Security in the news — Aftermath of Flight MH17

Downing of flight MH17


The downing of Malaysia flight MH17 is an unprecedented attack on commercial aviation. I posted news report on tweeter as soon as the news broke, but waited to write about until there was at the very least some intelligent assessment of exactly what happened. The threat of a surface-to-air missile used by terrorist to target a commercial jetliner is not an unthinkable scenario that has not been consider my risk analyst before. In fact over the last 50 years there have been many other similar incidents which have occurred over conflict zones around the world. I can also recall at least one scenario which worried intelligence authorities related to terrorist groups intent on acquiring missile technology for such a gruesome plan during the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on US soil. But in recent times the thought that a sophisticated weapons system, under the control of a State, should be put in the  hands of irregular actors would appear improbable and outside of all rules of engagement. That the same antiaircraft system should be trained on a passenger jetliner would be inconceivable; not any more. One thing appears clear, whether this was the result of a terrible accident or intentional action, the parties responsible should be severely punished as to discourage the indiscriminate use of such weapons in any armed conflict.

Shot Down Plane in history

Some news media have attempted to lay fault on the airlines for flying over a popular air route which for months has been an increasingly escalating conflict zone. In fact, some airlines had made the risk calculus and opted to fly around Eastern Ukraine. It’s understood that after Ukrainian separatist rebels shot down Ukrainian military transport and a fighter jet using Russian made weapons just days before, some degree of caution should have been practiced by all airlines even in the absence of or limited no-fly zone. Perhaps this was a foreseeable black swan event, but the reality we were supposed to believe was that a commercial airline would be safe from such risk once a plane reaches cruising altitude above thirty two thousand feet, hence the ban on flights below that range for the Eastern part of the country. Furthermore even the current duty-of-care standards for commercial aviation fall short of accounting for such events. It’s difficult to fault an airline following the conventional wisdom, in the absence of guidelines, when you consider all these permutations.

mh17-infographic-mistaken identity

No doubt this event is a game changer, and all commercial aviation stakeholders are rewriting their ops manual to involve geopolitical risk assessments from their security and risk management departments before a final decision is made on the air route to follow. We should prepare also for the potential for travel disruptions to come in the immediate future as conflicts flare up in a G-0 world struggling to define a new order. We’ve seen evidence of this just yesterday with many airlines suspending all flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport after reported rockets may have been aimed at the run-way following the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Gaza Strip.

As we mourn for the victims of flight MH17, we’re also left with a sense of despair. Significant damaged has already been done to the confidence of air travelers when this terrible tragedy follows in the heels of another as yet unexplained commercial aviation accident involving Malaysia Airline flight MH370 . For a person skeptical of coincidences, is hard to come to terms with the fact that such terrible fate should revisit one single airline in a short period. Restoring confidence should be high on the list of all the stakeholders regardless of their powerful motivation to the contrary.



How a Crisis Management Team Works

By Francisco Mateo

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity 

-John F. Kennedy

All efficient crisis management requires an effective, multi-disciplinary team of professionals to deal with such abnormal business conditions.  No other business discipline has become more strategic for both global and local (Or a combination of the two Glocal) businesses today. For proof just look at the headlines; Toyota, the largest car manufacturer in the world is dealing with massive global recalls of its best selling car models.  Even Honda has joined the act with an ongoing global recall of some popular models.  And who can dismiss the magnitude of the Port-au-Prince, Haiti Earthquake which destroyed the entire city and has dominated the headlines since last month.  Tackling such large scale crisis requires extensive planning before the fact, as well as dexterity in the crisis team’s execution.  I will attempt to synthesize in a few paragraphs the make-up and essence of an effective crisis management team as I’ve seen it in real life scenarios.

I’ll start by basing my hypothesis of the ideal crisis management team on key crisis cornerstones (basically the before, during and after scenarios):

  • Crisis Preparedness
  • Crisis Management
  • Post Crisis & Post Mortem

From here I’ll build the different moving parts that would culminate in the efficient and effective execution by a crisis team.  The first order of business is to formulate a clear and distinct strategy to act, as foundation and execution model. Remember that despite recruiting and training a team and making plans to deal with a real crisis, the guiding star for the organization should be crisis prevention.

