Anarchism in the Age of Cyber

An important announcement from my LEO channel. I thought it important to share with everyone for monitoring:

For situational awareness, the following message (in italics) was posted online by the hacking group Anonymous:

Anonymous announces a nationwide “Day Of Vengence” to take place in dozens of cities across the USA on Saturday – September 24, 2011 at High Noon.

In coordination with these protests across the USA on September 24th, Anonymous and other cyber liberation groups will launch a series of cyber attacks against various targets including Wall Street, Corrupt Banking Institutions – and the NYC Police Department. We encourage the media to follow the Twitter feed @PLF2012 for ongoing reports throughout the day.

Additional public source information has identified possible targets of these attacks, to include entities in New York (state and city), public and private entities associated with the recent execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia, and law enforcement in general.

No further information is available at this time in regard to the specific nature, means, or potential targets of Anonymous’ plans for September 24th; however, in the past, Anonymous has engaged in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, utilized SQL injection to gain unauthorized access to computer systems, conducted social engineering to gather personal identifying information, and released both personal information (i.e. “doxing”) and the contents of compromised systems (e.g. e-mail message content, passwords, etc.).

InfraGard members are encouraged to engage in information security best practices, such as using strong passwords, not reusing passwords, updating software to protect against known vulnerabilities, and ensuring that web-based applications are not at risk to attacks, such as SQL injection.

Protect the People Stupid: New Commodity in the Gulf of Aden

Out of Africa, news about record number of people being held for ransom by Somali pirates. The numbers are staggering; such is the economics driving piracy in this sea lane critical to global commerce. As many expert investigators know if you want to get to the root of chronic crime problem, follow the money. That is indeed what the pirates are after; they’re telling the shipping companies and their insurance policies to show them the money. Their sweet spot is not only taking whole cargo ships hostage, but taking the crew members to induce faster payment.

So far the benefits (Payment of $12.3 million ransom for 2 ships recently) have outweighed the risks of being interdicted by the multi-national naval force currently deployed in the region and the cost of doing business remains low. They recognized the odds are in their favor having 1.1 million miles of sea, encompassing the Horn of Africa, as their playground.

Of the recent innovations and best practices adopted by some merchant shippers, one appears at face value to be effective deterring hostage taking and denial of entry to the cabin area by which pirates can gain control of the ship. The hardening of a ship’s cabin by installing bulletproof components creating what is known as citadels has proven successful at keeping the crew safe and delaying the pirates while an armed response is mustered.  Adding remote control to these citadels would allow the ship’s captain to maneuver the ship from the relative safety of this secure cabin or relinquish control to an off-ship location via GPS link-up.

Read more: http://bit.ly/bLdALh

Water Scarcity Through the Looking Glass

By Francisco Mateo

I’m convinced this past October and early November were the warmest in the Northeast that I could recall. It just seemed unusual to have temperatures in the 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit this late in the fall. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy it and especially since I had more opportunities to run laps around the park. It even made a difference in my transition from the tropical weather of the Caribbean where I lived for the last 3 years to the changing seasons up here in the North.  It was during one of my early morning runs that I started to ponder the implications of the warmer planet. Enough has been discussed about climate change from a scientific point of view, but what are the security implications of a warmer planet on the long run. Looking over the horizon, one of the issues that we often hear experts talk about is water scarcity as a consequence of longer drought periods. If the history of other precious and scarce resources is an indication than we can deduce that water shortage would likely spark a rush to protect, commoditize and commercialize it.  Water being one of the basic elements supporting life on the planet, speculation over it would lead to impending conflicts both at the micro and macro level.

When I set out to analyze an area of global risk I try to focus on the pockets of dispersed activity that when weaved together would give me a bigger picture. In this sense places like Yemen are but the petri dish of the future scenarios that may play out over water. According to the Yemen Times “Violence over land and water kills more people in Yemen than the secessionist violence in the south, the armed rebellion in the north and Yemeni Al-Qaeda combined” this in return quoting a report by the Yemen Armed Violence Assessment (YAVA).  Yemeni government statistics show that water conflicts lead to 4,000 deaths each year, a staggering number taking in consideration other conflict zones around the world.  At the center of the bloodshed is the diminishing water supply, which lead into heighten competition for fresh water resources and eventually deteriorating into armed conflict.

