Four Types of Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence | Prevention | Four Types

There are four separate, yet equally important categories of workplace violence that require their own proactive and reactive approach to ensure employee safety.

They are:

TYPE 1: Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime. Think: Charlie Hebdo

TYPE 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.  This is especially common in the healthcare industry.  Think: Boston Hospital Shooting

TYPE 3: Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee. Think: Home Depot Shooting

TYPE 4: Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee—an abusive spouse or domestic partner. Think: This Story where an abuser brought a weapon into the workplace of his estranged wife.

Workplace violence does not happen “out of the blue.” There are observable behaviors which when reported and assessed SAVE LIVES.

Doing nothing is a choice. Too many preventable incidents of workplace violence have forced our eyes open to the fact that we need to choose to do something more. We can no longer afford in live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us once something does.

FBI Report – Workplace Violence: Issues In Response

Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert


Safety Tips For Everyday CyberSecurity Vigilance

CyberSecurity | Cyber Risk

You do not want to see this image flash across your screen.

Ransomware Demand

If you do, you are very likely the victim of a ransomware exploit. You have two choices: Pay the hacker or start from scratch.

A recent article in Forbes warns these security breaches may be going largely unreported as companies simply pay to have the problem “go away.” This leads some to believe we may be paving the way for the emergence of online “protection rackets.”

Ransomware is a virus that encrypts your most important files and then quite literally holds them ransom until you pay for the code to unlock your files. If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. A Police Department in Durham, New Hampshire  and another in Swansea, Massachusetts were both recently targeted.

The cybersecurity firm Bromium recently released an in-depth report where they state,

Ransomware lacks the subtlety of more traditional Trojan attacks that seek to evade detection and steal sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and bank account credentials. Instead, ransomware immediately makes its presence known by encrypting files and demanding payment for the keys to unlock them.

As recently as a few days ago, a new strain of the ransomware virus was detected making the rounds via e-mail.

RansomWare | Spencer Coursen | Coursen Security Group

This revelation once again sheds light onto the ever-increasing need to engage your everyday cyber security with the same vigilance as your personal safety.  All too often, our own complacency leaves us vulnerable to the exploitation efforts of the less-than-noble.  You don’t need to be a skilled practitioner of computer science or a tech guru to keep yourself safe.  You just need to know and employ the basics as discussed below:

Backup Backup Backup > Backing up your files used to be a long, cumbersome task, but today backing up your files is easier than ever with these simple backup tricks.

When in doubt, throw it out > Email and email attachments remains one of the most common delivery methods for malware. If you have even the slightest doubt, throw it out. If it’s important, they’ll resend. Better yet, pick up the phone and call the sender just to be sure.

Install strong virus and malware protection for all computers that access the internet. Be sure to update the software whenever possible.  Avoid the curse of the “remind me later” option.  Cyber hacks and attacks work best in the timeframe between software updates, when hackers have figured out the old system, but have yet to figure out the new. Be proactive. Don’t tip the advantage in the favor of your adversary.

Passwords > The best passwords aren’t words, they are phrases, and no two should be a like. Password managers help keep everything up-to-date leaving you with only one “master password” to remember.  Avoid using anything that can be found in the dictionary or any predicable key words. Some useful tips on creating tough-to-crack passwords can be found here.

Do not visit unknown websites sent to you via private message, text, or email from persons you don’t know know. This also goes for website invites which may seem out of character for those persons you do know.  Your mom is very likely not recommending you buy pharmaceuticals from Korea.  If it seems like a fraud…it’s a fraud.

Avoid pop-up updates > As Krebs on Security always recommends, “if you didn’t go looking for it, don’t download it.”  If you see a random pop-up that says something needs to be downloaded, ignore the pop-up and go to the website in question to see if an update is truly available.

Social Media should never contain private information.  Don’t put anything on your social media page you would not be comfortable sharing with the world.  Privacy settings on websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and a variety of other social-sharing sites change often.  Familiarize yourself with the particular privacy settings and be sure take full advantage of the options offering you the most privacy.  Pictures of your home, car, and associated geotags are all useful pieces of information a potential hacker may use to exploit your cyber identity.

Create unique answers to password recovery questions >   Inevitably, we will all at one time or another forget a password.  When setting up your recovery options, it is perfectly acceptably to answer the generic questions with something completely random. These answers are not checked for truthfulness and are simply in place to protect your information from unauthorized attempts at gaining access.  Cyber criminals are quite skilled at finding out the real answers to these password challenge questions from friends, colleagues, or from information you or your online acquaintances have previously posted online.  For the purposes of password recovery,  “Abracadabra” is a perfectly acceptable answer to “What is your mothers maiden name?” Your own imagination is often times your best security option.

Another trick is to use a code that is not easily discernible, but will be easy for you to remember. 