The old adage “know your business from top to bottom…and side to side” is indeed practical when tackling a corporate crisis. This holistic approach should start from the R&D to the tail end of your supply chain. Yes, that applies to your suppliers as well. I few months ago I posted about this very topic and it is still relevant at this time. In a nutshell it states that if we took an all-hazards scenario planning approach to natural or man-made disasters; etc., we wouldn’t need to focus on crisis management. The fact of the matter is that we are mostly reluctant to accept these deviations from the norm; therefore, we must come to grips with the fact that crisis preparedness is everyone’s responsibility; even more so for the men and women tasked with dealing with the crisis.  Once you have your team assembled, do your organization a favor and draw a list of possible risk scenarios. The process calls for collecting and screening information; understanding and evaluating those risk scenarios the team drew up prior; agreeing on a decision matrix to facilitate the execution and finally, developing control methods to audit the throughput.

Next step is your communication strategy. Remember that to regulate the crisis flow you must wrap your arms around the message.  Handled correctly your communication plan would help you defuse situational pressure and buy yourself time to execute the rest of your plan. The first order of business for the team is to gain influence over the message communicated to the general public regarding the event, as well as external decisions made to guarantee public safety.  For that matter the crisis team has to ensure good relations with the media and local authorities. Another important fact as evidence in the Toyota crisis is that nurturing a presence in new media (social media, blogs, etc.) is a worthy investment.

Once the crisis team has established the crisis scenarios; identified the stakeholders and defined internal/external lines of communication, it’s now time to rehearse.  It is the crisis leader’s responsibility to set up table-top exercises and other crises simulations. Since crisis are very rare events the stakeholders need to refresh their recollection in order to keep the skills top of mind.  At the same time participation in drills helps to maintain contact data and other aging information relevant.

As in the Toyota case where cultural barriers and corporate practices have crippled companies with a lack of crisis management focus, a team must labor extra hard at the planning stages to ensure senior management buy in and commitment from the entire organization.

It’s tough enough you must manage flaw-less execution under pressure chamber like conditions during a crisis, but if all else fails remember this, you must have faith, be confident in your abilities and research past experiences; it has all been done before.  Jim Collins said it best “No. 1, in times of great duress, tumult, and uncertainty, you have to have moorings.” If your team needs a mantra Mr. Collins offers a good one “If there’s a storm on the mountain, more important than the plan are the people you have with you.”  When you find yourself in the eye of the storm is not the time to build a crack team of crisis ninjas. Much aforethought, in the way of scenario planning should’ve been given for optimal protection of your consumers and reputation.

But now is time to grab the bull by horn or the bullhorn for that matter.  Remember that a sustainable crisis management position calls for swiftly establishing and communicating the situation; fast and efficient communication flow is paramount; globally consistent crisis system and clearly defined procedures and role are all logical steps the team should take. The crisis management team should consider some aspects of how the organization markets its services or products in order to replicate its information campaign through the same marketing channels; this would not only be a coherent approach, but would also send the message to the right target market, those customers that bought into your company’s product. 

How a crisis unfolds depends on countless factors which make the outcome unpredictable.  But if things go south and there are SNAFUs, as Marshall Goldsmith wrote in a recent article, remember to keep the finger-pointing to a minimum.  His 7 Steps process is a good guide to ensure your team becomes more cohesive and stronger.  They are important lessons to be learned from every crisis; with proper documentation you’ll preserve the actions taken (Good and bad) for posterity. One thing the team should never lose site of is the enormous opportunities that a crisis brings.  At no other time is the world more engaged with your company and its brands than during a crisis, it’s human nature, we’re wired that way for the most part. It is still an opportunity for the organization to show its innovation prowess by learning on the fly; its nimbleness at adapting its message as new information becomes available and drawing from the responses to fix the problems that gave way to the crisis, so that it doesn’t happen again. Adapting to the new reality starts with deep reflection on what went wrong and what the organization did right to solve it.

In conclusion, recruiting and training a crisis management team is one of the most strategically important decisions an organization should make. How the team performs during a crisis event is commensurate to the quality of training done prior to any crisis; foreseeable or not. We should all learn the lessons from past and present corporate crisis, issues that may seem small can quickly snowball sweeping away customer confidence and your reputation. Crisis prevention and preparedness could be a cheaper option against those odds.

Port-au-Prince: The Risk Management Process

By Francisco Mateo

Part of the risk management duties at a multinational firm requires an in-depth analysis of the risk scenario that the business faces.  That requires first hand assessment and crafting custom made solutions to protect our people, assets, reputation and brands. Today I spent the day touring Port-au-Prince’s hardest hit areas, embedded with our business managers. My mission was two-pronged: first protect our executives in a challenging risk environment and second, getting a correct appraisal of the risks they’ll continue to face as they try to both get food donations to the most needy in Haiti and also protect our competitive advantage from the onslaught of aggressive competitors; who do not play from the same humanitarian playbook we believe in at this point in time.

