Counter surveillance in a business environment – and knowing how to ensure that security personnel conduct it effectively – is becoming a more important “tool” or “capability” for mainstream corporate security leaders.

Counter Surveillance is an Emerging Corporate Priority

I’m not talking about embassy security here or protective details for U.S. leaders or even security teams guarding public assets traditionally considered at higher risk of a targeted attack – such as federal buildings (e.g., Pentagon or Congress), critical infrastructure (e.g., airports or hydroelectric dams) or iconic tourist attractions (e.g., Disneyworld or the Las Vegas Strip).

Instead, I’m referring specifically to medium-to-large companies across industries and the corporate security personnel and programs that protect business executives, employees, large office buildings and major events.

Key Trends Driving Growing Corporate Need for Counter Surveillance

As a senior security advisor to major corporations, public entities and wealthy families, I see four trends driving a growing need for leaders like Security Directors and Chief Security Officers to understand counter surveillance and be ready to deploy it on short notice – that is, if it isn’t already a continuous security program priority for the business or organization.

Trend #1: Rise in risks – and perceptions of risk – associated with homeland security: In the wake of attacks such as those at the Boston Marathon and in San Bernardino, corporate security teams are taking the risks of a domestic terror attack by home-grown violent extremists (HVE) or domestic terrorists more seriously than they have in the past.

Trend #2: Greater attractiveness of “softer” targets: As federal, state and local governments increase security for high-risk, high-value targets and these become more difficult to attack, “softer” ones become more attractive to would-be attackers.

Trend #3: Higher value placed on prevention: As security gains more attention from the board, budgets will rise – along with more intensive scrutiny of security expenditures. For both strategic and financial reasons, corporate security programs will be under greater pressure to prevent incidents – by engaging in capabilities such as counter surveillance.

Trend #4: Greater focus on security layering and integration: As mature corporate security programs complete the multi-year process of establishing core security capabilities like a workplace violence prevention program, executive protection, active shooter planning, the emphasis will expand to address not just more prevention-focused capabilities, but more layering and integration of approaches. Counter surveillance represents a core tactic in this regard and plays a key role as a covert “early warning” system in a constantly shifting, fluid and mobile perimeter.

How Your Corporate Security Program Can Use Counter Surveillance to Advantage

  1. Engage in counter surveillance on a round-the-clock basis. Some of our clients who do so include companies whose senior executives are outspoken on issues some members of the population consider controversial; management teams charged with overseeing corporate downsizing and restructuring activities that anger constituencies; and realty companies with major corporate offices in large U.S. cities.
  2. Deploy counter surveillance units only for major corporate events. The cross-section of our clients who pursue this approach include internationally branded consumer goods giants with high-value products such as jewelry or top-drawer fashion items; entities that regularly convene mass-gathering events such as sports leagues and franchises as well as concert halls; and urban organizations responsible for tourist destinations or public infrastructure.
  3. Train personnel – from security guards to employees – on the common signs of hostile surveillance. This approach is one that is relevant to businesses of all sizes. We often encourage our corporate clients to incorporate aspects of countersurveillance into security guard training requirements or general employee security awareness training.

Whatever the origin of the threat, there will most likely be indicators and warning signs of the attack seconds, hours, days or even years before the actual incident.

Stay Tuned – More on the Way

I’ll be blogging more on this topic in the near future. If you would like to share your perspective on this issue, feel free to comment below. To read more content like this on leading trends and insights in security risk management and investigations, subscribe to our blog.


You have an established security program. No one could penetrate it. Right?