If the security question asks, “What was your first car?” and your first car was a 1980 Volvo Sedan, then My First Car Was A 1980 Volvo Sedan could be “mfcwa1980Vs”

If the security question is “Where was your first vacation?” and your first vacation was in 1980 to New York City, then My First Vacation Was In 1980 to New York City could be “mfvwi1980toNYC”

Do not “jail break” your mobile device > Doing so requires the user to disable the intrinsic security features of the device which means malicious applications will have access to all facets of information on your phone – regardless of your permission.  Applications downloaded from verified vendors like Apple’s App Store have requirements that help protect the user.  These requirements are bypassed once the jailbreak has taken place, which means the applications will no longer need to ask your permission before granting access to your contacts, GPS location or information associated with other files on your phone, like your pictures, text messages and emails.

Do not engage in illegal downloads > Unlicensed internet services offering free downloads, zip files, or torrents of movies, music and other software packages often contain malicious spyware that is specifically designed to exploit your cyber security.  These illegal downloads are often the main distribution method for delivering a virus or a trojan horse to your system.

Create specific email addresses for specific uses > Avoid using the same email account for all of your internet activity.  Employing task-specific email addresses will reduce your vulnerability by having your activities compartmentalized into those specific email accounts, and will limit the amount of damage any one compromised account can do to your overall cyber security.  There is no limit to email addresses you may create.  You’ll still be able to find the friends you want to follow, it just won’t be as easy for them to find you…this is a good thing. Having one email account for facebook, one for twitter, another for correspondence, and yet another for e-commerce is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.

Do not label folders or sub-folders with titles that promote intrigue or interest >  Labels such as “Passwords” “Bank Account” and “Important” are all specifically targeted items of interests. Instead, label things with specific meaning to you with names of seemingly unrelated associations.  If you’re favorite dessert is chocolate cake this may be the name of your favorites folder, whereas the food that gives your heartburn may be the appropriately named folder associated with your annoying co-worker.  This practice also works great for the “notes” application on your mobile device.

Utilize “Drafts” in an unassociated email account > Creating an additional email address known only to you, and then storing information in a “Draft Email”  will afford you a secure online hiding place for information that only you know about, and which can be accessed globally.

Log out of accounts when done > You don’t have to shut down your computer, but the simple act of logging out of accounts especially on shared wifi, networks or computers (think Starbucks free wifi) will prevent the unfavorable access of your private information.

Recommended Reading:

NPR “All Tech Considered” on the topic of Ransomware.

Anything by Brian Krebs who breaks more stories than anyone on the issue of CyberSecurity and CyberCrime. I highly recommend bookmarking his page.

Awareness + Preparation = Safety


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

Would You Help Save A Stranger?

Save A Stranger

Would you do something to help if you witnessed a crime, an emergency, or someone in need of medical assistance?   What about if you witnessed a concerning behaviors in the workplace?

Think back to the last time you saw something that you knew was out of place. A time when something, “just wasn’t right.”  Were you alone?  Did you give a puzzled look to someone else who was witnessing the same thing?   What did you do next?

In the aftermath of tragedy, coworkers, friends, family, and even the general public come forth in droves with eyewitness accounts and information about suspicious activities and concerning behaviors that were witnessed leading up to the event. So why didn’t they say something before hand?

The Bystander Effect is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.

The other, more common explanation, is deeply rooted in our social pre-disposition to avoidance, a well-established, self-defense practice deeply grounded in the false narrative of the “it won’t happen to me” mindset.

Our internal sense of defense is so finely tuned for ensuring our personal safety that it automatically acts as a safety net for what is good and what is bad. But we as a people have socialized ourselves to rationalize our intrinsic survival instincts away from our better judgment.  We negotiate against our natural ability to protect ourselves for fear of offending the feelings of another.

The time has come to accept the fact that we can no longer simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely relying on first responders to save us when something does. We must all participate in our own safety.

Everyday safety requires the participation of everyone by security expert Spencer Coursen of Coursen Security Group

We can no longer afford live on the fringe of the pendulum swinging between hyper-vigilance and complacency. We must learn to live in the middle with a situational awareness and a willingness to protect ourselves.

Someone may not see everything, but everything will be seen by someone. If you see something, say something. Like a car crash on the highway, the victims’ families would rather the police hear from one hundred drivers than from no drivers at all.

Our mission should be to bring awareness to the importance of the reporting process. To report your concern out of a desire to help, because reporting these (pre-incident) concerns is in the best interest of everyone – including the potential offender.

Our goal should be to re-frame the conversation and empower those who “sense something to say something” because reporting their concerns is the best way to ensure someone gets the help they need BEFORE they hurt themselves or others.

“Our willingness to help another is often the first step to protecting ourselves.” ~Spencer Coursen


Security Expert Spencer Coursen specializes in threat assessment protective intelligence and vulnerability reduction. Coursen Security Group Logo.


The “Kidnap” Concern of International Business

Kidnapped | Kidnapped For Ransom

As reported by IntelCenter earlier this month, corporate employees made up 35% of the kidnapped hostages ransomed in 2014, a higher percentage than journalists (at 10%) and diplomats (at 9%) combined.

