Corporate Security Is a Force for Good

By Francisco Mateo

As a security manager at a major multinational organization, I’ve learned to embrace my profound responsibility to provide assistance in an extremely important mission; that of protecting staff and clients from a growing list of perils. However, convincing people you barely know to accept protection measures, that at face value may appear to run counter to their well-being, is no walk in the park. I can assure you of that, and that is what we must do every day. Yes, it’s a thank-less job, as many of my colleague would affirm; which is why we command pay equal to executives of the same level. At a profound level some of us also aspire to more lofty rewards, mainly knowing that we have direct input into keeping people safe while they travel; work in hostile environments and leverage the supply chain to bring safe products to consumers.  As I stated initially this is a task that gets evermore complex. It is one area of our daily duties that requires our focus and recognition of seemingly unknown threats as well as the know how to device swift countermeasures.

The evidence is plain to see.  Just think back to the tainted milk crisis in China which began in 2008.  After thousands of babies were hospitalized with kidney failure, the Chinese government declared a public health crisis that sparked a global recall of all powder milk products produced in China. The initial response understated the far reaching impact that the use of melamine, a carcinogenic substance, would have on food products.  China is to remain the world’s manufacturing hub, but their lack of controls over the use of dangerous raw materials is bound to continue as long as demand outstrips production output. For that reason consumer product companies have a duty of care to remain vigilant when sourcing raw materials or outsourcing manufacturing of consumer products.  We in the corporate security function can contribute our investigation skills by applying this know how to the due diligence process. We should not accept a third-party manufacturer’s claims of having the capacity to deliver products in time and to our quality specifications at face value. We must dig deeper into their safety records, production methods, compliance with international regulatory standards and even the moral compass that drives the operation to determine the likelihood that sham methods and corner-cutting could lead to tainted products that would put consumer’s health at risk.

Another area of concern to which corporate security has been active participant is combating counterfeit products. An off-shoot of the global economic growth, these seedy illicit business practices are the underbelly of globalization.  Aided by improved communications link, cheap transport and flexible (or simply corrupt) customs organizations, counterfeiters have blanketed many major markets with their cheap products. In some areas counterfeit products compete head to head with legitimate brands, eroding market share at fast clips. Beyond the downright theft of intellectual property, we know that counterfeiter’s illicit practices put the public safety and security at risk. Simply put they’re not in the business of delivering safe products to market, neither do they respond to the sovereign need of controlling which products cross national borders as well as paying the tariffs that should go to ensuring consumer safety. Furthermore, profits from counterfeit product sales have been known to go to terrorist organizations in furtherance of their deadly operations all over the world. Here too corporate security has a prime role to play liaising with law enforcement and customs official to disrupt the flow of counterfeit products in the supply chain. We are also educating our internal constituents to adopt unique marking and packaging technology to facilitate awareness among consumers to easily identify knockoff products. In a nutshell we can be the catalyst that makes this entire process come full circle.

Sometimes our advance risk scenario planning would project us into obscure areas, often only discussed in academic circles. Such is the case of bio-hacking, or the tinkering with the basic building blocks of life by many biology students and enthusiast worldwide—using cheap synthetic DNA and lab equipment bought inexpensively on the internet. Five years ago this wasn’t even on our radars, but the advent of cheap technology, the decoding of the genome, disposable lab equipment being bought and sold freely and bit of crowd-sourcing could lead to accidental or intentional development and release of deadly toxins.  In the past biological testing and engineering was conducted in heavily regulated and controlled government and university labs, thus bio-security (Biosecurity denotes policies and procedures designed to prevent the deliberate theft, diversion, or malicious use of high-consequence pathogens and toxins) remained the sole purview of government agencies.  Today with the growing DIY crowd experimenting with DNA from labs at home and other non-regulated facilities, there has been an increase emphasis on tracking this activity in order to keep people with nefarious intent away from these technologies. But there is also a high risk that gone-hoe hobbyists (even with benign purpose in mind) in the process of mixing or swapping genes would create deadly toxins without regards to obvious hazards to themselves and others.  Many of us are responsible for the protection of lab facilities, which is why we should be concerned about both the potential unauthorized removal of equipment and substances to further these independent (clandestine) research activities. Likewise, we should be concerned about the unauthorized used of these lab facilities in the same way. Corporate security should assist setting strict access control systems and procedures to ensure only authorized use of labs and equipment. Beyond this we should be considering sensors that would detect and alert us to the introduction or use of dangerous substances. All in all this is an emerging area of research we should remain aware of.

