Even though I addressed this subject over twelve years ago, the same still rings true. In the world of executive protection/close protection, there are already so many distractions, pitfalls, and misunderstandings that I believe there is a veritable need to, again, address the distinction and perceived necessity surrounding certifications, licenses, and memberships/associations that so many new practitioners fall prey to in their quest to achieve their career goals of becoming a truly professional executive protection or close protection agent. Let’s take a few minutes and see if we can answer a couple of your important questions and get you headed in the right direction…
In our latest interview with expert Nick Barreiro, Chief Forensic Analyst of Principle Forensics, we discussed the security risks from any/all social media platform postings and how someone can obtain critical information from your pictures. If you haven’t watched the interview yet, please find it below
According to Vice’s latest article, authorities have been following Instagram profiles of the women related to, or involved with, Russian oligarchs to obtain information about them, their holdings, accounts, and locate assets to seize/freeze by merely identifying and following the weakest link who posts the most. These women who act like ”influencers” or social media celebrities are looking for publicity, but they now represent a significant threat to the security of the individuals they’re around and expose them to unwanted scrutiny. ”Oligarchs themselves rarely use Instagram to accidentally crack open a window into their high living. Rather, it’s the people partying with them: A stepdaughter, an ex-wife, or in the least one infamous case, an escort.” Read the full article here.
The use of social media and the way it affects our lives and businesses have brought a new challenge to the security industry and the protective team’s responsibility. It gives the entire world the ability to look into people’s lives with the mere push of a button. Scandals are created, secrets exposed, and lives ruined. In the case of personal security, social media can be used in the advancement of a protective detail; however, one must know how to utilize it properly. Today, we will talk about Social Media Investigations and Monitoring. For those who are not aware of the term, as we utilize it in protection circles, Social Media Investigation and Monitoring is the process by which you can identify what is being said about your clients, a brand they represent, or the corporations with which they are involved and any threats or dangers that may exist in relation to those aspects.
As we sift through different social media platforms and online channels, we must then determine if what is being said has any significance regarding your clients’ reputation, persona, and safety and if there is the need to mitigate any risks. In other words, it’s like setting up an online, social media “net”. This process then helps you discover everything that is being said, written about, or portrayed on social media and determine its relevance to your clients. You can gather information about the ‘’public opinion’’ surrounding your clients, about people or entities who are angry with them for one reason or the other, people who are obsessed with them, or people who are making online threats. SOCMINT or Social Media Intelligence (not to be confused with OSINT) has seen a huge rise in necessity due to the use of social media and a competent protective detail needs to always be informed and social media investigations and monitoring are a huge part of this process.
Now, let’s see some examples of how social media investigations and monitoring applies in protective services. Let’s say one of the people you are protecting belongs to a large pharmaceutical company and they decided to raise the price of a specific drug, thus affecting the lives and wellbeing of thousands of people. Perhaps another client is involved in a financial institution that quite suddenly makes a significant decision that affects people’s lifetime savings and pensions. You can imagine that there will be a significant number of people who become very angry, and some may want to harm your client. During the recent pandemic, there were a number of “anti-vaxx” groups that were quite vocal and utilized Facebook as one of their many platforms to accomplish their goals. Another example would be the need to discover if there is someone using your client’s name or company to scam others and commit crimes.
We are sure that many of you today are aware of the infamous ‘’Tinder Swindler’’, Shimon Yehuda Hayut, who legally changed his name to Simon Leviev to pretend to be the son of the billionaire Lev Leviev and used his name and company logos to scam people. Although his actions were known since 2017, it was only after the airing of the Netflix documentary in 2022 that the Leviev family found out and filed a lawsuit against Hayut for falsely portraying himself as the son of Lev Leviev, receiving benefits, and committing crimes.
According to Leviev’s family attorney, Guy Ophir, they will now include anyone who has attempted to make a profit from his scam during the next lawsuit. What we can ask is, as security providers, why didn’t someone from the real Leviev family ever discover this scam artist who was extremely public and active on social media as the ‘’son of Lev Leviev’’? Although the real family members were never part of this fraudulent scheme, and it didn’t appear to affect their safety, it did, however, involve their name/brand in a very public and negative way. In other words, it should have definitely been considered as a threat to their reputation. Other people who were harmed by this scam artist were the businesses who did work with them, and their secondary service providers as well.
Another interesting case to mention is Elon Musk where he, the actual client, took it upon himself to “solve” the issue and directly contacted the person of interest who had begun posting his private flight details and created the security risk for him and was literally blackmailing him unless the POI was paid. According to media reports “Elon Musk states social-media accounts that track his travel movements are ‘becoming a security issue.” Tail numbers and yacht names of billionaires are increasingly being shared on online platforms and one can track them by having the appropriate app unless significant efforts are made to secure them from the reach of those diligent few. These are some unique specific details that the security team needs to pay close attention to at all times.