Today’s kidnappers are professionals who are dedicated to their craft and willing to invest the necessary time, effort, and resources into identifying, observing and attacking their target. There is a common misconception that only the wealthy are targeted. In reality, the most frequent targets for kidnapping are middle-class executives.

Kidnap for ransom is the number one source of financing for terrorist organizations. In developing, impoverished, or war-torn countries. Where government and law enforcement authorities are weak and corruption is rampant, kidnapping is an easy way for criminal and terrorist organizations to make a lot of money.

Since 2008, more than $125 Million in ransom has been paid to Al Qaeda and it’s affiliates for kidnapping, making it the most lucrative component of their fundraising mission.

“Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.”

Globalization and instantaneous wire-transfers enable kidnappers to transfer funds anywhere in the world. Technology has also emboldened their resolve. A leader in Morocco can now manage a kidnapping band in Syria; a kidnapping may be committed in Nigeria but the ransom paid in London. Today’s kidnappers often take full advantage of social media, throw-a-way phones, online proxy servers, counter-surveillance monitoring equipment, and numerous other marketplace advantages.

Reducing Your Vulnerability

In most cases, the intended victim is a variable the kidnapper is willing to interchange if their likelihood of success improves. An individual taking even the most basic safety and personal security precautions can significantly reduce their vulnerability. Something as simple as modifying your daily movements, taking alternate routes to and from work, school or the gym, or even every-so-often driving around your block before pulling into your driveway sends a clear message to anyone taking notice that your actions are not overly predictable.

Prior to any overseas travel, it is advised that all business travelers review a country assessment report that provides the most up-to-date information related to your area of travel, and to not publicize your travel plans on social media.

Paying attention to your surroundings and identifying safe havens – those places you know you can go to be safe and find help – should be common practice. Sometimes even the smallest of changes to your routine becomes the biggest reasons a would-be-kidnapper decides easier targets are available.

If You Are Kidnapped

During an actual attack, focus on those actions and attitudes necessary to maximize the chance of survival. Everything else is unimportant.  Money, jewelry, and other possessions can be replaced – your life can not.

Your survival is the only acceptable outcome.

The first tactic to employ in any criminal situation is calm cooperation.  If the attacker feels that you are not resisting, chances are greatly improved that the potential for violence will be reduced.

The best opportunity for escape may occur in the first moments of a kidnapping.  Kidnappers will sometimes let down their guard momentarily or do something that can afford the victim the opportunity to escape.  The kidnappers may not have considered that a victim may react by fleeing or taking a chance.  If circumstances permit, try to get away.

Additional concepts to consider:

  • Employ any action or mindset that will maximize your chance for survival;
  • Understand that every attempt is being made to rescue you;
  • Tell yourself as often as possible that you will survive;
  • Any chance to escape or seek help should be taken;
  • Maintain as high a level of fitness as possible and exercise your mind by making mental notes of every possible detail and then practice committing those details to memory;
  • Cooperate as much as possible with demands. Understand that compliant behavior may lead to increased trust or privileges which may aid in your escape;
  • Assume whatever is offered is not tainted; eat and drink as much as you can to stay healthy

Business Response

The first hours following a kidnapping are of critical importance to the successful negotiation of hostage release. Every company should have a Crisis Management Team (CMT) in place with a clearly outlined “to do list” should one of their employees be kidnapped.

These early decisions should be made by decision makers at the corporate level in consultation with expert security advisors, not by the local representatives or field office managers where the kidnapping took place.

In the United States, it is important to involve the authorities at the earliest possible opportunity. In the United States, kidnap for ransom is very rare, police corruption is very low, and there is a comprehensive law enforcement network which can support a timely resolution.

If overseas, it is important to immediately contact the United States embassy – not the local authorities. Many international kidnapping cases revealed that local authorities were in league with the kidnappers. Any assistance from local authorities should be politely declined.

If your company has kidnap insurance, immediate notification should be made so that your professional kidnap and ransom (K&R) specialist can begin negotiating the release of the hostage. If a professional security company has not been retained, one should be hired immediately. 


Kidnappings are a distressing experiences for all involved, but if handled professionally from the onset, an agreement will be reached, a ransom paid, and the hostage will be safely released.

Kidnapping, like terrorism, promotes fear in the face of uncertainty and exploits the lack of knowledge, the lack of preparation, and the inherent complacency in their intended victims. Practicing everyday vigilance is your best defense against becoming a victim.  Be aware. Be prepared. Stay safe. 

Recommended Reading:  “Kidnap for Ransom: Resolving the Unthinkable”

View the Global Incident Kidnap Map:  <Here>

Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC


On Social Media, Cops Play Catch-Up

Social Media | Spencer Coursen

Police are still a long way from being able to effectively track and prevent threats on social media. A report issued by the International Association of Chiefs of Police on Social Media concludes that Law Enforcement Agencies should  “get their feet wet” and learn how to use social media to help protect citizens and prevent crime.