We were dismayed by the magnitude and wide-spread devastation, but amazed to see the resilience of the Haitian people; who have already decided to stand up from the rubble and carry-on with their lives. Part of the executive protection protocol I had put in place called from riding in a well-guarded armored vehicle out of an overabundance of caution, but we still witnessed how Haiti’s fame open markets are steadily coming back; moreover, there is a reflective sense of calm in people’s faces.  Long lines snake around money transfer agencies (MoneyGram and CAM) all over Port-au-Prince as people get any money they can to survive day by day from the products sold at informal markets. One thing I was surprised to see was the lack of humanitarian aid presence at ground zero. 

I don’t want to be critical of the work many humanitarian aid organizations have performed in Haiti, but going into Port-au-Prince today, the one perception I had was the sickness I felt at the thought that many of the apparent aid workers I saw going into Haiti two weeks ago at the Dominican Border were only in for some voyeuristic sense of self-interest in disaster tourism.  I can’t say I left city having confirmed them as misconceptions.

Getting back to my risk scenarios prior to setting out for Port-au-Prince I had my executive sales team vaccinated against diseases associated with wide-spread disasters and previously observed in Haiti. In retrospect it was an excellent preventative move since we had to leave the car on several occasions to interact with street vendors and the public against a backdrop of destruction and the smell of death still bellowing in the air.  I remain seriously concern about the specter of infection diseases I believe looms large over the heads of refugees living in tents in crowded open areas.

At the end of the day, we all have to play a part in helping Haiti get back on its feet. One important lesson I learned today is that we can be easily deceived by rumors of looting and risky business environment, but only a first hand look at the situation on the ground would give you the edge to properly advice your business on how to operate securely in a high risk situation. I will continue submitting my dispatches as the recovery efforts get under way.

Global Yachting Protection and Prevention

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

 Owning a Yacht is a big investment that requires protection from myriad risks. Many layers of security should be considered, including the vessels’ exterior as well as the facilities (homeport or marina) where it docks when not out on the high seas.  Whether natural or man-made, sailing/cruising the world’s waterways involves intrinsic and extrinsic vulnerabilities. Intrinsically Yachts are seen are as status of wealth and therefore are vulnerable to theft and burglary. Extrinsically these vessels navigate the oceans around the world and therefore are subject to hurricanes and other natural dangers. Likewise the ability to reach international waters makes it vulnerable to geopolitical issues that plague many conflict zones around the globe.  My aim is to analyze the multitude of risks pleasure boat owners face as well as to suggest a number of protection and prevention strategies that can be applied under different scenarios.   

The risk of theft or burglary of any asset increases when it is not attended to or guarded. This principle applies to boat theft since it spends a great amount of time on a homeport or marina. According to subject matter experts “Thieves generally prefer easy targets and often go for specific equipment, such as electronics and communication systems. They are expensive and easy to remove. They are also produced in big numbers; therefore, it is easier to re-sell them without a trace.” To protect your property from the high risk of theft and burglary while at any facility it’s necessary to take account of the physical security at these sites.  Besides deciding an insurance policy, ensure that the facilities perimeter is properly protected and that only authorized persons are allowed to the dock areas.  Lighting, CCTV and other deterrence devices can be effective even for a boat; “Get a professional alarm system, especially for luxury yachts. Light, alarm sound systems and cameras can be scary to thieves. Get stickers pointing out that your boat is secured. Get fake-cameras as burglar scare crows if you want to be cheap.” It’s obvious that you should not leave valuables equipment or property within view or easy reach, but you should also make photo records of all areas and property within the boat.  All of these measures if applied correctly should deter theft since thieves would simply opt for easier pickings. 

If despite your best efforts the boat is stolen; “There are several websites that will allow you to list stolen yachts or check whether a used boat that was offered to you has been reported as stolen. Some list boat type and technical details as well as features that will allow you to identify the vessel.” In popular boating areas around the world there has also been cooperation between the local authorities and marina owners to protect vessels from rising theft. Such is the case in Rio Dulce, where the “Guatemalan government last month joined marina owners along the Rio Dulce waterway to build a floating security network to protect cruising sailors. The Rio Dulce has long been a popular place for cruising sailors to leave their boats during the hurricane season, but recently has been marred by robbery and violence.”           

