

The threat landscape is expanding and the Internet is starting to play a bigger role in threats towards executives. Threat intelligence tools allow security teams to have a stronger understanding of threats before their executive travels, as well as equips them with the situational awareness that is required to effectively modify travel itineraries. 

Location-Focused Searches

Location-focused searches equip security teams with the ability to monitor threats in specific locations. This process plays on the assumption that people who post will indicate where threats and violent attacks are occurring and stems away from traditional geo-fencing techniques that rely on location-enabled devices and inaccurate location detection. Threat intelligence tools allow your security team to set alerts for nearby landmarks, high traffic intersections and surrounding areas of where your executive will be traveling. 

An example of this type of threat intelligence strategy could be to set “Eiffel Tower” as a keyword of interest if your executive is traveling to Paris, France. This popular monument would be referenced across the web if there were to be threats occurring in that area, as shown in Figure 2. This is invaluable information for security teams as they know what the threat is, the source the information is coming from, and where the threat is occurring. 

Traditional security techniques require security teams to manually search several databases to get the information they need, taking time away from protecting their principal.  Having all of the information in one intelligent solution reduces the risks of information falling through the cracks and security teams getting held up in their searches.

Figure 2: Threat made towards the location of interest on Twitter

Keyword Searches

Keyword searches can be a useful tool in maintaining situational awareness while your executive travels. Setting up searches for your executive’s name, where they are traveling to, conferences they are at, and other key pieces of information can help your security team be quickly alerted if there are threats associated with those assets.

Instead of filtering through thousands of pieces of information, keyword searches allows your team to distil information down so only relevant threats are shown in a crisis. Having threat intelligence tools equips your team with more information in one spot, rather than running multiple manual OSINT and Google searches that miss the majority of the internet that exists on the Deep and Dark Web.

Alerting & Automation

Threat intelligence tools that allow for alerting and automation allows your security team to spend more time focusing on the executive. Before your executive travels, your team should generate a list of search queries that could lead to threat detection. This information can then be relayed into tools that allow for alerting and automation, such as Media Sonar, so your team is notified of relevant risks when they arise and can trigger a quick response and a more effective modified itinerary.

Relying on manual operations would require more time and resources to gather the information your security team needs. Without alerting and automation, security teams would need to be continually searching for threats, taking more resources away from the asset you are trying to protect – the executive.

With Media Sonar, security teams can create custom alerts and use saved search queries to remain situationally aware and take advantage of automation tools such as Threat Models and Pathfinder to gather information more efficiently and make connections between threats to see the whole picture. 

Book a demo to learn how Media Sonar threat detection and intelligence software can help your security team better protect your executive when they travel.

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