Since Social Media platforms are the way people today communicate with each other, we as security providers must keep in mind that this is not always a positive aspect. Perhaps a person or persons will utilize social media to collectively gather people with their same goal or mission, to get together and plan their next move (Example: protesting outside your client’s house or corporation). In this case, you will want to know what is being said online about the person you protect to determine if there is something of extreme necessity to include in your risk and threat assessment and then take protective measures as well as inform their legal department.
As we have all witnessed too many times, it only takes one well-placed picture or story regarding some alleged activity on the part of your client, and it will go viral quickly, truth or not. Staying one step ahead of this type of “attack” has become a crucial necessity in order to protect your client from embarrassment or exposure. One of the most common issues in recent history is when personnel close to the client i.e., family, staff, vendors, and any other secondary customers post pictures, stories, or opinions and subsequently fail to understand the negative effect these types of communications can and will have on the client’s life, business, and the lives of their loved ones.
Why do you need a Social Media Investigations and Monitoring Strategy when you are a security services provider? To summarize we can say:
1) To identify new threats.
2) To discover what information about your client is posted online either by himself, the ones close to him, or his employees and evaluate how these affect his safety.
3) To evaluate a threat (someone is posting online threats directed at your client).
4) To add to your due diligence.
5) To geolocate a picture or a video, sometimes even audio.
6) To include any findings in your Risk and Threat Assessment (We can never highlight this enough, social media surveys and investigations are now a critical part of your Risk and Threat Assessments).
7) To find people obsessed with or following your clients (stalkers).
8) To identify hate groups or terrorist organizations that may affect your client.
9) To identify people or businesses your client may or may not want to do business with.
10)To mitigate risks from the information found online about the person you protect (How are the pictures of my client used or tampered with and for what purpose?).
11)To identify if someone is impersonating your client or a family member.
12)To find out if your client’s moves/visits/travels are posted online (Exposing them to others who may be in the same hotel, conference room, restaurant).
13)To identify workplace violence or insider threats indicators.
14)To find out what is the ‘’public opinion’’ regarding your client (Always keep an eye on what is being said about your client and have a strategy to respond).
15)To determine if a person or persons are utilizing your client’s name or business name in a malicious or unauthorized manner for their own personal gain. (Claiming associations or partnerships, etc.)
How to perform Social Media Monitoring for security purposes?
First, let’s clarify one important thing. ‘’Googling it’’ is not enough, nor is it the answer. There are a number of search sites that allow for user input thus watering down or contaminating information and it’s accuracy. For those who are not aware, Social Media Investigations and Monitoring is quite a different department of protective services and quite often falls under Intelligence Analysis and Open-Source Intelligence. It requires unique skills and knowledge. One must clearly understand different social media and research platforms and how to use each one of them (and/or in combination) to obtain information. How you will approach each case is different and certainly depends on who your client is, their business, close relations, and/or their public image. This will directly affect the searches and the resources used and for what purpose. It is vital in our current day and age to include SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence) in your client’s service proposal, no matter how public the person may or may not be. Hiring ten Executive Protection agents and a Residential Security Team is not enough anymore. SOCMINT services are a vital part of your Risk and Threat Assessments (Dynamic Risk Assessments too) and enable your protective detail to function more efficiently.
For those who can not provide a certified Social Media Investigator for their clients, follow up with these steps:
1)Understand who your client is, his/her background, the threats, where do they stand in political, social, financial sectors.
2)Be aware of any of the latest changes in your clients’ lifestyle, public opinions, and professional decisions.
3)Be aware of any of their political and social changes. Watch the news from multiple channels.
4)Familiarize yourself with all close family, friends, staff, and associates and their respective social media footprints.
5)Set up a social media investigation and monitoring strategy.
6)Have a good understanding of the Intelligence Cycle (How the intel is being collected, analyzed, disseminated, reviewed, etc.).
7)Have a good understanding of the search tools on different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, etc.)
8)Do research on the available search engines and the strengths and limitations each one may have.
9)Know how to conduct image, video, and audio research and gather intelligence from them.
10)Invest in appropriate platforms for social media investigations and monitoring (Have in mind, NEVER rely on one platform’s result or just platforms’ results. The user/investigator is the main component of a social media investigation).
11)Download and use appropriate search engines extensions and apps.
12)Invest time in creating ‘’sock puppets’’ or fake profiles and maintain their persona. Sometimes you may need a profile to have access to different forums or groups without being discovered.
13)Train yourself in link analysis (How to look for connections between people, events, and organizations).
14)Set keyword alerts (In multiple languages in case your client has ties with more than one country).
15)Gather, analyze, evaluate, and report your findings to the appropriate department or leadership.