Some areas of business life have become difficult to manage especially when changes could come as fast as lighting, of course, I’m talking about business travel. To be specific I’m talking about disruption to travel due to natural or man-made disasters. It is often unpredictable and its impact could be widespread. Recently we’ve seen an increase in these Black Swan events, the winter storm and ash clouds in Europe as well as a number of high profile airline employee union strikes come to mind. All these events have in common the fact that hundreds of thousands of travelers were left stranded far from their final destinations. This in effect has also thrown a monkey wrench on company’s ability to make business travel plan on the fly.  Many in the corporate security function already track business traveler destinations as part of our value added service. Besides the jurisprudence that has been chiseled out around the issue of a company’s duty of care to guarantee employee safety while on business travel, there are no set standards of what companies should do. In the absence of such guidelines many practices have been developed. Employee tracking has become invaluable in light of the growing perils. Traveler destination data is often overlaid with open source intelligence to get early warning, which allows the security officer to alert travelers in a potential hot-zone. Furthermore, if the employee travel plans are disrupted due to any of the aforementioned hazards, alternative plans are arranged. If travel crisis strikes, emergency evacuations could be also be arranged. Advances in computing technology have also allowed us to tap quantitative models of both natural and man-made incident data to provide more predictive incident monitoring, which we can use to leverage prevention. In essence, the more we know about a particular destination the best prepared we are to guide travelers whether to go or not.  It is a task we take extremely serious, since a wrong call means that lives could be at stake.

From Antiquity to the Contemporary periods, works of art make up an important part of our shared human experience. The sum trust of our humanities, elegantly displayed in museums, galleries and private collections the world over. But in our modern times it is not this human genius that is in vogue. No, what we’ve experienced is the opposite, the dark side of our humanity that only sees value, summed up in monetary profits, when they lay eyes on the greatest work of arts known to human kind.  The trend in art theft is truly appalling. Art thieves have become more brazen in their hits, striking in broad daylight. In the past we’ve witnessed certain sophistication in the schemes employed by art thieves. Today, they’ve mostly exploited holes in museums and art gallery’s physical security array. A quick cost/benefit analysis comparing the value of paintings and other work of arts versus the security measures available at the time of the thefts would reveal the pyrrhic victory of the latter. Yes, it is true that many of the endowments that financially anchor these institutions have been reeling, with lower contributions due to the global financial crisis.  It’s likely that many essential services have been scaled back in cost cutting measures. Security practitioners can play a decisive role here, volunteering time and contributing our know how by conducting risk assessment (Analyzing foot-traffic flow data, behavioral analysis, contractor and employee screening, etc.) to determine vulnerabilities and recommending security countermeasures that can be delivered at lower cost. The same “lean security” principles applied to corporate security operations can add tremendous value to keeping art works safe and sound for all to enjoy.

As we look over the horizon, the perils would continue to get more complex. A recent commentator put it this way “”we are living in a world of cascading and intertwined threats…” in reference to the way risk is compounded and overlaps, paving the way to catastrophic failures. Whether man-made or natural, our risk scenarios are evolving, thus it is time for trained professionals to step up to plate and help organized solutions for the good of our society. In the age of corporate social responsibility, we security practitioners within major industries should be doing more to contribute our knowledge and leveraging resources to make our societies more resilient to shocks.

The Global Illicit Pharmaceutical Business; A Scourge of the 21st Century

“As much as fifty percent of the medicine sold on the Internet is counterfeit” – WHO

“Counterfeit medicine sales will reach seventy-five billion dollars worldwide this year” – CMPI

Have you consumed fake prescription drugs?  Odds are you have purchased and ingested these concoctions at some point or another, especially if you live in a developing country; with their lax health regulatory environment and acutely corrupt institutions.