The significance of water shortage-driven conflict in this volatile and strategically sensitive area goes beyond its national security interests. Any conflict in Yemen could have knock-on effect for the entire region and the rest of the world.  Bab-el-Mandeb, the narrow strait that separates the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea is one of seven strategic world oil shipping chokepoints. Oil and other exports from the Persian Gulf must pass through Bab el-Mandab before entering the Suez Canal.  It’s estimated that 3.3 million barrels a day of oil flowed through this narrow waterway to Europe, the United States, and Asia. The majority of the oil, some 2.1 million barrels a day, goes north through the Bab el-Mandab strait to the Suez/Sumed complex into the Mediterranean. Widespread conflict in this region has the potential to shock global trade a disrupt oil supply. It is obvious that its water shortage problem would eventually be of significance to the rest of the world.

Elsewhere severe droughts cause millions of people to endure harsh living conditions. In Jordan the government can only supply tap water once a week. Its main river, the River Jordan, has lost 95% of its natural flow due to diversion. Syria, Israel and Jordan have built dams along the banks of the river. The struggle to control natural resources is one of the reasons for the volatility prevalent in this region. Sharing these vital resources has proven elusive and the effects of a warmer climate will only serve to stoke continuing tensions among their regional neighbors.  By closer inspection many experts have noted that Israel has built their settlements in the occupied Palestinian area in such a way to maximize their access to the water resources there. In the negotiations on water they’ve indicated the wish to hold on to the lion’s share of the natural water resources while the Palestinians would have to rely on desalinations projects. It’s the type of hoarding seen in many areas around the world where water scarcity is driving geopolitical agendas.

Another example is Iraq which has acute water shortages and is expected to worsen as its population grows beyond 30 million. Areas like Falluja in western Anbar province continue to suffer from years of drought which have threatened its fragile communities. Besides the war which has left its extensive irrigation system in disrepair, Iraq’s main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, provide little relief to the parched plains as hydroelectric dams in neighboring Turkey, Iran and Syria have stemmed the water flow.

But the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East are hardly the only regions where water shortage is expected to become a significant issue that could eventually develop into full-fledge conflict. Severe drought in northern Africa have the potential to stoke violent conflict.  What happens when countries affected by transnational water extraction decide to stand up for their water rights? Take for example Libya’s 7.5 mm diameter pipeline, the “Great Man Made River” (GMMR) designed to bring fossil groundwater from underneath the desert area of Chad and Southern Libya over 4000 km to the North to facilitate irrigation for agricultural production along the Libyan coastline.

Furthermore, south Asia’s dispute over limited water resources continues to fuel India-Pakistan tensions. Despite recent efforts to mend peace between the two nations, nothing could align extremist and government officials like water resource distribution problems.  On-going allegations that India is stealing water from glacier-fed rivers that start in the disputed territory of Kashmir may not help matters. Kashmir is the source of six rivers that irrigate crops in Pakistan’s agricultural heartland of Punjab province and elsewhere. Under Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, Pakistan has the use of the three western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India has the three eastern ones, the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. Under this agreement India was granted limited use of Pakistan’s rivers for agricultural purposes, plus the right to build hydroelectric dams, as long as they don’t store or divert large amounts of water. But it is India’s damn construction which is stemming the flow of water so vital to Pakistan, one of the driest countries in the world, which has the potential to restore the long running stalemate in the region. Add to that the fact that agriculture uses almost 90 percent of India’s water. The end-game: in the absence of concerted action, most of India’s river basins could face a severe water deficit by 2030.

China’s water problems are well known. About 42 percent of China’s population lives in the arid north, which has approximately eight percent of the country’s water resources. Already the internal scramble for water due to growing city population and industrial prosperity “is pitting downstream communities against upstream ones, farmers against factories, and people concerned about the country’s environment against those worried that water shortages might be the mighty Chinese economy’s Achilles’ heel.”  Concurrent with monumental infrastructure projects that would bring water flow from the Yangtze banks to be fed into the Yellow River and on to the water-starved north, China plans for more dams on the Mekong and on other major rivers that tumble down from the Tibetan plateau. These water diversion plans already have its southern neighbors on edge. Moreover, there is clear evidence that global warming is already eroding the Himalayan glaciers covering the Tibetan plateau, which feed neighbors including India and Pakistan as well as China itself.  Because 60 percent of the run-off from China’s glaciers flows out of the country, this can spell only trouble. As scarcity continues to spread around the region transboundary water management issues related to the Himalayas are likely to be a flashpoint. “The risk of conflict over water rights is magnified because China and India are home to over a third of the world’s population yet have to make do with less than 10 percent of its water.”