Living in the Caribbean for the last few years has made me sensitive to certain security issues.  The Caribbean is a favored destination for many yachtsmen from around the world. Yet many risks exist, especially while docked at marinas in the Caribbean. Take for instance “two recent Caribbean sailing murders, including that of Australian sailor Drew Gollan in Antigua. Sailors considering a visit in their own boat or a charter holiday to the Caribbean are wondering: were they isolated? Or is it too dangerous to go there?” Capt. Les Annan offers his insight on this respect “I have had my boat broken into twice in the Bahamas (no one was hurt and the crew detained one of them for the cops) I must say that I always warn the crew to stay together and take cabs everywhere.”  The risk of theft and violence is evenly spread across the Caribbean as evidenced by reports of boat theft in the Northwest Caribbean.    

One key area of risk related to owning a boat is the potential for facing natural disasters.  Climate change is perhaps the most talked about global issue along with the peak of energy resources.  But what kind of risk can climate change represent for sailing/cruising; maintaining a boat on the water safely for that matter.  From hurricanes to tsunamis the types of severe natural events seem to be increasing in regularity and strength, leaving many owners vulnerable to nature’s whims. What can you do to protect your vessel? There is actually plenty that unfortunate events have taught experienced boat owners, from keeping the boat safe while on the ground or the water; knowing where to place the vessels in relations to wind directions during storms; how to properly tie down your boat; as well as protecting the engine, electronics, windows, hatchets and the boat’s interior. If you like your boat and want to extend its useful life-span learn the best protection practices against the worst storms nature can brew.    

Yacht piracy is another serious risk to consider. The recent rash of pirate attacks off the coast of Africa is not isolated to commercial vessels, it also includes leisure vessels, which are seen as softer and lucrative targets since owners are often affluent individuals. The most notorious and heart wrenching recent case is that of a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates at sea while in their yacht.  The pirates demand for ransom has reached a crescendo, especially when the British government is by law would not “make substantive concessions”.  It is a reminder that geopolitical issues, like piracy should be considered when choosing where to sail to. Sadly the Chandler’s case is far from isolated as there have been at least five pirate attacks against private yachts in 2009. Distance appears to be a reason why sailors would risk being captured in pirate infested waters while circumnavigating their vessels: “For yachts wishing to reach the Mediterranean from Asia, it’s a vexed question – round the Cape of Good Hope, which normally then involves crossing the Atlantic twice to catch prevailing winds? or through pirate infested Gulf of Aden? These questions are part and parcel of sailing or crusing safely around the world today.

In the last twenty years the world’s economy has began to shift from centuries of steady progress in the West as compared to the “Ottoman Middle East, Mogul India and Ming China”.  The new economic paradigm has created a series of political rifts, which have had a destabilizing effect in many regions of the world.  As the balance of power swings, nowhere is the new reality more prevalent than the world’s seas and oceans.  Sailing or cruising the world’s oceans and seas can also exposed you to global geopolitical forces and thus a great deal of risk.  Today’s sailors are required to add to their toolkit, knowledge of conflict zones as well as a healthy dose of prudence. 

Many events reflect how dynamic and fluid the risks can be. To bring this issue into sharp focus, as recently as November, 2009, the racing yacht crewed by five Britons ‘was stopped by Iranian naval vessels, on its way from Bahrain to Dubai for straying inadvertently into Iranian waters,’ the British Foreign Office (FO) said. The crew aboard ‘The Kingdom of Bahrain’ were Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher, Luke Porter and David Bloomer. The boat was arrested while sailing to Dubai for the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Race.  Also in November “The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) of India seized a French yacht, Adriano, in Kochi after it entered the port without valid documents. It’s a timely warning for cruising sailors ensure that their documents are in order before entering foreign ports and not take their documentation casually.”  It’s also a sign of the intricacies of politically motivated risks at international/national waters. Lastly, there was also “the car bombing on the Spanish island of Mallorca, a very popular sailing venue, staged just before the start of the 28th Copa del Rey Audi Sailing Cup, which has brought the topics of terrorism and sailing into sharp relief. Just as the risk scenarios become evermore fluid, so most the sailors become more sophisticated about their prevention as well as mitigation protocols. 