“The World Health Organization says the problem with counterfeit medicines is especially bad in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The W.H.O. estimates that up to thirty percent of the medicines on sale in many of those countries are counterfeit.” Up to know industrialized nations, like the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, have kept the problem relatively under control, restricting fakes to approximately one percent of the total prescription and over-the-counter drug’s market. But that is no solace, judging from the effectives of counterfeiters to innovate their packaging and overall appeal online, as huge profits would provide the incentive to continue injecting these often deadly products into the drug supply chain, and in the process grabbing market share (competing as low cost substitutes, effective in a down economy) from legitimate drug companies.

The best weapon in the fake drug profiteers’ toolkit happens to be consumer’s ignorance of the real source of drugs they think will cure them or alleviate an ailment. Product that could be in reality a toxic mix of chemicals; that end up being expensive (cost in human lives/livelihood) placebos.  The stakes are high for the pharmaceutical industry; these companies have had to come up with ways to make fake drugs easy to spot. After all the most effective prevention and eradication method is to disrupt the consumer’s propensity to be duped by worthless and deadly knock-offs, whether they’re in the developed or developing world.

Combating counterfeit medicines is no walk in the park, as small, yet nimble organized crime groups (A loosely federated collection of manufacturers, distributors, and even marketing operations) are dedicated to this racket. They often use new media and social networks (for their anonymity and mass reach) which allows them to hawk their dangerous products while skirting the risk of ever getting caught. To make affront to this global illicit business the pharmaceutical industry would have to go beyond the technology solutions it has implemented and try the true and tested awareness campaigns to make consumers worldwide sensitive to the issue. In closing, I’d advocate bringing these campaigns to the criminals’ own turf, online and through social networks.

Learn More:

July’s Counterfeiting By The Numbers

Did you know that approximately $90 million in pirated and counterfeit goods have been seized in July 2009 alone?

Italy seizes millions in Chinese counterfeit goods ($28 Million approx.)

BoC seizes fake imported goods from China ($5.7M approx.)

HP and Dubai Police seize fakes worth Dh70 million ($19 million approx.)

Police seize $340,000 in counterfeit clothing from Newport News merchant

Customs seizes $1.1 million of counterfeit jeans at port

Police: NYC bust nets thousands of fake goods ($10 Million approx.)

60,000 Russian DVDs Seized At 4 Shops ($400K approx.)

100,000 pirated CDs seized including MJs songs ($147K approx.)

Cigarettes worth over £1m seized ($1.7M approx.)

ATF seizes 12 million counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes made in China ($500K approx.)

Counterfeit medical products seized in Lesotho INTERPOL-supported operation ($500K)

Fake and expired drugs seized; counterfeit and expired drugs were seized in Kenya’s Eldoret Town and a suspect arrested in a crackdown by the Pharmacy and Poison Board ($1M approx.)

Raid Nets Over 26,000 Pieces of Counterfeit Tiffany Jewelry ($2.6 M approx.)

Seven million cigarettes seized ($5M approx.)

9m cigarettes are seized at docks ($6.7M approx.)

Malaysian police bust video piracy ring ($600K approx.)

Police arrest, charge man after seizing over 15,000 pirated DVDs – Mt Pritchard ($450K)

P40M worth of counterfeit goods seized ($840K approx.)

£3m in fake goods seized ($5M approx.)


Organized Crime and Counterfeiting

Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism

Publisher: RAND Corporation | ISBN: 0833045652 | edition 2008 | PDF | 182 pages | 2,75 mb
This report presents the findings of research into the involvement of organized crime and terrorist groups in counterfeiting products ranging from watches to automobile parts, from pharmaceuticals to computer software. It presents detailed case studies from around the globe in one area of counterfeiting, film piracy, to illustrate the broader problem of criminal groups finding a new and not-much-discussed way of funding their activities.

Global Counterfeiting Trade

Counterfeiting is a $ 200 billion global problem.  Combating it takes persistence and ingenuity….
Italy: Hotline Tips Lead to Record Haul of Counterfeit Pesticides
Following hotline tip-offs, Italian police have seized over 120 tones of counterfeit pesticides – the European Union’s biggest haul – in a landmark series of raids that turned the spotlight on illegal trade.