The biggest challenge facing many police departments is that social media has only ever been used to do two things:

  • disseminate information to the public;
  • and serve as an investigative tool for a crime that has already been committed.

Truth be told, very few departments have the the know-how, the training, the budget, or the technological support to use social media proactively.

Other than the NYPD, where the city of New York is able to dedicate resources to support their own Intelligence Division, very few departments below the state and federal level are able to invest in any meaningful protective intelligence capability. In fact, most training academies provide little to no training at all to their officers on the use of social media. Those who do, offer only a small measured curriculum focused on its use to disseminate information to the public coupled with the agency’s own policy regarding work-related posts by employees; i.e. “you work for us, but you do not speak for us.”

A preventative approach is easier said than done. The number of social network users around the world will rise from 1.47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion this year, an 18% increase. By 2017, the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion. Without government assistance, this avalanche of available data is the equivalent of trying to hold a canteen under a waterfall. The process would be easier to manage if each individual department was capable of carrying their own weight, but as the report shows, this is far from being a reality.

In today’s technological age, social media accounts for 22% of time spent online. Even among those internet users ages 50 and older, social networking has nearly doubled—from 22% to 42% over the past year. This means that today’s police departments must be social media savvy to stay relevant. Police departments at every level of governance must not only understand what is going on in the areas they are responsible for keeping safe, but must also stay vigilant in attempting to identify those who express a desire to do harm. There’s is simply no excuse in today’s policing environment for a journalist like Amanda Hess, who after being directly targeted by an online threat, is asked “What’s Twitter?” by the responding officer.

The courts haven’t been much help either. Without judicial precedent, many departments are hesitant to be made an example in the failures of due process. As anyone who has ever seen a season of “The Wire” will tell you, the courts have always been behind the curve when it comes to keeping current with new technology. While it is still unclear if law enforcement violates Fourth Amendment rights by obtaining information through fictitious social media accounts, the courts have set a precedent that simply classifying something as “private” through social media settings does not extend to those with whom you share. In a 2012 case, the court ruled that a third party acting as an informant, who was able to obtain the information through “legitimate online means” did not violate any laws.

[The suspect’s] legitimate expectation of privacy ended when he disseminated posts to his ‘friends’ because those ‘friends’ were free to use the information however they wanted — including sharing it with the Government,” the court said.                          U.S. v. Joshua Meregildo

Even in a city like New York, detectives are barred from delving too far into the realm of a social media investigation without being dully sanctioned to do so. In New York, the Handschu Agreement requires that any investigation by the NYPD involving political activity — which includes social networks — must be initiated and supervised by the Intelligence Division.

When used effectively, social media can provide more information in a few key strokes than a week’s worth of in-person interviews.  There is a wealth of information available on social media to a detective looking to bring a suspect to justice. Everything from self-incriminating photos, to bragging about a crime online have helped countless cases get solved.

There is also an abundance of open-source information readily available to assess, categorize, and cross-reference that can help to prevent crime. But that’s not what many policing agencies were designed to do. Even with game-changing private-sector software readily available, most departments are simply under trained, under financed, and ill-equipped for these solutions to be properly employed.

In the end, keeping the public safe is a marathon, not a sprint. Social Media is simply the next step is civil evolution that both the police and the courts will have to sort out in the best interest of public safety. We must keep in mind that the role police is to be mostly reactive. The local officer is primarily responsible for patrolling the streets with a certain resemblance of deterrence, but mostly to respond to a reported crime, investigate what happened, and then bring the perpetrators to justice.

Can this task be re-focused?  Yes, of course…

…but it’s going to take some time.


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security consultant, threat assessment advisor, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

@SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

Protect Yourself: A Domestic Violence Safety Plan

Domestic Violence | Safety Plan | Spencer Coursen

“There Is No Greater Threat To Women Than Men”

We may laugh at the jokes, but the truth is far from funny…

Domestic Violence is an epidemic. Nearly twice as many women were killed in the United States by their male parters than soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Between 2001 and 2012 6,488 soldiers were killed. The number of American Women murdered by their male partners during that same timeframe was11,766.

For those living with violence, not leaving an abusive relationship does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim wants to be abused. According to the Department of Justice, the most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave, as this is when the abuser realizes they are losing control and will in all likelihood “do anything” to get it back. (United States Department of Justice, National Crime Victim Survey, 1995)

If you need help, or even if you just want to get involved, there are social programs and private non-profit organizations like Becky’s Fund which strives to address domestic violence in all sectors of our community, establish prevention-based educational programs to counter domestic violence, and collaborate with others in the community to find ways to change the behavior and thinking behind issues that cause and perpetuate domestic violence.

Your Safety Plan

A Safety Plan is nothing more than a written record of the steps you can take to enhance your personal safety as you prepare in advance for the possibility of future violence. Many templates like this one, are available for free online. These plans help to bring into focus all of the relevant concerns which may exist, allowing you to focus on those areas of greatest importance.