As the threat landscape changes every day, we as protection providers must be able to adapt and keep ourselves up to date with additional training. Today’s executive protection agent must also be skilled and knowledgeable in investigations, open-source intelligence, protective intelligence, HUMINT, and have an increased understanding of cyber security. Large corporations have already created their own embedded intelligence departments, while others are hiring threat analysts and OSINT investigations from outside security providers. The rise of protective intelligence, and whatever that includes, is here to stay and we are seeing it more and more through the highly increased number of related job postings every day.
If you are an Executive Protection Agent and want to learn more on how to utilize Social Media Investigations and Monitoring for Risk Mitigation Purposes, reach out to us.
f you are a service provider and want to add Social Media Investigations and Monitoring for Risk Mitigation Purposes on your service list, contact us to learn about our vendor services.
AUS Global Special Services Travel Team
Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC
Founder & CEO
Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC
We will be launching a series of educational webinars that are absolutely free to attend. The aim of the webinars won’t be to present people and their past stories, but to have specific guests who will combine their experience and training in the industry in order to teach you something new, to help your professional development and to provide consultation for you. They will share their opinions, the “do and don’ts” of the industry and answer your questions.
And the best part? The content of each webinar will be developed by you! While we are working on our next webinars, let us know either by a comment here or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org what topics would you be interested in having discussed, answered and/or receive consultation on? This is a webinar created for you, by you!
It’s not very often when we have the ability to interview and learn from our adversaries. While most efforts are seemingly focused only on physical attacks, they do not give enough emphasis to the paparazzi, media, and all that this facet of protection entails. But we’ve got you covered. This is an interview we have been wanting to do for the last 5 years. What we learned from a retired British paparazzi is that pointing a flashlight toward them won’t work, neither you are safe if you block the tail number from your private jet. We also learned how they find information about your clients, who are willing to pay a lot of money to buy your pictures (no, it is not only the media outlets), to what length they will go to distract you and get that picture and why you will be not able to buy their silence.
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The latest incident with French President Emmanuel Macron being slapped by someone in the crowd has once again fired up the keyboard warriors who take any incident (video or picture) such as this and claim how improperly the Executive Protection team functioned and what would they have done differently and, of course, be more successful. As a Greek proverb says ‘’Whoever is outside the dance (floor), can sing many songs’’ Meaning: It is easy to talk about something when you are not the one involved in it.
As security practitioners, we must be very careful what we say online, keeping in mind, whatever you post online stays online even if you delete it minutes later. We should not criticize security details and/or the people involved because we do not know all the facts, details, limitations and the full story. When you post a comment on a 10-second video, you may not have the full story. You do not know what happened before or after the incident. What you see in a photo may not be the full picture. It doesn’t make you any more ‘’professional’’ when you try to spot the wrong moves in an incident where you weren’t involved and you do not know all the parameters: you are just assuming.
In this case, we heard many opinions:
‘’Why didn’t they keep standard formation?’’- How can you keep standard formation when your principal is anticipating close interaction with a member of the crowd? Greeting lines are extremely tedious and are one of the most difficult situations to read and provide protection.
‘’The reaction time was slow.’’- The reaction time always seems to be slower when you see an incident on a video over and over again rather than being involved with it in real-time in the field.
‘’They were lucky he wasn’t holding a knife.’’ – Actually someone did their job well and made sure he (or anyone else in the crowd) wasn’t holding a weapon. What most fail to understand is that these crowds are previously checked for anything that can be used as a weapon.
‘’Why didn’t they saw that coming?’’ – They don’t teach ESP at Executive Protection schools…
‘’Why didn’t someone teach Macron?’’ – Most protectees won’t sit down and learn from you about protection, they want you to protect them. It’s not their job to know how to do yours…Why do you think you’re employed?
Now let’s address some challenges for protecting public figures and try to make some rational sense of all of this.
Protecting people whose identity depends on the public, such as politicians, in this case, is very much different than protecting a C-Suite executive for example. A politician needs the interaction with public. They shake hands, hug, get pictures with and celebrate with large crowds. Having people like them is what makes people vote for them, and they need to look and act quite approachable to everyone in order to gain votes. If they don’t get the votes, well, then they no longer hold their current political position. They have to attend gatherings and events and most of those functions may be outside of your span of control regarding organizing it. You have to provide services as best as you can with what you have and minimize whatever limitations you can.
In this case ‘’the unknown crowd’’ is the issue. The ‘’crowd’’ provides a good opportunity for the enemy to blend in, act and even escape in some cases. Also, as most public appearances are preplanned and announced, the enemy has the time to be prepared for the attack. And when we say attack, let’s clarify that “attack on your principal” is not only an assassination or physical harm but also an attack on his/her personality, reputation or by causing embarrassment.
