Providing Executive Protection: The Best Defense is Good Web Intelligence

Corporate SecurityExecutive Protection

It was only a few decades ago that “bodyguards” started to become a necessary function in the private sector. Today, executive protection is a clearly defined and high-priority area. It’s important to note that modern executive protection extends beyond early concepts of in situ bodily protection. Now, security requires broader visibility into cyber threats towards executives that while not tied to physical presence, are just as damaging. This depends on proactive web intelligence gathering to identify and monitor for direct threats and harassment, personal information leaks, and obtain situational data before and during events or traveling.

In this blog, we will:

  • Highlight the history of executive protection and how that influences strategies used today
  • Discuss how web intelligence can be used for executive protection
  • Share key data sources used for web intelligence monitoring

History of Executive Protection

A few global developments prompted increased prioritization of personal security and the need to redefine executive protection strategies in the United States. The term “executive protection” started to be used in the 1970s by the United States Secret Service for guarding foreign officials. 

To this day, executive protection tactics and strategies are largely modeled off military and law enforcement practices. This also influences much of the intelligence practice of modern personal security professionals.

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, wealthy immigrants to the United States created a market for and helped fund a surge of private protection services. At the same time, cases of high-profile corporate leaders kidnapped for ransom, domestically and abroad, increased significantly. The personnel that helped establish the modern profession of executive protection came predominantly from military or law enforcement – some of them exited public service to establish a new industry of personal, private protection. 

To this day, executive protection tactics and strategies are largely modeled off military and law enforcement practices. This also influences much of the intelligence practice of modern personal security professionals.

Threat Awareness & Data Sources

Executive protection professionals must know where they stand and assess the risks, threats, and vulnerabilities of a situation before they can take their first steps. To do that, they need a deep understanding of the internal and external factors that relate to the individuals a program means to protect. Much of this information comes from intelligence gathering, and increasingly, web intelligence is the most accessible source of information. 

In order to assess the external factors that will impact the success of an executive protection program, the first question that gets asked is: Are there direct threats and security risks to the organization or the executive? Executives are an abundant source of company secrets and intellectual property (IP), and so they are a primary attack vector for bad actors to gain further access.

Threats to wellbeing

If an executive is already the direct target of cyberstalking, intimidation, and harassment, this can and often does surface online. Coverage for these types of threats should include popular social networks, like Twitter and Reddit. Deep web sources, forums, and websites fall beneath the radar of popular search engines, such as the chan forums – 4chan and 8chan. The dark web, accessed through special networks and software, is not yet a staple stop for the majority of the executive protection industry. Nonetheless, with access to new technologies that simplify the searchability of web intelligence data, a growing number of security professionals are getting broader visibility and better situational awareness that includes the dark web.

Private information made public

Doxxing is the act of publicly releasing private information.  These types of threats can happen to anyone and have rippling consequences. Once an individual is doxed, “the cat is out of the bag.” That information is available for anyone to harass or harm an individual at will, often

Information moves fast online, and monitoring web intelligence helps surface when an individual’s information is made public.without much effort.

Doxxing might mean sharing personally identifiable information (PII), confidential details that identify the person and should be kept private. It might also refer to exposure of itinerary and travel plans, addresses, or phone numbers. This information can be dangerous in the wrong hands and might end up resulting in pranks or even fatal threats. These threats can happen anywhere online, but paste sites like Pastebin are popular for this purpose. These types of sites allow anyone to anonymously copy, paste and share any text information. Information moves fast online, and monitoring web intelligence helps surface when an individual’s information is made public.

Account compromise

Executives tend to have elevated privileges that are unique within the organization. They work from a position of trust, and if compromised, an executive account can be an entry point for a bad actor to gain access to other systems. That is why executives are often targeted much more actively than in other parts of the organization. Bad actors might be motivated to extract intellectual property, expose confidential data, leave behind a payload like in ransomware cases, or even just for prestige. Executive accounts may be targeted, or their accounts can be compromised as the result of the larger breach. There are a number of different tools that can be used to search through historical data breaches, but a leak might not show up on the mainstream radar right away. Cyber threat awareness will require identifying new leaks of account credentials online, checking the dark web and paste sites, along with continuous monitoring of web intelligence data sources.

Threats not directly aimed at executives can be just as damaging as personal and direct ones. Assessing risk requires an understanding of threats that are adjacent and nearby. Executive protection professionals will want to ask: Are there indirect threats and security risks present in geographic regions where the organization operates? This could mean direct threats to the organization to which the executives are associated, or possibly indirect security risks related to regions where a company does business. 

Web intelligence matters

With Media Sonar, provide visibility into threats towards people, organizations, and locations. Principal assets and indirect ones can be monitored to track known risks, and identify new threats, across social networks, news, blogs, forums, paste sites across the Internet, including the deep and dark web. If a threat or compromise pops up, a notification provides up-to-the-minute situational awareness. Without access to web intelligence, executive security cannot successfully assess and protect against dangerous cyber chatter and threats. 

Limited Time Offer!

We want to make our Web Intelligence & Investigations platform more accessible. Make the most of your 2022 security budget with up to 25% off all Media Sonar packages from now until March 1st, 2022.

Some conditions apply

Previous Post
Unified Open & Dark Web Intelligence for Cyber Investigations
Next Post
Close Protection: The Overlap of Digital & Physical Worlds

Become a Media Sonar Insider

Become a Media Sonar Insider

Please fill in a few details & we'll add you to our communications list.

Looking For More Content?

– Limited Time Offer –

Up To 25% Off All Media Sonar Packages

– Ends March 1, 2022 –

Some conditions apply