While the water-starved emerging economies would be able to allocate their increasing new earned wealth to accelerate clean water technology, population growth, and industrial agriculture threatens to outpace the output, making fresh water import as a real possibility in the near future.  The 70% of our freshwater resources we allocate to agriculture globally will increase along with the growth in population and prosperity in emerging economies. It is under these scenarios that a wildcard, according to expert, climate change impacts would become pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others.

A New Global Market on the Rise

Looking over a dry horizon, it’s clear that water would be front and center as one of the key national security issues. Experts tacitly agree that the “20th century witnessed the rise and fall of nations over oil, the 21st century could be one in which the rise and fall of nations is determined by water.” It’d come as no surprise that a new market for bulk water transport are expanding today. But instead of tunnels and pipe infrastructure transportation would likely be done across much larger distances on super tankers usually reserved for oil transport. That also means that countries like Canada, New Zealand and Russia could become net exporters of water. As water from public hands to private ones, legal battles and regulation over new industry looms. The new speculative forces gathering around water trade would increasingly push water from human rights arena to a commodity available to those that can pay for it. War and peace could clearly depend on it.

Country Security Profile: Brazil

By Francisco Mateo

As the sun once again shines brightly over Brasília and its brand in the concert of nations continues to grow, Security Beyond Borders turns its focus on Brazil, on the eve of a presidential election runoff, which would determine how its course is charted for an undoubted prominent future.  Despite its eminence (economic ascendance) as one of the BRIC (fastest growing emerging markets comprised of Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, Brazil has deeply rooted security issues driven my social-economic disintegration, which it must confront before the spot light of international events is shown upon it.

Brazil’s population hovers at just under 200 million people. Approximately 88% of the population is concentrated in its urban centers, which in itself explains the dynamics that drive inequality and crime problems. Although this phenomenon is a fixture of all overcrowded cities, it appears to have magnified and galvanized over time.

Economic Overview

To better understand Brazil’s meteoric rise onto the world stage we must look at the key elements that characterize its economy. First off, a large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors set them apart in the region. Brazil’s economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and it’s expanding its presence in world markets. Since 2003, Brazil has steadily improved macroeconomic stability, building up foreign reserves, reducing its debt profile by shifting its debt burden toward real denominated and domestically held instruments. It has adhered to an inflation target, and committing to fiscal responsibility. To illustrate its economic prowess, Brazil was one of the first emerging markets to begin a recovery. By exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, it has become South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader.

Brazil has in part enjoyed stellar economic growth over last ten years due to its adherence to continuity of economic policy despite political transition from right leaning to clearly leftist political leadership. President Lula Da Silva’s enormous popularity derives from his pragmatic approach to economic policy.

But all the notoriety has far reaching consequences. Its newly minted economic reputation and its maturing role as a regional powerhouse have landed Brazil in thorny world issues recently. Most notable of all have been its mediation of the Honduran political crisis in 2009 and its willingness to establish diplomatic ties with unpopular regimes like Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, as well as to pursue economic exchange with China and Russia. It is clear that Brazil has aimed at charting an independent path and becoming a geopolitical counterforce in the region and beyond.

Geopolitical Overview

A review of Brazil’s security profile would not be complete without drilling down on the country’s most notable transnational crime problem, which is for the most part concentrated in the unruly region at convergence of Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay borders. This area is a locus of money laundering, smuggling, arms and illegal narcotics trafficking, as well as fundraising for extremist organizations. Other border areas including the States of Amazonas, Acre, Rondônia and Mato Grosso, are high risk due to drug trafficking. Its sheer size (bordering 10 countries) and deep forest areas provide natural defense, but also serve as incubator for the worst of the global illicit economic activities. It would explain why despite government drug control efforts, it remains the second-largest consumer of cocaine in the world. It is also an important transshipment country for Bolivian, Colombian, and Peruvian cocaine headed for Europe.

The International Maritime Bureau reports that the territorial and offshore waters in the Atlantic Ocean present a significant risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; crews have been robbed and stores or cargoes stolen.  Similar socioeconomic factors driving piracy in the Gulf of Aden are at play for the most part in Brazil’s Atlantic coastal waters.