While most EP training schools focus only on physical attacks, have in mind causing embarrassing situations may be something your principal is particularly vulnerable and endangered by, thus it is something you must be prepared to prevent. Making sure the crowd has been checked for anything that can be used as a weapon doesn’t mean you are safe from an embarrassing situation. Paying attention to people’s hands and what they are carrying doesn’t mean you can be sure about the intention of a handshake. A handshake can become a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the face. How would you know the intentions of the handshake and act within 2 seconds to prevent it? You must be in very close proximity to do that and sometimes you have limitations on how close you can be with your principal, particularly when they are interacting with the public and potential voters. When any public figure decides he/she want to come within close proximity of a voter, you are required to break the standard formations and you cannot have security between the voter and the principal because they need that ‘’personal space’’.
Act too aggressive and they will perceive this position as very unapproachable, something that goes against your principal’s political campaigns. So you have limitations or adaptations to perform your protective job competently.
Another thing to consider is that some protectees will appear uncooperative with you and your suggestions or directions. They will do the exact opposite of what you have instructed them to do or whatever the plan was because they thought doing something different was ok, safe or was suggested at the last minute by their campaign manager. Some protectees will ask you to protect them no matter what. The fact that they won’t consider changing their lifestyle, and you have to do your best, becomes another facet of the ever-evolving detail.
Have we forgotten the flying shoe incident with President Bush in a press conference in 2008? The red paint thrown at Mary Harney, Ireland’s Health Minister in November 2010? Berlusconi’s nose being broken and two teeth knocked out when a man attending a political rally threw the statuette of Milan’s Duomo gothic cathedral straight in his face in 2009? Eggs being thrown at Bill Clinton in Warsaw, Poland? Nicolas Sarkozy being a victim of a flying pie in 1997? The book thrown at Obama in 2010? The glitter attack on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlently in 2011? Pope being attacked by a woman who jumped barriers at St Peter’s Basilica and knocked him down in 2009? The famous slap on Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the widow of ex Greek PM at her book signing by a woman who appears to be there to sign her book? Bill Gates’ “Pie-to-the-Face” fiasco? There are so many more similar incidents including paint, body fluids, pies, yoghurt, vegetables, flour and even flashing body parts such as the Femen members who went toplessness in front of the EU-Russia summit, in Brussels, in December 2012.
Can we criticize the EP team members involved in these incidents? Can we say that you would have done better after the incident has taken place? From the moment you have a complete crowd check for weapons, you are in a “secure” space. But what leads you to believe that you have a better understanding regarding the mental status of someone who appears to be a voter or a fan? Can you honestly guess his motives if he/she wants to slap, or spit or in some way embarrass your client?
If you haven’t provided security details for Public Figures, it may seem easy for you to criticize an incident like this, but criticizing what you don’t know and just assuming doesn’t make you right and it very well may show your ignorance. Instead, use this incident as a reminder that people will use anything to harm your client’s reputation and their imagination can be big and quite unpleasant. Keep it as a learning tool for yourself and yet another scenario in your head of what you would or wouldn’t do if…
Founder & CEO
To all CEOs, celebrities, VIPs and high value individuals…
At some point in your careers, you will most likely find the need to retain, or at the very least, inquire about close protection services for yourselves, your loved ones and possibly for those you employ closest to you.
Now, the list of companies and corporations that provide these type of services is quite lengthy and, while at first they all appear very impressive, you need to be thorough as you take a deep look at them and the ideals and morals they represent. Again, you are searching for the perfect fit that best protects yourselves, your families, employees and all things that you need secured and confidential.
A quite disturbing trend as of late has been the repeated posting of pics with you as the client, at your locations and in front of your vehicles, private planes, residences, etc. while boasting about the details of who you might be, what was happening or other items of a secure nature. Now, this is entirely unacceptable no matter what the terms or conditions of their employment may be with you. You, and all that that may encompass, are to be secure, confidential and invisible for all intents and purposes. Period.
Social media has become the source of all communications amongst a great number of these entities and this in turn has led to a trend of exposing enormous amounts of confidential client information when it is not only unnecessary but highly unprofessional and, frankly, childish. At times, it has even been portrayed as “marketing” when, in it’s true form, it’s nothing more than schoolyard bragging.
So, when researching a prospective organization that you perceive may be the one you will choose, a thorough search of all related social media should be performed. The company’s sites, the reviews and even the social media sites of any/all possible employees that you might hire from their corporation. If they are willing to expose their previous clients with seemingly reckless abandon, you will most likely be the next celebrity/VIP pic that hits the Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn circuit and that is, I’m quite sure, not your desire at all.
Many companies will show an endless supply of “tactical” pictures, extreme condition photos, worst case scenario snapshots, etc. Please understand that most of the organizations are composed of a large number of former military members, former LEO/SWAT members and private security contractors who have “been there & done that”. But it is always wise to remember that while these skills are highly advantageous should everything go tragically wrong in your day, these type of days should never happen if the proper planning is performed which is completely above and beyond the “hard skills” as they are often referred to.
