Countering Terrorism Threat In A Business Environment

       March 14, 2019


Terrorism & the Corporate-Preparedness Scenario

Terrorism is an ever-evolving demon with newer and more sensational, sophisticated manifestations, continually assuming new shape, form and signature, surprising its trackers in their tracks, almost every time it strikes… unfortunately, that is the kind of demonic challenge we have to deal with in our existing business environment !

Business and industry have always remained wary of this demon, and though often not overtly displayed much concerns, have invariably struggled to find ways to stay safe, secure and out of harm’s way. But fact of the matter is that business & industry do have to cope with the challenging brunt of modern day terrorism – directly or indirectly, staying apprehensive, cautious and cross-fingered most of the time – hoping that nothing goes wrong, at least unto themselves. There is but little that the businesses can do by themselves to decisively thwart a terror strike once it actually enjoins, but there is certainly a lot that they can do to prepare, pre-empt, minimize damage and mitigate risks associated with Terrorism, besides providing a useful support to the law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies of the State.

Dynamics Involved

Unlike the government and its state machinery charged with tackling terrorism, whose concern is that nothing should go wrong anywhere, in any form due to attempt/act of terrorism, the concern of business houses and industry is rather restricted in scope and concern. But that notwithstanding, there are certain Inescapables that the latter need to tick off their to-do list, to ensure better preparedness, and reduced chances of being damagingly surprised.

Another aspect is that the impact of a successful terrorist strike would not be restricted to immediate loss of human lives and property, but also the losses arising from long, difficult-to-erase memories and reputation-hit, that a brand/business entity would have to cope with – it can be traumatizing for the Apex management and stakeholders, as much as the affected employees. Today, even a decade after 26/11, so often I come across employees at the then targeted business entities recall the scenes of horror, and lament loss of colleagues and friends with wet eyes – the depth of impact is unmistakable!

Furthermore, there is this oft taken-for-granted aspect of counterintelligence. It can spell a disaster if – God forbid – one or a few among the employee staff get subverted, brain-washed and radicalized during the course of service in the organization – or have already been so, and manage to get enrolled past the HR processes. If undetected, they can lead organization to a major embarrassment or loss of face, when they enact their misplaced faith in violence and destruction. These are unknowns who can let down the organization and its reputation big time. In the complex virtual world of internet and social media, how do you detect, monitor, track such occurrences – it’s a big challenge, and a distinct, stark possibility. Organizations need to find ways to overcome these challenges – there are ways, but they involve some tough policy decisions and policy settings, which I would not like to dwell in depth here.

So What Do We Do ?

  • Opt for a proactive strategy vis-à-vis a reactive one.
    • Staying a step ahead helps. Situational awareness and early warning indications are key to minimize, mitigate, neutralize risk exposure. Particularly for businesses spread across the geography and regions, effective OSINT platforms and AI based data analytics tools are a need of the day to stay a step ahead. It is a more worthwhile and cost-efficient investment vis-à-vis conventional, often myopic defensive measures.  ••
    • Be aware, be intuitive, be dynamic – static, traditional preconceptions can be disastrous.
    • Anticipate – if you have a hunch, address it – chances are that it would come true; because the terrorist also relies on his hunch, for survival.
    • Prepare for the worst.
    • All counter-efforts ought to be dynamic, technology-driven, human-centric in nature.
    • While planning, adopt a focussed but selective approach in securing physical & virtual spaces. Remember, if you try to secure all, you end up securing none !
    • Reputation management is a critical facet during terrorism related crisis – it ought to be factored while planning a counter-terrorism strategy.
  • To beat a terrorist, think like one – bold & unconventional.
    • Terrorists do not play by any rule book, while conventional approach tends to.
    • Security planners need to put-on unconventional thinking cap while working out their organization’s counter-terrorism strategy.
    • Do not hesitate to take those stern steps/measures now, if that can save your day then!
    • There are things that you as Security owners of the organization ought to get implemented; and then there are physical and virtual world parameters you need to monitor to keep a pulse on what’s on – Do that – naysayers and idealists can be ignored, if required.
  • When it’s a matter of survival, ruthlessness pays, semantics don’t.
    • What good are long, elaborate, well composed rules and SOPs, if they simply remain hung on the walls and portals in public glare; but not practiced, not rehearsed, not enforced?
    • Also, what good are the written scripts, if they have been framed on basis of circumstances and threats prevailing in some foreign environment; and do not address the prevailing threats, realities and local environment where they are hung ? What works in a foreign land may not work in India, and vice-versa – so being practical and being updated helps offering a better response to demanding situations.
  • Best are the practices that succeed; and they ain’t been enshrined anywhere yet… so go ahead, coin & rehearse the practices customized, tailor-made and best suited to your organization; to your anticipated situations/contingencies. And when it comes to execution, be bold and be practical – here again, survival instincts pay, ideals don’t.

Suggested Proactive Steps @Apex Level

  • Think unconventional & think bold – be in sync with current universal & local trends.
  • Invest time & money in intelligence gathering & risk management.
  • It all begins from business planning stage and continues to be refined, adapted, harmonized along the entire cycle of program implementation. Some aspects for consideration :-
    • Raise a separate, dynamic, bold security & risk management vertical in the organization.
    • Co-opt security aspects in Geo-spatial & architectural layouts.
    • Future ready modular, scalable physical security measures.
    • Technology based intelligence gathering and security support tools.
    • AI-based OSINT monitoring & integrated smart security platforms.
    • Dispersed Deployment of Critical Assets: Info, Material & Humans
    • Efficient Communication Channels
    • Rapid, Uninterrupted, Matrixed Flow of Information & Decisions
    • For Existing Set-up, a Comprehensive De-novo Review Recommended – Incremental Fixes Tend to Fail
    • Proactive Perception Management Strategy.

Suggested Proactive Steps @Operational Level

  • Don’t just think but also act unconventional & bold.
    • Draw lessons & imbibe from use cases & case studies.
    • Who, Why, What, Where & How – always follow this universal security continuum while being inquisitive and suspicious.
  • Do plan & prepare for “Wildcard Scenarios” – Black Swan events need to be catered while addressing Terrorism threat, Black Swans are for real here!
  • Apply acquired knowledge & gained experience to practical planning & creation of assets.
  • Deploy an active, interactive OSINT monitoring, analytics & situational awareness mechanism.
    • Remember, absence of indicators is not equal to absence of threats.
    • Social media listening & monitoring could become your major force multiplier.
  • Create a 360° awareness mechanism.
    • Pier Group Learning.
    • Information Sharing is a Good Habit.
    • Adopt a system of having Duty Information Officer for the week.
    • Establish and maintain liaison with State intelligence machinery & local LEAs.
  • Undertake & make employee checks unobtrusive but firm – adopt a Zero-Tolerance approach.
  • Hotline & hot access facilities – coupled with ample communication means
  • Focus on staff awareness, orientation & training initiatives – adopt a practical, non-cosmetic approach.

Bottom Line

There is no quick-fix, one-time solution to threat posed by terrorism in the business and industrial environment. Multiple dynamics, and simultaneous equations are at play, each to be dealt on its merit – but the common thread running through all the possible solutions is the need to be pro-active, adaptive, unconventional and bold in approach. The terrorist has to be beaten in his mind, before he puts it to perilous use!

In my future blogs, I will try to touch upon some of the practical aspects of dealing with the threat and menace-in-being attributable to Terrorism.

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