Crime Overview

Serious crime, often involving violence, is high in a number of urban centers, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife, and Salvador. The recent reports of armed drug gang members setting up roadblocks and robbing drivers en masse in the Rio de Janeiro area, prompting the firing of 19 police battalion, is certainly a notable reminder of what lurks just beneath the pristine surface. As the country sets out to host the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics it should ponder the right strategy to avoid the Mexicanization of its crime problem.

Crimes and violence in São Paulo can be attributed to street gangs and organized crime groups.  São Paulo is notorious for the brazenness of certain high profile crimes and violent crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnappings.  The most concerning crimes in São Paulo are express kidnappings, carjackings, virtual kidnappings and home invasions.

Crime while on the road remains a problem for both visitors and local residents alike, especially during evening travel and traffic jams. Violent crimes committed in heavily congested roadways is the motivating factor for companies like Truffi or Master Blindagens to produce over 25 bulletproof cars a month, and they’re just 2 of 45 companies in São Paulo by far the biggest market, with Rio de Janeiro a close second.  Brazilians would “much rather trim their appetites for appliances and electronics in the recession, but bulletproofing is one expense they are not giving up easily”. This is an outgrowth of the overall sense of insecurity felt by everyday people.  The general consensus is that if the government can’t keep them safe than they will use their recently acquired prosperity to buy their own security.  As a nation it can certainly do much better than that and there are obvious compelling reasons for doing so.

Other Risk Pressure Points

Natural disasters, mainly flashfloods, remain a considerable risk of social disturbance.  That is because the large communities still living in favelas are most susceptible to these unpredictable events.  Last year’s deadly floods are but an example of the infrastructural fragility of overpopulated cities to deal with large magnitude emergency incidents.

Flooding over several recent years has continued to plague São Paulo State and many other parts of the country. Severe rainstorms in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 resulted in some of the worst flooding in years for São Paulo. Bridges and highways were closed due to flooding and some major roads and highways were submerged underwater. In December 2008, floods in São Paulo left 20,000 residents without potable water, numerous motorists were stranded, and 70 flights were canceled at Congonhas Airport (one of three airports in greater São Paulo). In November 2008, flooding in the southern state of Santa Catarina left nearly 100,000 homeless and claimed over 100 lives. The disaster was one of the worst in the country’s history. In December 2009, the eastside of greater São Paulo was under water due to severe rain storms.  Flooding brought traffic in São Paulo to a standstill, resulting in deaths, destruction of infrastructure and millions of dollars in financial losses for businesses. During a one day period the city received more rain than it would normally see during the entire month.

In closing, it is clear that Brazil is poised to confront its internal security risks head-on.  Its success in creating continuity of economic policy to spur growth should be emulated by the new political leadership, during their transition into power, to bring cohesive socioeconomic growth that would undermine its security shortcomings and continue to drive a downward trend to its most vexing crime problems. It must remain steadfast in this direction as focus on everything Brazil will only spike during the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics. They have a short window of time if it aims to capitalize on its successes in eradicating the security weaknesses highlighted herewith.

Security Risk Management On-Demand

By Francisco Mateo

It appears to be prime time for corporate security units across Europe. During the last few months Greece, Portugal, Spain, France and England have seen a resurgence of labor protest as austerity measures are enacted to contain the onslaught of a worsening global economy.  With that in mind it is important for security managers to prioritize strike and violent protest protocols and have their teams at the different facilities ready for any collateral or spillover risk from violent confrontation between protesters and police.

When strike action involves countrywide protest, road and critical infrastructure blockades, it is necessary that you assist your supply chain team prevent disruptions by protecting in-route cargo and seeking alternatives for continued operations.   It is important that contingency plans be drawn in advance and that duties for carrying out specific actions under the plan are top of mind for each member of the team. Although many of the security decisions that need to be made at this time are situation-driven, your knowledge of internal business operation; clients, routes, labor and police leadership, as well as open-source intel can give you the most leverage.  In short know the terrain and know the stakeholders, so that you can intelligently steer your contingency team and navigate clear of any risks your company may face. 

Do not underestimate how much demand for third party service (cargo security escort) would peak during these times. My experience has been that, in anticipation of such events, the security departments must secured agreements with key vendors way in advance of such events to ensure preferential treatment when it is must critical. You don’t need to be psychic to know these protest have been brewing for a while and as a result of the burden the sustained economic recession has put on government’s purses.  It is also very likely that these protest will continue to spread other European Union member countries.