Another highly recommended item is a detailed NDA and total social media blackout for all involved. Leave nothing to chance and be very clear regarding the seriousness that this represents to you and the severity of disciplinary action should it be violated. Again, you and all you hold most dear are to be secure, confidential and private and definitely NOT on the front page of a local newspaper, tabloid, media page or out to the highest bidder.
Always remember this…You came looking to us with your concerns and fears, placing your overall well-being in our capable hands. With that in mind, you should always feel protected, safe and secure from anyone or anything that might wish to harm you. And that harm should NEVER be at the hands of the very people whom you have so willingly trusted to provide the very best security, protection and peace of mind.
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel. Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com
Recently, a young lady, new in the industry, raised a question in a social platform questioning the practice of, or if it is acceptable for, people in our industry dropping clients’ names in public. Surprisingly, many people who took part in the thread commented saying that they don’t find anything wrong with it. Some of them even named their own old clients. Some were trying to justify it by saying they don’t work for that specific client anymore, they didn’t reveal anything personal about the client, they have the client’s approval to post that picture or name the client, their client is super famous and paparazzi are always getting pictures of them together so why hide it. Essentially, they are good guys and how dare we criticize people we don’t know. These were a number of comments from individuals who either work in the security industry as operatives or own companies and hire agents to represent them.
Now, we all know that confidentiality has been a hot topic that raises many debates every time it’s laid on the table. And we see the ever-increasing need to have discussions about it nowadays, more than ever, due to the internet and the influence of social media. Merely saying that it is wrong to post a picture or name your client on public does not remotely infer that we are jealous of the clientele you have, it is certainly not because we want to talk bad about you or because we want to look better. The primary reason for it being discussed as wrong goes all the way back to the very basics of Risk Assessment and Dynamic Risk Assessment. Those who haven’t had the opportunity to be taught these topics in one of their EP schools should truly seek continuing education on it and those who fail to remember their training on how it can drastically affect the client’s safety, need to go back and re-study.
For a moment, let’s talk about risk factors and who may be after your client: Media representatives (journalists, paparazzi), stalkers, unhappy former employees, former wives, girlfriends, business associates, business antagonists, people he owes money to, kidnappers and the list can go endlessly on so, for brevity’s sake, let’s say, anyone who may want to harm him/her in any way, shape or form. That being stated, the person who is standing directly between that client and all these risk factors is you, and anyone who works in the security detail. By linking your name or putting an ID on the person who is standing next to that client in the picture frame is a risk by itself. How so? We will explain later.
Now, let’s address some of the individuals who have stated that these are acceptable practices. Confidentiality is quite always associated with the less than desirable actions and events that occur during a detail, “What happens on the detail, stays on the detail” sort of thing. We have a tendency to become complacent with many other aspects of the more pleasant, day to day occurrences, not feeling that they are of any importance in the overall aspect of security. One could not be more mistaken. Confidentiality is about ANYTHING that involves your client and their life, and whoever was involved or interacted with the security detail. It entails the complete protection of any/all kinds of information that someone might gain access to, who may want to harm him in some way, obtain something to use against him, or even harm his reputation.
How long must I maintain this confidentiality? Well, just because you worked for someone in the past doesn’t mean you can or should discuss any details about them or the fact you worked for them formerly. Having worked for someone means you now know critical information regarding their security detail, estate security, what kind of vehicles are used, how many people work for them, what are the skill sets of the current agents (basically how good they are), if they have any issues or weaknesses (divorces, custody battles, use of drugs and alcohol, illegal affairs …), etc. You also know where the client likes to “hang out”, where his good friends live, his personal family, and most importantly, you are aware of all the security ‘’gaps’’ and security protocols….these tiny gaps? We write about them in our reports and address them to our supervisors and most of the time no one cares to take them into consideration because of the budget, or because they don’t want to ‘’bother’’ the client’s routine or bring inconvenience to their daily life. So the complacent prefer not to change anything, and most of us have walked in security details where protocols (even radio call signs) haven’t been changed for years. So, having worked for someone in the past, even if you are no longer employed there now, doesn’t make it acceptable to talk about it, because you are in possession of important information that may harm or put anyone who worked for that client in a position to be blackmailed or harmed.
“I have the client’s approval to get a picture with him and even post it”. Let’s admit it, there is nothing more satisfying in our profession than to have a happy client who is OK with having a picture together. Yes, you can take that picture of the two of you, but for your own personal photo album if you like to keep one of those…Never to post in public. The client may be OK with it, but remember, the client hired YOU to protect THEM. They don’t know about security procedures and risk factors, and if you ask for a picture, they may think it is safe. You, however, as the security professional, the trained and educated one, must think and breath ‘’security’’. You alone are the one whose acts must always take into consideration the client’s and team’s safety.
