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.
Our interview with Nick Barreiro, Chief Forensic Analyst of Principle Forensics is available online. It was a pleasure, for us, to have this opportunity to discuss with Nick the ever popular subject of ”Don’t post pictures from your details, business trips or your clients and their ‘toys”. A subject that has been brought up for discussion hundreds of times and by many diverse colleagues, and even today there seems to be two categories: Those who say there is nothing wrong with it and it causes no threat or harm, and those who are against it and have been preaching it for years. Our new subject matter expert is a certified Audio/Video Forensic Analyst and the founder of Principle Forensics and he discussed with us how easy it is for someone to draw valuable information from your online posts, videos, audio, or pictures. We talked about photography risks, audio/video risks, discreet investigations involving recorded evidence, and why the issue is still critical even if you have the client’s permission to post your pictures with him or the fact that you have stopped working for said client. Nick will welcome any questions but he is not on social media so if you have a question for him to answer, you can email us and we will forward it and follow up with you. He has also offered to do a second interview where we can open it up to participants who can ask questions. So, if you are interested, let us know.
Bias is a topic that many industries like to avoid, and the security and intelligence industries are no exception. However, there is a profound need to discuss biases in regard to the security industry and when educating security practitioners and intelligence analysts. When the subject of biases has been raised in the past, the majority of commentators cannot seem to agree, in fact, they will often argue against the existence of biases and/or why there is a need to discuss them in the first place. In this article, we would like to address the topic of bias – what bias is, who has biases, are biases wrong, and what types of biases there are. Then, we will highlight WHY it is important for security professionals and intelligence analysts to be able to identify their biases and address them, and, then, we will share HOW one can identify his/her biases.
Now before we start, there is one thing on which we can all agree: As a security professional, you don’t only make assessments about incidents or places, but also about people. Keep this in mind as we proceed further, we will come back to it.
4. any deviation of a measured or calculated quantity from its actual (true) value, such that the measurement or calculation is unrepresentative of the item of interest. —biased adj.
There are a few key words from the definition — predisposition, against, tendency, preference”. Keep those words in mind when thinking about how they affect the threat assessment of a security professional. While you do that, think of a scenario when a security guard has to assess, either by observation or by interviews, any visitors in the area for which he/she is responsible. That security guard believes that women are less likely to commit a crime (bias) and, during his/her threat assessment, he/she misses the fine details that a woman is, in all actuality, a terrorist. You think perhaps this couldn’t occur? Well, it has actually happened. In July 2017 in Mosul, a female suicide bomber, holding her child in her arms, managed to walk by security guards and detonate her bomb.
The security guards, instead of being observational and watching her hands (in which she was holding the detonator), just saw a mother with her child. Many people see women as weak and incapable of committing acts of terror, especially one who is carrying her own child. This is not the only incident when ‘’miscalculation of threat or of threat actors’’ was catastrophic.
Before we answer that, ask yourself, “Are there people, things, or ideas you like better than others? Are there places/events where you feel more comfortable than others?” We are sure your answer to these questions is “yes” and that is because all humans have biases. Some biases are passed to us through evolution and some are learned through socialization and/or direct experience. One must understand that biases serve a purpose. Simply put, because the human brain has the tendency to categorize information, people, events, experiences, etc. during his/her learning and development process, the brain will connect the new information and people to past experiences. Once that is done, the brain will respond to it in the same way it does to other things belonging to that same category. So, by putting people with similar traits into a specific category, one believes that everyone else in that category must be the same. Biases are not limited to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, social or political groups but many characteristics may be subjected to one’s biases such as physical appearance, sexual orientation, educational level, profession, etc.
Are biases wrong and racist?
When discussed, the majority of people tend to disregard biases, believing that even acknowledging those biases will label them as racists. The first mistake when talking about biases is when someone considers someone else good or bad based on his/her biases.
According to Matt Grawitch, PhD‘’Biases make decision-making easier by giving us a starting point, an initial prediction, or a “leaning of the mind” regarding which choice to make. We anchor our original judgment in the biased conclusion and then adjust it based on supplemental information.’’
Having biases is not necessarily bad, wrong, or racist. In fact, we’ve discussed that biases improve the decision-making process and help the human brain to categorize new information. We could say that since biases help us simplify information processing, they basically function as rules of thumb that help us make sense of what is happening around us and make faster decisions.
However, biases can become bad and even dangerous when we treat or judge someone unfairly or when the accuracy of the decision is of the utmost importance, such as behaviour or threat assessment. In addition, what can make a bias shift from ok to “bad” is when an individual allows their biases to influence their decision-making process in such a way that they allow those biases to affect someone else in a negative fashion by either being unfair or causing a miscalculation in the threat level.