Another thing I want to share with you is that the protesters have shown signs of sophistication and a high degree of organization. If you take into the account the way protesters in France have aimed to provoke systematic disruption of critical supplies by blocking fuel depots and creating choke points against delivery, where it is most needed.  If you are responsible for risk management in the affected industry don’t forget to bring your A-game when crafting your response. If your organization lacks the leadership to tackle these risk management efforts than now may be a good time to consider hiring a knowledgeable and experienced security practitioner that can set a roadmap to protect your PARB.

Additional Recommendations:

  • Increase your operation’s alertness level; encourage staff to provide status updates of risk conditions, in and around the facilities and main routes, to your command center
  • Update  your key contact list, and test communication systems
  • Keep a detailed activity log
  • Advise staff to be aware of localized bouts of unrest with the potential to result in violent confrontations
  • Also advise staff to avoid all demonstrations and if caught in the middle of a violent confrontation seek immediate safe haven in a predetermined location where assistance can be summoned
  • Have additional security staff on stand-by in case you need to ramp up your protective presence at any facility

Risk To Maritime Transport

“Ships may move slowly, but they can carry far more cargo than more recently invented modes of transportation such as planes, trains, and trucks, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development in its “Review of Maritime Transport 2009.” – Foreign Policy

According to this article 80% of the world’s cargo is transported via cargo ships.  That said, the fact that we are so heavily dependant on this mode of transportation adds a great layer of risks to global trade. It begs two important questions: first, what are the risks associated with maritime transport around the world? And, second how are they mitigated?

First I’d focus on the Piracy problem, which ranks high on the maritime transport industry’s risk charts. The fact of the matter is that tankers and cargo ships are being hijacked on the high seas at an alarming rate. Since 2008 pirates off the coast of Somalia have up the ante, taking to firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on their way to making cargo ship hijacking into a growth industry.  Piracy has not only added additional cost of doing business for ship operators, but avoiding hotspots aggregates additional time to complete trips as ships sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Navigating this alternative route can take two to three extra weeks, saddling the industry with inefficiencies.

Consequently, what can cargo vessel owners do to deter/repel attacks?  They’re teaching their crew to fishtail (evasive maneuvers) their vessels at high speed, drive off intruders with high-pressure water hoses and illuminate their decks with floodlights, or emitting deafening sound waves from special devices. They’re also working on prevention protocols, mandating “pirate watches,” learning to use hoses and conduct frequent drills with alarms indicating when the ship has been boarded. They also take account of the fact that it is illegal for crews to carry weapons in the territorial waters of many nations, and many ship captains are wary of arming crew members for fear of mutinies. If gunpowder is your kind of deterrence, than go with the pros. Many PMC’s have began offering their ship protection services in the Gulf of Aden, Malacca Straits and other piracy hotspots. Of course the latter countermeasure is not without its share of controversy.

A second threat to the maritime transport industry, with high potential for disruption, is political risk. A particular concern today is the Strait of Hormuz, that narrow stretch of sea between Iran and the United Arab Emirates and Oman to its south that connects the Persian Gulf to open international waters where approximately 40 per cent of global ship-borne crude oil passes through on its way to the West.  According to the US-based Energy Information Administration, an average of 15 tankers carry 16-17 million tonnes of crude oil through the Strait every day. Needless to say this is the world’s most sensitive choke-point for vessels transporting oil. Add in the element that Iran, leveraging its sovereign territorial rights over these waters, could seek to blockade commercial traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, given an escalation of its conflict with the West.  It is indeed a factor that should be playing out in scenario planning sessions for both industries concerned.

As far as countermeasures are concern, political risk, especially the aforementioned example, is obviously an issue with implications beyond the maritime transport industry.  It’s indeed a prime policy issue on the diplomatic agenda for the US, China and Russia. The maritime industry however can’t sit around and wait for a diplomatic resolution. It must instead develop a business continuity portfolio. Knowing that such risk exposure can’t be fully avoided, ship operators should focus on strategic planning, “Mapping key supplier dependencies is the first step in taking control of the risk exposures. By identifying single-point failures and quantifying exposures, organizations can take conscious decisions to mitigate exposures.” Like the piracy issue the industry can mitigate part of the hazards through “political risk insurance” to offset the cost of rerouting its cargo. Unlike the piracy problem however, ship owners cannot deploy armed response in a potential conflict zone.

Quiz: What percentage of world trade is carried on ships? http://bit.ly/dC0i1f

Protecting Entertainment Venues

By Francisco Mateo

Entertainment venues around the world are important establishments of our global society.  Since ancient times they have provided the world with a release mechanism from the incredible burden of everyday life.  By way of experience we also know that whenever a group of people gathers many risks linger. From terrorist attacks (Indonesian island of Bali, bombing in 2002, and  the Moscow theater hostage crisis) to night club fires (The Station nightclub fire; The Lame Horse nightclub in Moscow and much earlier, The Happy Land nightclub fire in New York), entertainment venues face a wide range of risks. In this installment I will attempt to cover the most common hazards you should consider when you set out to have fun at different entertainment settings, whether it is your hometown or during vacation.

The rule of thumb during a vacation, especially while overseas in countries prone to terrorist threats or lax fire regulation enforcement, is to know before you go. Many sources of information offer travel risk rating (including SBB) to help assess the risk of whether to go to a particular place and what places to avoid if you decide to go. Keep tuned to those information sources as many savvy travelers do. 

The last thing in the average person’s mind when setting out to see their favorite team play is the risk they would encounter on and off the soccer, baseball field, tennis, basketball court; insert your favorite competitive sport.  We have the often false sense that people that organized the sporting events have their patrons’ security all squared away. But this is not always the case. From “the 1972 Munich Olympics and the Centennial, Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Games” and due to a number of geopolitical reasons; major sporting events have attracted the attention of both large terrorist groups as well as lone wolfs.  Add to that the fact that controlling large crowds of people is very troublesome, especially if the proper risk assessments have not been conducted in advance.  A proper evaluation would focus on both internal and external risks, by looking at: patterns of criminal activity; identification of “high risk” locations in the host-city; potential for social, political, or labor unrest; risks to users of public transportation; threats that are specific to the type of event; as well as the capabilities of local law enforcement and venue security personnel. Many countries have taken steps to curve risky practices at sporting venue by adopting regulations and guidelines to standardize protection measures. You as the fan should owe a duty of care to yourself to evaluate if any of these areas represents a potential, viable risk that could be avoided.

There is much to be concern about when you mix alcohol (possibly drugs) in a crowded, confined space. The music blasting, euphoria in the air, it’s not difficult to imagine being disconnected from reality and forgetting even hard-wired information that would allow you to react automatically to any perceived risk. That is the scenario you face when you go into a nightclub and thus the reason why caution should be exercised.  Some basic common sense actions are in order; for instance knowing where the exits are. Knowing your different egress options would give you the ability to find the safest one to get out unharmed before panic sets in.  For nightclub owners/administrator it is imperative to have more than one exit at their establishments, because in an emergency crowds tend to enter into panic mode and stampede towards the exit, that being normally the same way they entered the venue.  Like other entertainment venues it is important to know what threats your establishment is exposed to. Is the nightclub exposed to an active shooter scenario; a bomb attack; or can it be used for the illegal distribution of controlled substances? Consider that even though terrorism is a remote threat in most countries, there are a few where it is indeed a reality that should be mitigated.

Likewise, “in many urban nightclubs catering to young-adult crowds, it is becoming increasingly common to use metal detectors at the doors to prevent the introduction of knives and guns, as some patrons seek to bring outside conflicts (and violence) into the club.”  Knowing what your risks levels are would be the starting point to designing appropriate security arrangement. Conditions at the nightclub would dictate which measures are implemented. Among the standard measures you should fine are: security screening, “a “frisk” is insufficient, as patrons are seldom, if ever, physically patted below the waist (where many weapons are concealed). A metal detector (hand-held or walk-through depending on volume of patrons) is recommended, along with training in its calibration and proper use. A female security officer is recommended as part of the team to frisk females who set off the metal detector.”  Also to be considered are the club’s floor security personnel which should be deployed according to its layout at a ratio of 1/50-75. CCTV monitoring and recording should be used conspicuously in both internal and external areas for a number of applications: likewise, communication equipment and distress alarms should be employed as needed. 

Some countries regulate the level of security that is provided at nightclubs, bars, taverns and other such venues, but this should not be limited to physical security at the venue, since the risks are as varied as the patrons that congregate there.  Many nightclubs understand that venue security goes far beyond complying with a “duty of care”, they recognize that security and personal safety are an intrinsic part of the patron’s experience. A sort of unwritten contract exists whereby their patronage should include any protection costs that the club owner incurs to ensure proper levels of security.  