Many inexperienced agents are misled to believe that since paparazzi are after their clients, their face is all over the media so why not post a picture? Well, the simple answer is, your face may be in those pictures, but you are just a face. A face doesn’t give an ID to that person standing next to your client, however, posting anywhere on the internet or in any type of social media platform absolutely does. So again, you’re putting a name with the face of the person who guards that client and thus presenting possible access to the client or their lives.
And to those who say we shouldn’t criticize someone we don’t know in person, please understand that you are critiqued for everything that potentially shows your professional attitude and performance. “Perception is reality” is more critical than you think. And for something like this, it only takes a misspoken statement in an interview or your personal opinion on social media. You are not necessarily judged if you are a good family person or a good friend. Someone must know you personally to have an opinion on those matters. But when it surrounds work, what you post, how you comment, and your professional behavior will be criticized and this fact spares no one.
In our line of work, we are the ones who must think and prepare for all threats and take needed measures to prevent worst-case scenarios. Depending on who your client is (or was) talking about them doesn’t necessarily cause life-threatening harm, but it can do damage in many other forms, which you as their security (past and present) must always protect them from, keeping them safe at all times. It may also harm anyone who worked along with you. Just think for a moment…If someone is threatening your child, blackmailing you or threatening someone you love, would you still be able to remain quiet, hold the information and not reveal what you know about that client? There are blackmail, extortion, and kidnappings that are never reported in the news. Predators will go after the ‘’weak’’ target…Showing that there are any weaknesses and that client is most likely a candidate.
The companies who have the biggest clients are not known to most of us and they most certainly don’t go by ‘’tacticool’’ logos or brand names. These companies use strict NDAs, and they are critical of how you carry yourself on social media platforms and some will even forbid you from having any significant social media presence. NDAs are there for a good reason, mostly to protect any/all the information you will gain while working for the client. There are many of our colleagues who work for HNW and UHNW individuals and you will never know their names. For example, you’ll never see anyone from some of Forbes Top 100 security teams ever mention where they work or for whom they provide protection services.
Where you work, or who you have worked for doesn’t say who you are as a professional, or how proficient you are. We have seen excellent professionals working for great clients and less than deserving individuals working for them as well. The name of your client or his social/celebrity status is not related to the level of your success by any means. Each detail has its own unique aspects. Consider the actual threat levels, the intricate advances required, the planning and realtime decisions that must be constantly made on the move. It’s NOT about you…Never was, never will be. It’s all about the client and the operational professionalism you and your team provide.
Most of the confidentiality issues come from people who have done celebrity protection. Rarely, if at all, will we see it with anyone who runs corporate security details, or works for foreign dignitaries or politicians. We all probably know a bad professional who said yes to a low paying job just to get that chance and get pictured next to a celebrity, but at the end of the day, you should measure your success by the fact you are still working as an EPO full time, it is your main income, you bring enough money home to your family and you are keeping your client and your team happy and safe.
It is up to us, the trained and educated security professionals, to identify a possible risk and minimize the threat level. Name-dropping our clients or unneeded selfies won’t make it any easier, and it always adds more risks. There are many colleagues, who think it is not a big thing naming or talking about your clients, but that becomes a liability and you yourself then become a liability as well. Tomorrow your work application may be rejected because someone saw how quick you talk publicly about your clients. You will find yourself passed over for another applicant who can remain quiet, over the simple fact that you can’t keep your ego aside. And you will always wonder why they didn’t hire someone like you who has more work experience and more tactical skills. The truth is, there are many companies who do truly care about confidentiality, and they not only see it as an ethical threat but as a very strict part of their professional code of conduct.
Think twice before you name your clients or post that picture on the public… it may very well leave you out of the loop!
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
I haven’t written in a long time, so I thought to say goodbye to this Year with an old topic. The real world of Executive Protection with all its truths and myths.
Many newcomers in the profession have a completely different idea of what the profession is, based on what they have heard or what Hollywood tells them it is. This lack of “truth” either leaves them disappointed or leaves them vulnerable to making mistakes while on duty.
It is common in our industry to see many of our colleagues posting pictures on the internet social media sites of “selfies” taken in first class airline seats or in the client’s private jet. More selfies show them with their feet up on a suitcase claiming ‘’another flight’’, or posting from 5 and 6 star hotel rooms or from the finer restaurants, or next to a limousine parked next to a jet.
The reality is that the majorities of these pictures are either staged or were taken while not actually working a security detail. I have seen colleagues, ask or even offer to pay to stand next to a private jet. They put on their best 100 dollar suit, shiny 30 dollar Timex watch and 12 dollar dark sunglasses and “pose” next to someone else’s 10 million dollar jet. And I have seen aircraft tail numbers show up in these photos and for fun, ran the numbers, located the owners, and even tracked the flights.