By now you’re wondering how to keep safe from the myriad risk faced on the world seas and oceans.  Logically you would not be able to mitigate every risk, but you can make yourself and your boat more resilient by following some of these recommendations. There area a number of considerations to protect your vessel before, during or after a storm and other natural disasters. The rule of thumb is to never take chances:

  • Gather as much advance weather and potential disaster information as you can
  • When off the water the boat is safer on the ground if facing hurricane wind conditions
  • If the boat is on the water ensure that you tie your boat down at the right time before the storm, but not too so early that it blocks access to other vessels
  • Ensure there area tall dock pilings as low dock pilings can puncture the bottom or hull sides
  • Boats docked in tightly packed marinas, even if well-sheltered, need to be moved to better locations during a storm
  • Know where the boat refuges are; consider finding a well-protected, inland canal with a good dock
  • Have an extra set of new, and slightly oversized storm lines – about 1/4″ larger than normal size
  • Virtually all canvass, tops and sails and enclosures should be removed from the vessels
  • Cover small engine room hull side vents with duct tape, larger vents require the use a thin piece of plywood screwed to the vent.
  • Remove all external electronic instruments
  • All windows should be locked and duct taped

Although must boat owners, at some point, would become victims of theft and burglary there are steps you can take to minimize the likelihood:

  • Know that thieves generally prefer easy targets and often go for specific equipment, such as electronics and communication systems
  • Check your insurance – and remember to check ALL your insurance, including the policy and contract of your credit cards.
  • Keep record, in your anti-theft notebook, of all serial numbers, identification codes and other hints to identify your boat or particular equipment; also keep receipts of purchase
  • Use invisible pens to write your name and address on pieces of equipment or use etching tools.
  • Get a professional alarm system, especially for luxury yachts. Light, alarm sound systems and cameras can be scary to thieves.
  • Report theft immediately to the police and your insurance company; if the vessel is stolen make it’s listed on well known databases.

Piracy prevention can be as complex as the issues that have given rise to this phenomenon. Experts have device a number of preventative steps for leisure boat owners. Below are the best tips and advice I’ve come across:

  • Convoys seem like they may be a simple necessity in certain areas
  • Anchor during daylight hours or while asleep onboard in the cockpit or below with hatches and companionways open and unsecured
  • Buy one or more tazer guns, pepper, dog, bear sprayers, a fire extinguisher etc and mount them in crucial face height areas
  • Carry several flare guns strategically located
  • Retrofit all hatch openings and companionways are fitted with “man proof” bars
  • A power head, “bang stick”, (used for killing sharks), fitted to the end of a short speargun effectively gives you the power of a firearm at close quarters
  • Use of a military grade laser beam could temporarily blind a troupe of pirates so badly it will render them helpless
  • Consider using a portable, two-way satellite-based location, tracking and messaging technologies
  • A legal, cheap and effective deterrent is WASP SPRAY! You can clear into any country with it. It has an effective shooting distance of 20+ feet.

In conclusion, many protection and prevention strategies can be applied under different risk scenarios as analyzed above.  Taking stock of the risks scenarios is indeed a healthy practice as many events like piracy, theft, and weather events are unpredictable but can be effectively mitigated.  As far as the geopolitical implications of sailing/cruising, the effects may be predictable in so far as you do your research before setting out and keeping abreast of changes.  The ultimate aim is to make your time out in your vessels are pleasurable and safe as it can be.

A CSO In The Line of Fire

“This is the disheartening story of a Nigerian university’s CSO who lost his own life while responding to a distress call from the home of one of the university’s professors. When he arrived at the professor’s home, he was murdered by gunmen who were there to attack the professor (who luckily was not there).”
It is a dangerous world we live in; even the call of duty can turn into a CSO’s last call.  My condolences to the family.  May the killers be caught and pay for this heinous crime.

Read the story here:

Marketing and Security Risk Management

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

I have always subscribed to the belief that to effectively evaluate a company’s security risks, you must be familiar with all the moving parts of the business.  I find that the business area that provides the most security risk insights is marketing.  For a production company, for instance, the way it generates demand should be both synchronized (in theory) to how it produces goods and to how the goods are than delivered to the customers.  Marketing therefore is central to the firm’s blueprint.  I would take a leap of faith and say that the risk we identified in the marketing strategy of a company could potentially impact up and down the value chain.  If that is the case, than we need to look closely at the risk inherent in the marketing strategy. 

