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The 6th Annual Executive Security & CP Technology Forum

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EP Wired attended the sixth annual Executive Security & CP Technology Forum, organized by CTG Intelligence. Due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions, the 2021 CPTF was a completely online event. However, the speakers’ rostrum still featured some of the most prominent names in the executive protection business and security industry in general.

With more than 20 separate sessions and panels, the Executive Security & CP Technology Forum covered a myriad of topics, ranging from corporate security modernization in the Middle East, cybersecurity, threat modelling to access control post-COVID and travel risk management.

Household names like Christian West, Ivor Terret, Mike O’Neil shared their thoughts on what the future holds for executive protection specialists, as well as upcoming security trends.

The Evolution of Executive Protection and Close Protection

Jacquie Davis, Operations Director at Optimal Risk and one of the first female professionals in the close protection business, shared her views on how things have changed since the industry’s inception in the 1970s.

“Let me take you back when I started 40 years ago. We had no technology, no mobile phones and no internet. We just had radios. Most of us were ex-military or ex-police, there were no civilians and no licensing. And everyone knew each other. Networking was a pint in the pub at the end of the job,” said Davis.

There was no distinction between executive protection and other forms of security. All professionals were called bodyguards – and that term stuck for years and years. Females were almost completely absent from the profession. However, several events from that time were seen as defining points.

One was the kidnapping of an OPEC official’s child and the attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne – during which her bodyguards was shot, as well as the shooting in Park Lane. Since there was no tech, the only way you could get intelligence was through contacts. Times were quite different. Courses and training were, also, not available.

“You were lucky if someone on the team done a first-aid course,” said Davis.

Considering those humble beginnings, Davis points out, we need to embrace what we have today. But that does not mean straying too far from the basics.

“You still need to know how to read a map. Technology can let you down,” stressed Davis.

On Modernization

In terms of executive protection and corporate security, the digital revolution and technological developments have changed the game to a great extent. The IT tools on offer today are definitely more powerful, than what we had 15 years ago.

However, modernization is not just about fancier tools – It’s about adapting to changes and making sure they don’t outpace you.

“For something to need to be modernized, first of all, it has to be old. In that sense, corporate security is a concept that’s several decades old, at best. So, it’s more about aligning with what’s happening, as opposed to chasing what’s happening,” said Ivor Terret, founder and general manager of Enablement Advisors.

Although, there is some danger in being early adopters of new tech and relying too heavily on its solutions. It can dilute the skills that are necessary for this industry. We still need to know how to work without technology and not fall for the “new, shiny toy” syndrome.

The Future of Cybersecurity

Social engineering remains an ongoing problem in this field. As we adopt new tech and neutralize threats, the battle does not end.

That is because “the bad guys” always think of something new. Social engineering is the act of exploiting human characteristics to gain access to personal information or particular systems.

“Approximately 90 percent of all attacks employ social engineering. Criminals manipulate us – humans. And we are very difficult to change and it’s hard for us to learn new things,” states Jelle Wieringe, Security Awareness Advocate.

Instead of bypassing the technology side of the business – the firewalls, IPS, or the physical security, criminals target the human factor. This is a problem since they rely not on technology, but rather on psychology. They focus on the way we work and the way we can be manipulated.

In order to mitigate these vulnerabilities and alleviate risks in the future, there is a pressing and overwhelming need to develop the human factor in cybersecurity. Sadly, this is so-far one of its most overlooked elements.

The Executive Protection Professional of Tomorrow

The ability to think quickly using technology will be an important asset for future professionals, but the core skill-set will not change. The future professional will be somebody who knows how to pick the right tech to get the job done.

The more tools we carry with us, the less we are able to do the job. You need to know and distinguish between:

  • What is available?
  • What can be available?
  • How that will work in your environment?

The modern EP professional will be a versatile and well-rounded individual, much more aware where the threat to the principal will come from – deep web, social media or surface web, for example. The ones that survive will not necessarily be the strongest or most intelligent, but rather those who adapt the best to the new threat landscape.

“New challenges and new threats mean new skills,” said Christian West in conclusion of the sixth Executive Security & CP Technology Forum.

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