The reality is anyone can pose anywhere and anytime and make it look like they are working. Anyone can ask a limo driver to take a picture of them next to that limo. When you are in such dire need to brag about your job to others that you put your client’s health and safety at risk, who in our industry would ever work with you or recommend you to others?
If I could only call out the people I know who were on vacations with their families and they post pictures pretending to be on a detail. I even know people who traveled to third world countries to meet their ‘’online’’ girlfriend or boyfriend and they posted pictures as working a detail in those countries.
The reality is, when you work for someone, it is rare to have a first class airline seat next to them on a 6 hour flight. Most clients, no matter how wealthy they are will book you an economy seat. Yes, there are a few clients who will book first class for their CPOs but to qualify to work for these clients you must already be well established in the industry and have a plethora of industry history and references.
The reality is that when you work with a well-trained team, you will work on rotations and schedules that allow for only two things: keeping the client safe and getting to bed to get enough sleep to be able to do it again tomorrow. Anyone who has the time to ‘’enjoy’’ taking pictures has probably too much time on their hands and maybe isn’t working at all. And if you are working alone, you cannot spare the laps in attention to your client to focus on yourself.
I have been in rotations where after work I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy or interest to call my family. This is usually due to working long shifts alone which is a situation worth discussing in another article.
The reality is when your client travels, they may be working or on vacation but if you travel with them, you are always working. You will always get less sleep than your client. When they finally retire for the evening, you are up another few hours planning and preparing for the next day. When they wake, it might be because you are responsible for waking them, which means you are up a couple of hours before them.
While working, you have to focus on your client’s needs. Finding time to eat and go to the bathroom is not your client’s responsibility or even on their mind. If you want to eat, you have to find your own way to do it quickly. If you need to empty your bladder, you have to leave sight of your client and return quickly. If it is not safe to leave your client, then you choose to either hold it, or make other arrangement. This is hard enough as a male but as a female, it is nearly impossible to improvise. Again, a subject for future articles.
The reality is you will need to find time to eat, sleep, shower, go to the bathroom, write reports, call your family, pay your bills, clean your clothes, charge your equipment batteries, train, stretch, exercise, and accomplish other normal life tasks and all outside of the client’s view.
You will find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do in your personal life, because you have to adapt to your client’s activities. And you will need to be an expert in your client’s extracurricular activities to enable you to not just accompany them but to identify threats to their safety. Riding elephants or horses, scuba diving, skydiving, hunting, mountain biking… And if you know you are not qualified, learn when to partner with or hire your own replacement for the activity.
You will find yourself in presence of heated family conversations and you are asked to take a side.You know its unprofessional to choose a side and you have to find a diplomatic answer within seconds. You will see behaviors and listen to words that will challenge your own personal and professional ethics. And again you will adapt or fail.
You will find yourself in challenging environments too. (I developed asthma working in Mumbai), you may get food or water poisoning, malaria, and even get worms from food.
You will have to work with people who have no training or they have been trained differently than you. Some “professionals” in our industry are great with weapons or driving but have no concept of controlling body odor. They speak 4 languages but can’t drive a car, they can cook any meal out of any cookbook but can’t provide first-aid on an insect bite or gunshot wound.
The reality is that people who come from different cultures and have different perspectives regarding punctuality, performance of their duties, and the common traits of professionalism have no clue that every decision they make from their clothing, language skills, hygiene habits and skill are all measured by the clients who would hire them.
The reality is that true professionals will not let themselves be photographed by others and certainly would never photograph themselves while working. And they will not want to work with those who do.
Professionals will know the difference between ethics and etiquette and follow the rules of each. Doing anything to compromise your client’s business or personal privacy is not just a mistake, it is a catastrophic attack on my industry and my ability to earn a living in it. I will continue to counter these attacks with my articles.
Professionals will know how to dress for any occasion their clients may invite them into and know how to negotiate with the client to avoid unsafe activities and conditions.
Professionals will know how to do one-hundred things in the company of their client that will never be acknowledged or appreciated and a thousand things near their client that will never be seen or known.
The reality is if you seek recognition in this industry for the function you are being paid to perform, you are not a true professional and have no business in the Executive Protection Industry. You will be looked upon as a cancer to those of us who remain silent and invisible while in the company of our clients.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Anyone who has read my articles knows that I base most of them on questions or inquiries from those professionals who either offer good and accurate advice or from those who ask for it.
First, I prefer placing female bodyguards with female clients or their children for the client’s comfort or peace of mind. Some males are easily suited to this task but the client may simply think that a male does not belong in constant close proximity and occasionally in isolated private settings with the kids or a client’s wife. This can be equally true with female bodyguards and male clients but the concern of inappropriate behavior with the children dissolves when a female is placed with them. Remember, it’s always up to the client.
