In recent years, the Internet and social media have devolved into a virtual minefield for corporate executives. The pandemic and sociopolitical unrest of 2020 further accelerated the trend, leading to more nastiness and threats than ever. Against this changing backdrop, the field of executive protection has been expanding and redefining itself in real-time. Today, executive protection has advanced far beyond securing locations and bodies in the physical realm to also safeguarding online identities and reputations in the digital realm.
CEOs and companies are expected to take a stand on pressing social issues, yet the moment they do, they put a target on their back. There will always be someone who disagrees, and likely, there will be someone who takes that disagreement a step too far. In this politically charged and polarized environment, attackers are increasingly weaponizing the use of personal information that they freely obtain online to phish, dupe, dox, impersonate, and physically threaten executives.
I am also reminded of more extreme, high-profile cases ranging from the YouTube shooter who retaliated after being upset about new policies that restricted ad revenue to the Stage 4 cancer patient, displeased with his doctors’ care, who tracked down their homes online and showed up with handguns. Just last month, giving new meaning to the phrase “getting out of Dodge,” Mayor Joyce Warshaw of Dodge City, Kansas resigned from her post due to increasing fear from the endless stream of email and voicemail threats following the city commission’s mask mandate vote. Most recently, amidst the tension of the stimulus bill, the homes of political leaders Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi were vandalized after their addresses were tracked down online.
It’s no secret that leaders and executives are the most common and valuable targets for physical threats and cyberattacks. They carry the highest public profile, the most authority, and the broadest access to sensitive information. According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report, senior executives are 12 times more likely to be victims of social engineering incidents
A recent Wall Street Journal feature explored the surge in physical threats and vulnerabilities of remote work, leading to increased demand for protection. In addition, a new survey from the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence revealed that 71% of security, legal, compliance and physical security executives have seen a dramatic increase in physical threats against their companies in 2020 compared to 2019.
To truly protect an executive or client, security leaders must think holistically across physical and cybersecurity dimensions. The security professional of the 2020s must not only connect the dots between digital privacy and personal protection, they must also help high-profile executives understand all the benefits of being more proactive against online threats. This includes relatively new methods like “self-scouting” each executive’s information and search results on the web, educating them on how it can be exploited to nefarious ends, and working to remove personal data proactively.
Gone are the days when monitoring company-issued devices and static office locations might have been enough. Today, more than ever, keeping a company and an executive safe means protecting the whole individual – in the office, at home and in their digital sphere – including securing their personal information, devices, and entire online footprint. It’s a bold charter that only the most forward-looking and digitally savvy executive protection teams will endeavor to tackle. At NC protection Group we are here to help. Contact a specialist today at the N.C. Protection Group for a No Cost Consultation (919) 886-6274