Let’s take for instance the concept of Visibility, which is essential to position your brand at top of mind for consumers.  Your company Wonder-Widgetz LTD wants to maintain its market share, so it aims to regain visibility through all channels. The company has tremendous growth potential in a market, but social mobility has not kept pace with growing population, so poverty levels have fueled a double-digit violent crime rate.  Now cue in a global recession, which conspires against value creation.  The company decides this is the time to go after the “bottom of the pyramid” consumers, so it speeds up the visibility strategy by placing attractive images of the most popular brands on delivery trucks.  Even the sales staff have joined the act by featuring company logos prominently on their vehicles and uniforms.

What kind of risk do you see in this strategy? First of all in the so-called good part of town the benefits in terms of market share outweigh the risk.  On the other hand for crime-ridden areas the same vehicles and staff become a bulls-eye for thieves, hijackers and extortionist. How do we compensate?  There are opinions both for and against it, but the risk factors remain.  Depending on the circumstances, there is no value advertising in this way since the risk of harm to the staff or product being stolen is so great.

My proposal would be to first and foremost know the risk your business is exposed to.  One of the most valuable service we as security practitioners can offer our companies is to be aware of crime trends in areas of operation.  Crime trends can be obtained from many sources.  Many Local Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) around the world maintain digital databases of crimes committed per capita and by sectors.  Some LEAs even make use of sophisticated crime mapping tools.  If data is not readily available than you’d have to rely on the old gumshoe work of doing the field work or contracting out the risk appraisal service to a competent security risk assessment professional.  Besides crime statistics, it may be necessary to conduct detailed route risk assessment to determine what if any dangers your staff and cargo would be exposed to.  Armed with the reliable information on the high crime/violent areas you can begin to plan your security countermeasures. This would require the collaboration of your sales and supply chain teams.  If your product distribution requires at-risk staff to enter high crime areas you’d need to make a determination not to display company logos on vehicles and uniforms.  You would also have to train your staff to be aware of their surroundings and have a contingency plan if they perceive danger. Many factors (value of the cargo, or attractiveness of the cargo as well as if a ready black market exists) would determine if it’s necessary to contract armed security escort to ensure the protection of your staff and cargo.

As you can see there are many protection strategies that can be implemented, but the best of all is prevention.  Deciding whether to emphasize marketing and product visibility or security is a strategic discussion all companies should engage in if the business requires operation in high crime environments.

Why we should declare war-on-fraud?

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

Fraud Awareness

Fraud awareness has gained incredible speed in the last two years.  It’s no longer just the Nigerian 419 scams; myriad online schemes or even government corruption that we think of when the word fraud comes up anywhere in the world.  The global financial crisis has revealed a seeding world of lies and betrayals brought to you straight from the bowls of Wall Street and the exoteric world of high finance.  Bernard Madoff, Tom Petters and Allen Stanford are the modern versions of Charles Ponzi in the infamous fraudster’s hall-of-shame. Like the aftermath of a plane crash, forensic fraud examiners have now spend months meticulously analyzing the wreckage trying to determine what caused this disaster.  Unfortunately Hedge Funds and other exclusive investment clubs don’t come with a black box that can pin point which systems failed. Their world is shrouded in secrecy hiding behind tax shelters and corporate veils.  Luckily there are dedicated fraud experts out there that can make sense of the tangle web these sorcerers of finance weaved. 

The recent fraud losses have left a deep financial, moral and cultural impact on our global society.  Let’s not squander this opportunity to highlight the evil of unfettered greed masquerading as legitimate business.  Let progress be defined by fraud awareness.  As President Barack Obama said during his inaugural speech, let’s all “do our business in the light of day” and persuade those less enlightened to do the same.

Fraud awareness is a must have prevention tool that needs to be cultivated from the specialized knowledge, it is today to a level of common knowledge available to everyone, if we stand a chance of avoiding these schemes from growing again.

We also need to encourage the work of people like Harry Markopolos, who wisely alerted the official fraud watchdog (SEC), about Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, years ago. He reveled in the process structural deficiencies in America’s official finance system’s oversight, which left the scheme fester through inaction. To revert to the airplane analogy the watchdog agencies throughout the world have acted as the air traffic controllers gone on holiday, while the radar signals were blinking red.  Equally courageous and commendable were the whistleblowers in Stanford and Petters’ case.

Now more than ever fraud fighters have a duty to continue being beacons of light in the prevention and detection of fraud, waste and abuse.  I’m proud to be a member of this crowd.  The message is also clear for both corporations and government anti-fraud organizations; they all need to be agile in the prevention (meaning properly allocating, training, and fostering a culture of honesty), as well as swift in the persecution of existing fraud schemes.