A concert is another entertainment event where security is a must.  Like a nightclub, concerts combine many volatile elements.  Because of the large crowds that gather at concerts, things can quickly go from fun, to rowdy, to chaotic in a short time. When the stakes are so high, security can’t be an afterthought. For this reason pre-concert planning should consider: the type of event, audience profile, artist profile, venue facilities, topography, local transport and volume of visitors needs to be assessed to create the right risk profile that would enable the concert organizers to make concrete protection decisions for all stake holders. Security controls during concert day such as proper screening of concert-goers, metal detectors and bag checks by trained staff; ID authentication; should be considered to make the event more secure. A good security staff/concert-goer ratio should also apply. Since you won’t be able to screen out all possible risk, you should be able to quickly detect and neutralize trouble before it gets out of hand. As far as perimeter security, both natural barriers, and montion-sonsored barriers should be considered. Also mobile watchtowers can be utilized to keep a close eye on the outer perimeter where trouble sometimes brews. Concert-goers should also consider which areas lack security and would be vulnerable to mischief or criminal acts. In confined spaces you should know where all possible exits are, especially the one nearest you. Having an egress plan worked-out in your head may be a worthy investment of your time while enjoying the concert.   

I feel compelled to make a reference about movie theaters. This is the one entertainment venue where an entire family is likely gather most often around the world. However movie theaters for the most part have a much lower security profile, despite being exposed to high risks in some countries. All confined venues have their inherent risks as previously mentioned. As such some of the same protection measures apply. The best security measure of all, in this case, is provided by the movie theater themselves.  At these venues the movie-goers stand a better chance of detecting suspicious activity (you’re more likely to keep your wits about you) on the spot. Remember that half the battle is being aware; the rule of thumb is that if you see something amiss; say something to the venue security guard or an usher. I’d strongly advice against “shouting fire in a crowded theater” which is the right metaphor for having a measured reaction to any threats, to prevent unnecessary panic.     

Prevention Measures

Where an entertainment venue owner/administrator starts to design or retrofit protection measures would depend on the type of facility under their purview. If they’re building a new facility architects should consider the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principals, which as the title implies has been an effective and widely used crime prevention methodology. The following highlights include some key elements:

  • Among the various threats that should be measured are crime, fire, terrorism, riots and hooliganism, natural disasters, hazardous materials spills and power failures. The assessments should be on-going and frequent
  • Implementation of security technology for proper prevention and detection: surveillance cameras, explosives trace-detection systems (mostly for large scale events), access control systems, chemical and fire detectors, public address warning systems, and crowd-control barriers.
  • Careful attention also should be paid to human-resource issues and security planning and procedures – including but not limited to the careful background screening of all employees and appropriate training, badging, special-event planning, V.I.P. logistics and protection, crowd management procedures, and both cargo and package checks
  • Simulation software has already been developed which would allow you to test for a wide range of emergency scenarios against your facility’s ability to handle evacuation and other reactions to disaster events
  • Also the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed an on-line Vulnerability Self-Assessment Tool (VSAT) for stadiums possessing a large seating capacity

It is of the utmost importance that I, as a progressive security practitioner, address the issue of the proper security posture you should assume whenever visiting an entertainment venue, especially being fully conscious that we as humans have a tendency to overreact when face with danger from unknown sources. As the saying goes the truth is in the pudding, Olympic security reflects this fact.  The right counterbalance is in order, like this one provided by Bruce Schneier discussing a similar subject “By not overreacting, by not responding to movie-plot threats, and by not becoming defensive, we demonstrate the resilience of our society, in our laws, our culture, our freedoms.” and which I fully endorse. As the subject of the article describes “security theater” is diametrically opposed to what I’m advocating for throughout my writing. Instead of having a “false sense of security” the right posture calls for common sense measures that make everyone, with a stake to hold, resilient against that which presents a real threat.

Despite their inherent risks, entertainment venues are an important release valve in our modern societies. The concert or sporting event organizers, nightclub and theater owner as well as their patrons and fans owe a duty of care to make the place safe and secure for everyone to enjoy. Being aware of the risks is half the battle, the other half is either preventing or deterring any threats these venues may face. I hope this article, and the links herewith, would serve as a guideline for all the stakeholders.