Not being able to recognize and address our biases can lead to neglecting or discounting information that would be valuable for our job functions. Information that we process and use to make decisions can directly affect a risk/threat and vulnerability assessment, an interview with a suspect, the analysis of intelligence and data, or the use of link analysis in putting together an intelligence report. In these situations, biases can become a systematic thinking error that can cloud our judgment, and, as a result, impact our decisions, thus rendering our final product limited or even useless.
What types of biases do people have?
People can have conscious biases (biased attitudes toward specific ideologies, events, groups of people, etc. that we are aware of) or unconscious biases (biases we are not aware of, cannot control, are difficult to access and can quite often influence our actions more than conscious biases).
In one of her articles, Kendra Cherry mentions that ‘’some of our cognitive biases are related to memory. The way you remember an event may be biased for a number of reasons and, that in turn, can lead to biased thinking and decision-making. Other cognitive biases might be related to problems with attention. Since attention is a limited resource, people have to be selective about what they pay attention to in the world around them.’’
If you are aware of a biased attitude, it is more likely and consciously possible for you to be able to address it during your decision-making process. However, the unconscious biases are the most ‘’dangerous” ones since it often takes specific training and study of yourself to be able to identify that you have them. Here, Carly Hallman is listing 50 types of unconscious biases. Have a look and see how one or more of them can affect your decision-making process.
Fundamental Attribution Error: We judge others on their personality or fundamental character, but we judge ourselves on the situation.
Self-Serving Bias: Our failures are situational, but our successes are our responsibility.
In-Group Favoritism: We favor people who are in our in-group as opposed to an out-group.
Bandwagon Effect: Ideas, fads, and beliefs grow as more people adopt them.
Groupthink: Due to a desire for conformity and harmony in the group, we make irrational decisions, often to minimize conflict.
Halo Effect: If you see a person as having a positive trait, that positive impression will spill over into their other traits. (This also works for negative traits.)
Moral Luck: Better moral standing happens due to a positive outcome; worse moral standing happens due to a negative outcome.
False Consensus: We believe more people agree with us than is actually the case.
Curse of Knowledge: Once we know something, we assume everyone else knows it, too.
Spotlight Effect: We overestimate how much people are paying attention to our behavior and appearance.
Availability Heuristic: We rely on immediate examples that come to mind while making judgments.
Defensive Attribution: As a witness who secretly fears being vulnerable to a serious mishap, we will blame the victim less if we relate to the victim.
Just-World Hypothesis: We tend to believe the world is just; therefore, we assume acts of injustice are deserved.
Naïve Realism: We believe that we observe objective reality and that other people are irrational, uninformed, or biased.
Naïve Cynicism: We believe that we observe objective reality and that other people have a higher egocentric bias than they actually do in their intentions/actions.
Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect): We easily attribute our personalities to vague statements, even if they can apply to a wide range of people.
Dunning-Kruger Effect: The less you know, the more confident you are. The more you know, the less confident you are.
Anchoring: We rely heavily on the first piece of information introduced when making decisions.
Automation Bias: We rely on automated systems, sometimes trusting too much in the automated correction of actually correct decisions.
Google Effect (aka Digital Amnesia): We tend to forget information that’s easily looked up in search engines.
Reactance: We do the opposite of what we’re told, especially when we perceive threats to personal freedoms.
Confirmation Bias: We tend to find and remember information that confirms our perceptions.
Backfire Effect: Disproving evidence sometimes has the unwarranted effect of confirming our beliefs.
Third-Person Effect: We believe that others are more affected by mass media consumption than we ourselves are.
Belief Bias: We judge an argument’s strength not by how strongly it supports the conclusion but how plausible the conclusion is in our own minds.
Availability Cascade: Tied to our need for social acceptance, collective beliefs gain more plausibility through public repetition.
Declinism: We tend to romanticize the past and view the future negatively, believing that societies/institutions are by and large in decline.
Status Quo Bias: We tend to prefer things to stay the same; changes from the baseline are considered to be a loss.
Sunk Cost Fallacy (aka Escalation of Commitment): We invest more in things that have cost us something rather than altering our investments, even if we face negative outcomes.
Gambler’s Fallacy: We think future possibilities are affected by past events.
Zero-Risk Bias: We prefer to reduce small risks to zero, even if we can reduce more risk overall with another option.
Framing Effect: We often draw different conclusions from the same information depending on how it’s presented.
Stereotyping: We adopt generalized beliefs that members of a group will have certain characteristics, despite not having information about the individual.
Outgroup Homogeneity Bias: We perceive out-group members as homogeneous and our own in-groups as more diverse.
Authority Bias: We trust and are more often influenced by the opinions of authority figures.
Placebo Effect: If we believe a treatment will work, it often will have a small physiological effect.
Survivorship Bias: We tend to focus on those things that survived a process and overlook ones that failed.