The following are a few of the protective measures to consider:

Awareness + Preparation = Safety

Effective self-defense begins long before a physical altercation. Awareness of your surroundings, awareness of your environment, and awareness of what looks out of place, prepares you physically and mentally for what may come next.

Being aware of the warning signs of danger is a key component of safety. Some of the warning signs of an abusive personality include:

  • A “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality. Acting one way in front of others and another way when alone with you
  • Invasions of privacy. Reading your e/mail, checking your computer history, or going through your phone.
  • Following you or sending someone just to “keep an eye on you”
  • Accusing you of cheating
  • Blaming you for their problems or their bad mood

Trust Your Gut

Within each of us is an internal warning system that is perfectly in tune with our subconscious awareness of danger. Unfortunately, we all sometimes negate this early warning with a “Don’t be Mean” rationale.

Your unwillingness to hurt another’s feelings should never be greater than your willingness to protect yourself from harm. If it feels “bad,” that’s your subconcious trying to protect you. Women are naturally more in tune to this gift. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage.

Keep a Journal

Keep a written record of everything leading up to and during each instance of abuse. Write down with as much detail the date, time, descriptions, thoughts, feelings and fears you experienced in that moment. Try to write while things are still fresh in your mind. Be sure to keep whatever you write someplace safe and secure. Include photos of injuries whenever possible.

Home Zones of Safety

If you feel abuse is going to happen, try to move to an area that offers you the best chance to get away. Identify those safe places in your home where you can easily escape and where there are no nearby weapons (kitchen = knives) Areas near the front door are best as they most often lead to the street and front yards in view of neighbors. Back and side doors commonly lead to additional enclosures like fences with obstructing views. When in doubt, go down and out.

Safe Havens

Know your safe havens. Even if you have no immediate plan to leave, identifying safe haven’s is an excellent everyday safety precaution for those times you may find yourself away from home and in potential harm. When in doubt: “Run to a Restaurant.” Restaurant’s are easy to find, easy to access and are full of people who can help. They will also have food, water, first aid, and phones so can contact your support team. Have a plan. Know where to go. Know how to get there.

Pack and Plan Ahead

Pack and hide a “Go-Bag.” A go-bag is a pre-packed bag you have ready to “go” at a moment’s notice. Pack this with the important things you use everyday. Include some non-perishable eatables like gum, trail mix, and a large bottle of water. In addition to necessities like clothes and personal items, try to include cash, pre-paid gift /credit cards, and a pre-paid “burner” phone which will help you successfully get away without being easily tracked and monitored.

Use Draft Email

Create a free email account and save important information in an unsent draft email.This will allow you to access the information from anywhere with an internet connection. Draft emails, in an account known only to you, are a great place for you to securely upload digital images of important documents and files. If you have to leave in a hurry, it helps to know you will still have access to this information everywhere regardless of your location.

Child Safety

It is very important for children to understand that the best way to protect you is to get to a safe place and call for help. Practice calling 911 with your children on both your home and mobile phone. It’s also good a good idea for them to rehearse what they will say. This simple phrase is all a dispatcher needs to hear to send help to your location. Remember to teach them to NOT hang up.

“My Mommy needs help. Please send police and ambulance.”

Try for Change

Whenever possible, try to change your daily routine. Even subtle changes like the route you to take to school and work, or the grocery store where you shop may provide enough freedom in your schedule to plan an escape.

Code Words

Have a ‘Safe’ word/phrase. When moments matter you may not be able to text or say much. Have an agreed ‘safe’ word or phrase with trusted friends and family who are familiar with your situation and who are able to respond if they receive any emergency calls/texts. Keep it short and simple, but easy enough to phrase into a sentence without drawing unwanted attention. This example was particularly clever.

Don’t “Check-In”

Turn off your geo-location function. Sharing your location on FourSquare, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is great for letting your friends know what you are doing, but it also makes it easier to track the trends of your daily routine and even find you at a specific location. If you’re “checking in” at the local cinema, It tells anyone who may be trying to find you where you will be for the next two hours.

Stay Safety Fit

When it comes to staying safe, your ability to push, jump, and run may make all the difference. Are you safety fit?

Stay Social Media Safe

Make sure you have all of your privacy settings turned on and be mindful of how much personal information you share online. Spend 15 minutes trying to find out as much about yourself as you can. (Yes, Google yourself.) Make sure you personally know everyone you are connected to on social media and ignore random requests from strangers you don’t know.

Awareness + Preparation = Safety


Security Expert Spencer Coursen specializes in threat assessment protective intelligence and vulnerability reduction. Coursen Security Group Logo.


Schools Still Failing On Safety

School Safety | Spencer Cousen

“When is a can of beans more than just a can of beans? When it’s a weapon of self-defense for students to throw at an armed intruder who has just entered their school.”

That’s the advice featured in a CNN article earlier today.

Schools remain one of the most vulnerable soft targets for deranged criminals, and administrators seeking to improve student safety and school security need to heed a simple, yet important fact: Over time, safety, unlike algebra, has evolved into a completely different subject matter from what many administrators once learned.