The most active topics to come through my office are all related to females in the Executive Protection industry. As a female bodyguard, as a business owner and as the founder of a successful training academy exclusive to females in the Personal Protection Industry, I will address a few of the more popular statements I am routinely tasked with arguing against.
“A female bodyguard/CPO is better than a male bodyguard/CPO”
Your gender doesn’t make you better in this profession. What allows you to outperform a colleague or be more suited to a specific task is how well you meet or can adapt to a client’s specific security needs. In our case, the security needs that a client may have might be provided by a female, male, canine or even a machine.
“It is very hard for a woman to break into this industry”
Well, it is also difficult for a male to break into this industry. Training, experience, personality, knowledge of how to dress, how to drive and a really well-polished CV mean nothing if you believe that you have some preordained right to be here. Both women and men alike will be passed over equally if they lack humility, charm, manners, couth, education, social polish or real-world experience. Which of these is most important?
“It is hard to find a job”
Keep in mind that the market for female bodyguards has historically been smaller which means you have to compete harder to get the job.
It is worth mentioning that in cases where security is needed for females and kids, many clients are looking for not just female bodyguards but feminine looking females to place next to their wife, sister or daughter so if you are a female with a very harsh or more masculine appearance, you reduce your chances of being hired. And if a male appears too feminine or too “cute” or even too “handsome” he may not be hired either. You see, it is not your gender, it is the appearance you choose to reflect to your client, and it is your client’s perception you must cater to in order to get hired.
Additionally, my records show that a majority of females who want to break into the industry seem to be older than 40 years of age. It seems that many women who are retired Law Enforcement or military are looking to get into the private security industry. The fact is that unless you are applying for a Nanny position, most clients are looking for 25 to 35-year-old female bodyguard with at least 5 years of experience. So at 38 to 40 with no experience, men and women alike stand less of a chance against a younger experienced female bodyguard.
Finally, among those women who complain that they can’t find a job, a vast majority of them do not have what it takes to be hired. Having a large database of female candidates and qualified bodyguards allows me to compare them to each other. Here is what I found out of 400 applications:
Some don’t have a passport. Some don’t have a local State license and can’t drive. Some have no firearms license or experience with anything mechanical.
Some are waiting to apply for licenses as they are interviewed and being hired by a client or a company.
Understand that if you don’t have the licenses or other qualifications, you will never be considered for a position, so act in advance. And if you make a misstatement of facts to get hired, you will get fired and never hired again.
Many female candidates are not willing to relocate due to being married with kids. Although a male bodyguard can leave his wife and kids behind, it is traditionally harder and less socially acceptable for a female bodyguard to do so. Many women in the U.S. left to fight in the Gulf War in 2002. The practice of the Father staying behind became acceptable there and the trend quickly spread to other countries.
Some women practice the outward arrogance associated with a man’s success when they have a couple of good assignments and don’t recognize when this attitude is rejected by the client or colleagues. This is a problem with the men too so again, no difference.
The result is, if you rub the placement company or client the wrong way, your CV goes in the trash. Turn down too many offers due to money or other issues and we will stop calling. If you don’t have a verifiable track record and reputation, you cannot make demands. Fail to answer when we call with an offer, we will not call back……ever.
“Female bodyguards are paid less”
From my experience both personally being an operative and placing female bodyguards with other companies or clients I highly disagree with this. I have always been paid the same as the rest of the team and even more than the rest of the team when my performance or qualifications were measured against theirs.
In closing, we need to clarify and understand four things:
1) If you are making less than your colleagues, male or female, remember that you agreed to the terms of your employment. It was your choice.
2) If you don’t know how to ‘’sell’’ your skillset then you have missed something in your professional training. Go back to the basics and learn how to respond to a contract offer.
3) If you are a beginner, you may have to agree to a lower rate in order to build up your experience and work portfolio. If you do your job, you will progress.
4) Because of the nature of the services needed, some team members may work fewer hours than the rest of the team, therefore they may be paid less. If you are a female bodyguard working with the kids for 6 hours a day, you cannot compare your position with another bodyguard that works for 10 hours driving the car or standing next to the client. If you are doing equal work on equal ground, you should argue for equal pay and equal treatment. If you don’t like the terms, don’t take the job. If you find out after you accept a position that you are paid less, chalk it up to a lesson learned and don’t make the mistake next time.
The demand for female bodyguards has increased steadily over the last decade. If you are not working or not earning what you think you are worth, ask yourself the following:
-What kind of experience do I have?
-What education do I have?
-Does my personality, loyalty, integrity, knowledge, skill, and ability add to the client’s needs or solutions?
-How does my CV measure up against the other candidates interviewing for a position?
If you need a professional assessment of your CV or even your image or need to add to your skillset, go to our website. There is guidance there to help you.
You are equal in your ability to protect a person from the threat of another but the opportunity to perform will be based on a human being assessing your value to the effort. What are you doing to increase your value to the person that needs what you offer?
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC