Too Young to Learn Security Awareness?

As a father and security practitioner I often balance the benefits of teaching my kids how to be constantly aware of their surrounding.  I constantly adapt simple situation awareness lessons that would be normal for young children without crossing the line into paranoia. This is obviously a sensitive subject due to the fact that a child’s learning and behavior is malleable and subject to manipulation. I worry about them becoming the target of a predator, but in my drive to get them prepared and ready to prevent or react, I wouldn’t want to create any trauma or long term negative effect on their mental health as fear and anxiety can cause.

According to The International Centre For Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), more than 2.1 million children (younger than 18) go missing around the world in a one-year period. Leading scholars and researchers estimate that one in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before they reach adulthood, and less than 35% of these sexual assault cases are reported. With the advent of the Internet, child predators have a new avenue to contact their victims with perceived anonymity and to perpetrate crimes against children. According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, of the estimated 24 million child Internet users, one in five has received unwanted sexual solicitations yet only one in four told a parent.

I’m grateful for awareness tools such as these great e-learning materials prepared by KinderVision. I have used it as a learning tool for my children and also with clients who have expressed concern for their children’s safety outside their home.  So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  It’s our moral duty to contribute to making all our children safe by empowering them through awareness information.


How To Be The Ultimate Security-Aware Road Warrior

By Francisco Mateo

So you’re a venerable road warrior, but have you mastered the art of staying safe and secure during your international travel? If you want to practice security awareness like the pro’s do, always keep in mind that “the best security protocols are based on common sense and real world experience.” Below are few additional tips to get you ready to protect yourself like the pro’s do:

  • Consult the travel security guidance for your destination from your country’s Foreign Service. Generally it is also a good idea to seek advice regarding extreme climate conditions from reputable weather services.
  • Be aware of the financial and labor issues of your chosen airline as this would impact aircraft maintenance.
  • Scan and make two sets of photocopies of all your identity documents and be mindful of their expiration dates: passport, ID card, driver’s license, vaccination certificates, credit cards, Customs papers for imported material (portable PC, camera, satellite phone, etc.) leave one copy at home and take the other with you.
  • Use luggage that is solid and has a reliable combination lock; airport security approved locks are a good investment.
  • You’re destination country has a reputation for luggage theft shrink wrapping it is a good deterrence.
  • If the risk of loosing your bag is high consider buying Travel Insurance; using a secure identity tag on your bags and don’t pack your bag too tightly.
  • Record the content of your luggage with picture or video to serve as documentation in case it’s lost or stolen.
  • If you need to take confidential/valuable documents or objects (diskettes, money, etc.) on your trip, store them in your carry-on luggage.
  • Some countries reserve the right to scan the contents of your laptop and other portable devices; so if you want your information to remain confidential either encrypt it or take a Clean Laptop with you.
  • Keep your id papers, credit cards, money and tickets on you at all times.
  • It’s good practice to keep a set of extra clothing and footwear in your carry-on luggage.
  • Do not leave your luggage unattended at the airport
  • Never trust an unknown person with your luggage.  A stranger can either steal or manipulate your bag.
  • At the hotel, ask for a room between the second and fifth floor, not overlooking the street (for ease of emergency exit and for protection against bombs)
  • Lock the door fully; use the door-chain or other door safety device.
  • Establish the identity of visitors before opening the door
  • Deposit valuables and documents in the room safe
  • Read the safety instructions and check out the evacuation routes
  • Be CAUTIOUS and observant as to who handles and serves you beverages. Be aware that drinks can be laced with substances such as GHB, a drug that is odorless, colorless and tasteless.   It renders the victim euphoric and susceptible to suggestion.
  • Overall, maintain a low profile. Try to avoid looking like a tourist (e.g. consulting a map in public);
  • Always keep your relatives or emergency contacts aware of your travel itinerary and any changes;
  • Keep your contact list up-to-date;
  • Always keep your mobile phone charged and switched on (make sure you bring a charger and possibly an extra battery)

Remember that these tips amount to a simple philosophy called: maintaining “Situational Awareness”. Practiced often enough and they become habit, which is the state of mind all road warriors should seek to sustain.

The International “Hostage Business”

By Francisco Mateo

             “Kidnappings in Mexico have fallen from 1.1 per 100,000 people in 1997 to 0.8 in 2008 — though the number may be increasing again.”  Eurasia Group

The masters of the dark arts have perfected their heartless, dirty craft in Mexico today.  According to experts, Mexico has been invaded by as many gangs of professional kidnappers as the many types of kidnapping they have brought with them or created; a true testament for men’s capacity for evil. As inhumane as it may sound, people are assigned a flexible dollar target number depending on their social-economic status. The following Dateline special “The Desperate Hours” details the story of a family’s ordeal being targeted in rural San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Learn More Here: “The Desperate Hours”

Kidnapping as we all know are not just a Mexican problem today. Statistics show that  Sub-Saharan and West Africa, including Nigeria, as well as Haiti, Pakistan, Venezuela, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are also top kidnapping hotspots. How do you stay safe in light of the growing sophistication of these economic terrorist groups of kidnappers?  Remember that the name of the game is situation awareness, just keep in mind that in Mexico even kidnapping experts have their best efforts thwarted; therefore your defense posture needs to be sound.  Have a well thought out plan, abandon fear as a tactic as it would only lead you astray; instead be informed, seek advice from local experts and implement countermeasures according the prevailing kidnapping modus operandi. 

 I’ll leave you with these few bullet points in summary:

  • Kidnappers always look for target of opportunity. 
  • Simple things like changing your routines;
  • Keeping a low profile
  • Having a plan when you detect you’re being followed
  • Keeping in contact a trusted person or family on speed dial on your cell phone; can really go a long way to keep you save. 
  • Criminals thrive on fear, so show confidence and resolve that you would not be made a victim 
  • Above all be reasonable about your actions and decisions and you would move beyond fear

The Name Of the Game is “Situation Awareness”

By Francisco Mateo

 I recently engaged on an interesting discussion on a social network group. The topic happens to be the security precautions, or the lack there of, some very rich VIP’s should take when staying at luxury hotels.  I thought I share this comment with you as we’re all guilty of “false sense of security creep” at one time or another:   

“My assessment of the situation based on reports would basically focus on the fact that the perp created an affinity with the victim along ethnic lines by speaking to them in Spanish; this made the victims lower their guards in a false sense of trust. When the perp later returns to allegedly fix the AC, their guards were all the way down. Against all judgment and when all kinds of bells should’ve went off they opened the door allowing the perp to consummate the well planned robbery.”

 I do not want to focus on the fact that a luxury hotel facilities as this one have a duty to provide proper levels of security to their customers as that would open up another can of worms, but the fact remains that a VIP is viable to lower his/her guards on account that such luxuries surroundings ought to have their security squared away.  For the most part that is true, but their defenses are no match for clever swindlers who planned with ample anticipation.  

Being rich, or perceived as rich, adds a level of risk to your profile during travel