Congress’ response to the Sandy Hook tragedy was to pursue a variety of gun control legislation. But these bills were off the mark – even their authors admit they would not have prevented the shooting in Newtown. Instead of getting bogged down in ugly, partisan fights, there are noncontroversial actions that can be taken immediately that would actually make a make schools safer than they are today.

The best scenario, of course, is to stop an “active shooter” attack from happening altogether. We must embrace a practice of prevention, not reaction. When school is in session, there should only be one way for guests and visitors to approach, and a specific process for them to enter. A school in session should mimic a Broadway theater after the curtain has gone up: hundreds of ways for the audience to leave, but only one way to enter. Yet while many schools may have an effective access control policy on paper, the practical application is far from what is preached. Clearly spelled out steps numbering 1 – 10 may be dictated on paper, but in reality, steps 2 – 8 get cut out. A buzzer is pressed and access is granted. Consequences be damned. “It’s not going to happen to me, right.” WRONG!

Public funding is another problem. Financing for “Active Shooter Drills” and war-time equipment to enable the police to more effectively respond to these crisis continue to grow, while almost no investment is paid to protective intelligence or threat assessment programs to prevent these concerns from happening in the first place.

It is important to keep in mind that to the violent offender, likelihood of success is the most significant factor in the decision to move forward with their intended action.

This is one of the predominant factors as to why schools are so frequently targeted by their own students. The offenders know these locations well. They know the terrain. They know the active-shooter response plan. They know the layout of the structures. They know what the security response is likely to involve. They know how effectively access control is regulated, and they are able carry out a “dry run” rehearsal without raising much suspicion. School Shootings Are Inside Jobs!

These offenders typically plan their action only up to the moment of initiation; they almost never plan for what will come next. This knowledge is important: if you are not the first intended victim your chance for survival is increased if you run immediately away from the sounds of the gunshots, or as soon as the threat is recognized.

Teachers and students are told to shelter in place during an attack. But sheltering in place was designed to protect against natural disasters, high winds, falling trees and other non-human dangers. It is an absurd idea for surviving a physical encounter.

Some will argue that you cannot outrun a bullet. They are correct, but who is more difficult to hit: the child running away and gaining distance with each step, or the child cowering in the corner?

If fleeing is not an option, teachers and students should be able to barricade themselves in the classroom. Unfortunately, most public-funded buildings have doors that swing out. This is a norm from times when building fires were much more common than today.

Classroom Doors

But out-swinging doors cannot be barricaded – the hinges are on the wrong side. Making matters worse, many of them have windows. Locking a door does not make it bullet-proof. Bullets travel through wood and windows easily. This makes any argument for staying in the classroom during an attack a losing proposition.

For those forced to hide or barricade themselves inside a classroom, there should be a universal “survivor signal.” Something as simple as writing H (for “help”) on any window that faces out signals to emergency personnel that someone is still inside.

Parents today are more involved than ever in the lives of their children, participating in decisions about curriculum, sports, and social activities – almost everything but school safety. Parents are too often placated by the belief that “something is being done” to keep their children safe at school, but then forget to ask the follow up question of what that “something” is.

Our children deserve a safe and welcoming learning environment. Partisan politics need not get in the way of taking simple steps to ensure our children get the protection they deserve.


Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Business Safety: A Shift In Strategy

Business Safety | Spencer Coursen

When you focus on the forrest, you miss the details of the trees.

The recent intelligence failures in Paris have left many businesses with an uncertainty of future safety. While the likelihood of your business being directly targeted like Charlie Hebdo is not likely, it is not altogether unrealistic. But the once well-established, self-defense, and self-preservation practice of avoidance – deeply grounded in the “it won’t happen to me” mindset – is no longer a viable option for businesses or their employees to employ. Today, doing nothing comes with a heavy burden of legal and civil recourse.

Authorities responsible for preserving public peace do what they know best: a crime occurs; investigators work to bring the perpetrators to justice; then a court determines guilt or innocence. Regrettably, that reactive approach requires something to have already happened – for damage to already been done. Personal safety requires a preventative approach, and that’s a significant shift in strategy many authorities are just not trained to handle.

Historically speaking, “the primary focus of police activity is public safety, not personal safety. Law enforcement agencies and personnel have no duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others; instead their duty is to preserve the peace and arrest law breakers for the protection of the general public.” Lynch v. N.C. Dept. of Justice, 376 S.E. 2nd 247 (N.C. App. 1989)

In their defense, the pivot in approach from reaction to prevention is not easy. Simply put, big ships don’t make sharp turns. It’s a slow and cumbersome process to turn the ship around.

As the course-correction takes place, authorities have become very effective at preventing attacks whenever they have an undercover agent involved in the attack plan (as they did here, here, here, and here.) However, they are somewhat less-effective in preventing those attacks they do not help to finance, plan, or sponsor.