Tachypsychia: Our perceptions of time shift depending on trauma, drug use, and physical exertion.
Law of Triviality (aka “Bike-Shedding”): We give disproportionate weight to trivial issues, often while avoiding more complex issues.
Zeigarnik Effect: We remember incomplete tasks more than completed ones.
IKEA Effect: We place higher value on things we partially created ourselves.
Ben Franklin Effect: We like doing favors; we are more likely to do another favor for someone if we’ve already done a favor for them than if we had received a favor from that person.
Bystander Effect: The more other people are around, the less likely we are to help a victim.
Suggestibility: We, especially children, sometimes mistake ideas suggested by a questioner for memories.
False Memory: We mistake imagination for real memories.
Cryptomnesia: We mistake real memories for imagination.
Clustering Illusion: We find patterns and “clusters” in random data.
Pessimism Bias: We sometimes overestimate the likelihood of bad outcomes.
Optimism Bias: We sometimes are over-optimistic about good outcomes.
Blind Spot Bias: We don’t think we have bias, and we see it on others more than ourselves.
WHY security professionals and intelligence analysts must address bias training?
As a security professional or intelligence analyst, seeing what biases are and how they can significantly affect us, do you see how important it is to recognize and address them during the decision-making process? Do you see how biases can affect your risk and threat assessment, information gathering and analysis as well as behavioural assessment while you are conducting a first interview with a visitor, suspicious person, etc.?
We will give you an example. During the Manchester arena attack investigation, one of the security guards claimed that he did feel something was “off” with one of the terrorists but he was uncertain of how to approach and ask questions (first interview of a suspect) because he was afraid he was going to be labelled a “racist’’.
Being trained in how to recognize and address your biases will not only help you to make a better decision but will also give you peace of mind and confidence knowing that you are approaching and properly interviewing a person whose presence seems to be unjustified and/or suspicious. You will be able to clearly gather more information and assess the risk without feeling that you are merely racially profiling that person. You will also build more awareness of the subjects with which you hold biases and that awareness will lead to more choices. More choices will lead to a more ‘’open mind’’ and allow you to seek further information before you make a decision.
Now that we have discussed the many aspects of biases, what they are and how they can affect your decision-making process do you want to test yourself and find out what biases you have? You can use one of the many online tests available, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) created by Harvard.
This will help you assess and better identify all that biases you or your staff may have that can affect risk and threat assessments as well as intelligence gathering and analysis. In addition, your staff’s performance and how they interact with others to make sure their decision making will be as accurate as can be ascertained from the information provided and not just from their own personal biases.
If you are an individual interested in receiving training in biases or you represent an organization looking to train your employees in this very much needed and important topic, please reach out to us.
”Female Bodyguards are in high demand!” I am sure you have heard this before but as a female Close Protection Operative you are still struggling to find a job. There are many misconceptions regarding our role in the industry. In this article, we will try to address some.
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 Close Protection Operatives 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 CPOs 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 CPO, 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 most popular statements I am routinely tasked with arguing against.
“A female CPO is better than a male 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 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 CPOs 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 CPOs 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 38-year-old CPOs with at least 5 years of experience. So at 40+ with no experience, men and women alike stand less of a chance against a younger experienced CPO.
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 or they do not know how to sell their skills. Having a large database of female candidates and qualified operatives 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.
Some are not willing to relocate and looking only for gigs in their area. Many female candidates are not willing to relocate due to being married with kids. Although a male CPO can leave his wife and kids behind, it is traditionally harder and less socially acceptable for a female CPO 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 are not willing to take an entry-level position even though they have not much experience.
Some do not know how to present themselves professionally during a phone, video, or live interview.
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 (I had a candidate with zero experience who was requesting more payment than what the rest of the team was being paid) 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 or fail to present yourself after the first selection and we will not call back……ever. Clients are looking for people who can commit and be responsible.
“Female CPO’s are paid less”
From my experience both personally being an operative and placing females 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 working with the kids for 6 hours a day, you cannot compare your position with a CPO 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 CPOs 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 I’m I presenting myself in online forums or social media? Unfortunately, there are many female operatives who are using unprofessional ways to present themselves in the industry. Provocative pictures, aggressive and insulting language to other operatives, etc.
-How does my CV measure up against the other candidates interviewing for a position?
-Am I willing to take an entry position job or a job that pays less to progress and make my connections in the industry? Some companies may not have the budget to pay big money and they may be stuck with finding someone, so if you have nothing else to do, I would highly suggest you take that job. Many of us would highly appreciate an operative who can cover a position when we are having hard time filling it and make sure we call you again for a better placement.
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. Or reach out to us.
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? And, as always, there are a number of well qualified, experienced, time tested female agents out there that you can reach out to and speak with regarding further questions, mentorship, and guidance…We’re all here to help!
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