Today’s safety requires a preventative approach, and the best preventative approach has always been one based in protective intelligence. Protective Intelligence is the practice of collecting and assessing available data from all available resources in real-time, and then projecting what their combined valuation is likely to reveal. This data is regularly available to government institutions, large corporations, small/medium businesses, and schools.

So why have these assets not been effectively employed?

The over-arching concern seems to be that most of this data is simply collected and stored. No attention is paid to the benefit of their content until AFTER something has happened and an investigation is called to begin. This requires businesses to adopt their own shift in protective strategy.

Today’s businesses can do more to protect themselves utilizing assets they already have on-hand. They simply need understand how to best save themselves.

“Who Does What, Where, When, and Why?”

For many, surveillance cameras are used only as an investigative resource. Something happens, and they go back and “check the tape.” For others, cameras are used as part of a comprehensive security program to confirm if someone should be allowed to enter a restricted area. Conducting regular reviews to see what added intelligence your cameras are able to provide can be a critical step in helping to prevent a problem. For those engaged in attack-related behavior like surveillance, stalking, or attempting to breach your security defenses, surveillance cameras are a silent witness to the comings, goings, and passer-by’s of your organization. Reviewing what your camera saw, and tracking for things that seem out of the ordinary, may just provide your business with that protective piece of the puzzle.

“Just because nothing has been reported, doesn’t mean there isn’t a hidden concern.”

While terror-attacks may not be common, personal and workplace-related issues are much more likely to escalate into professional concerns for the simple fact that employees spend so much of their day at work. Regrettably, this provides the enraged ex-boyfriend wishing to stage a confrontation, the creepy guy from the gym who has an unrequited interest in your employee, or the fired parking lot attendant who’s been leaving love notes on Facebook, with a known time and place where staff can be found – at work.

Colleagues almost always know something is up before something happens. Regrettably, almost no one reports a thing to anyone in authority. People are generally hesitant to report a concerns for the following reasons:

  • fear they will wrongly implicate someone who is innocent;
  • fear they will be perceived as being paranoid or a tattle-tale,
  • fear that they will become entangled in something they would rather not be involved;
  • some combination of the above.

Do your best to keep reporting, anonymous, confidential, and simple.

When it comes to protective intelligence, personal concerns are the greatest source of information. Our internal sense of defense is so finely tuned for ensuring our personal safety that it automatically acts as a safety net for what is good and what is bad. Anything that falls into the “bad” category should be reported.

Businesses should also shy away from dictating terms of what should be reported. Whenever criteria as to what “should” be reported is expressed, it often has the unintended consequence of excluding those concerns which don’t meet pre-defined criteria.

“Audits Are For More Than Taxes”

Keeping detailed records of information is vital. Well-documented information is a necessary component to tracking the trends that lead to problem solving.

Protective Intelligence is a time and information based process. Protective Intelligence is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle who’s pieces have been blown around by a tornado. When individual individual pieces are found they are often discarded as being irrelevant, but when collected and assessed, they begin to reveal the bigger picture and make the evolving concern more clearly seen.


Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

Protecting Your Business From Targeted Attack

Bardo Museum Attack In Tunisia | Spencer Coursen | Coursen Security Group | Protecting Your Business From Targeted Attack

“The chances of something happening? A statistically low percentage. But if it happens…it’s 100%”

Renewed concerns for safety dominate the news cycle after today after the terrorist attack  in Tunisia left 21 dead while the search for the gunmen continues. The Charlie Hebdo attack is still fresh in our minds.

Most business leaders are aware of the risk associated with bringing their services into the marketplace, but what about those concerns inherent to their actual place of business? However unlikely it may be for a business to be directly targeted, the reality is that too few businesses have not taken any proactive measures to effectively reduce their vulnerability. The fact of the matter is that we can no longer afford to live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us once something does. Today’s safety requires our participation. For far too long, over-arching security measures have done nothing more than vacillate between hyper-vigilance and complacency. Safety lies in the middle – a byproduct of awareness and preparation.


Most business leaders are aware of the risk associated with bringing their services into the marketplace, but what about those concerns inherent to their actual place of business? However unlikely it may be for a business to be directly targeted, the reality is that too few businesses have not taken any proactive measures to effectively reduce their vulnerability. The fact of the matter is that we can no longer afford to live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us once something does. Today’s safety requires our participation. For far too long, over-arching security measures have done nothing more than vacillate between hyper-vigilance and complacency. Safety lies in the middle – a byproduct of awareness and preparation.

Access Control

The problem with keys is that they work all the time. They are cheap, frequently lost, and easy to copy. Keys don’t validate their user the way card readers and key-codes do. Consider dual-authentication options to limit and monitor access.

Keeping people out is easier than getting them out. Effectively controlling who’s allowed through your front door is especially important if once someone is allowed inside there is nothing preventing them from having free-reign throughout the rest of your establishment. If there is no access control through the front door, than compartmentalization is important. Much like a bank who’s lobby doors are open to the public, few have access to behind the teller desk, and even less have access to the vault. Effective access control is the most effective, yet most underemployed precaution for ensuring workplace safety.

Safe Havens

A safe haven is nothing more than a place you know you can go to be safe. Everyone knows if there is a fire to evacuate the building. What most people don’t know is where to go next. In an emergency, it’s always best to go from unsafe to safe. The parking lot fifty feet from the building may be a safe distance from a fire in the break room, but it is not a universal safety precaution from other threats that are just as likely to occur. Hiding under your desk and or hiding in an office, likely won’t do much good either. (bullets travel through doors and walls) If you have the physical ability to run…RUN. A moving target – especially one gaining distance with each step is hard to hit. Take some time to talk with your staff about where you can all go for accountability, continuity, and safety should you ever have to leave the office in a hurry. Even if it’s just to the Starbucks down the street, make sure everyone knows where to go and knows how to get there. Identifying safe havens is a lot like wearing your seatbelt: Often just a precaution, but invaluable when needed.

Protective Intelligence

Someone may not see everything, but everything is seen by someone. When it comes to identifying and assessing those events that are most likely to be a concern, information is invaluable. The creepy, curly haired guy you noticed going through the work trash out back, write it down. The flower delivery guy who for-whatever-reason made the hair on your neck stand-up, write it down. See the obsessive gym guy who won’t take no for an answer driving by your office, write it down. The smallest things can be huge indicators when viewed through the prism of space and time. Chances are, others saw something too. Even if you talk about it with your coworkers in the break room, writing it down while it’s still fresh in your mind will not only serve as confirmation of what you saw, but will provide a time/date stamp to compare against similar reports. Those wishing to act with violent intent must engage in some aspect of research and planning that makes their behaviors observable to the general public. Trespassing, surveillance, and attempting to breach security are all pre-incident indicators of violence. Start a simple email address at work that can be universally used by all, like “” The more puzzle pieces you provide, the more likely a potential hazard can be managed toward peaceful resolve. After access control, an effective protective intelligence and threat assessment program is the next most important precaution for reducing risk and preventing violence.

Safety is often nothing more than the by-product of awareness and preparation. Taking a few moments to put a plan in place is sometimes all you need to prepare today for a safer tomorrow.


Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

Executive Travel: Smart; Safe; Successful.

Executive Travel | Coursen Security Group | Spencer Coursen

Most executives and public figures are able to go about their daily lives without a protective detail following their every move. Unfortunately, their lives do become become inherently more complicated whenever they agree to a planned public appearance.

Regardless of circumstance or scenario, whenever the general public has a reasonable expectation of a time and place an executive can be found, protective considerations should always be employed as preventative measure.

It is important to understand why these events have an increased level of risk. Unlike an off-the-record, or impromptu appearance (think President Obama making a pit-stop at Shake Shack) where the likelihood of an attack would be considered “Low” – events that are publicized in advance give a would-be-attacker critical information like dates and location, and most concerning, time to plan.

Bill Gates - Pie Attack

The chances of something happening?  A statistically low percentage.

But if it happens…it’s 100%

For the violent offender, the single most significant factor in targeting an individual for attack is likelihood of success. Without a high-likelihood of success, a would-be-attacker will transfer their efforts to someone who is more exposed and easier to approach.  Eliminating those small windows of exposure when approachability is most likely to occur by unknown persons is of critical importance.

Securing transportation, departing airports, checking into hotels, arriving/departing events, and partaking in public engagements all present variables of uncertainty that can be drastically minimized with effective planning and logistical coordination.

To help maintain a level of safety that is of equal measure to executive sophistication, CSG provides an advance coordination and logistics service that helps to facilitate and coordinate all aspects of executive travel away from home. This is a service Mr. Coursen has personally performed and perfected on more than 300 protective missions to 163 different countries. This combination of experiential and practical knowledge affords the ability to tailor-design subject matter expertise to any scenario – employing the most effective applications to the most realistic concerns.

This is most often achieved by providing a low-profile, yet highly effective approach. One that emphasizes preventative measures to ensure safety, but does not draw any unfavorable cosmetic or inter-personal attention to the executive. To the casual observer, no obvious protective profile is visible, but to anyone conducting surveillance with nefarious intent, every protective precaution will be realized.

This service typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • Coordination with the local embassy/consulate;
  • Risk Assessment associated with location and event;
  • Coordination with local hosts;
  • Assessment and pre-check of hotel;
  • Expedited airport, customs, and immigration procedures for arrival/departure;
  • Reconnaissance of primary, secondary and tertiary routes to/from all venues;
  • Reconnaissance of all scheduled venues to ensure a clear familiarity with the who, what, where, when and how’s associated with the event itinerary;
  • Identify known Safe Havens in the area of operation;
  • Identify and Assess the quality/condition of local medical and emergency facilities;
  • In those locations where a local protective entity is provided/required, serving as the liaison and coordination counterpart.

Traveling without support?

Safety tips here:


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security consultant, threat assessment advisor, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

@SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity