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Not all Threats are Cyber

Last week, I mentioned the assassination of a Chinese shipping executive who was killed in his car while parked near an upscale market in Karachi, Pakistan.

His name was Chen Zhu. He was 45 years old. He had had enough of a threat against him that he was assigned bodyguards, but he dismissed them the day prior. To put this in perspective, this would be like logging into an unsecure network and turning off all firewalls and anti-virus software while attending a Black Hat Hacker conference. Mr. Chen paid for this mistake with his life.

Some of you reading this may be important enough within your respective industries to have a credible threat towards you or your family. Before I delve into some commonsense proactive measures that everyone should do in future posts, let’s look into some historical attacks.

One of my favorite case studies is the September 15, 1981 attack against US Army General Frederick Kroesen in Heidelberg, Germany.

Gen Kroesen was the Commander of all US Army forces in Europe. At the time, he lived on the “economy,” that is, off post a few miles away from base. The Red Army Faction (RAF), a prominent European terrorist organization, was in their heyday during that time. The General and his staff thought they had seen people watching him during his routine drives to and from the office. That should be a clue, right? (The answer is yes).

The German government provided an armored Mercedes and an experienced German policeman as a driver. Experienced, unfortunately, meant retirement-age in this case. The Army also provided two CID (Criminal Investigation Division) armed agents in a follow-on sedan for added security. The surveillance continued.

There were only two true routes to-and-from Gen Kroesen’s office. Unfortunately, one route was around a mountain, which took almost twice as long to drive. If anyone has been around senior military officers, or even time-crunched executives, you can guess which route they took almost every day. The surveillance stopped. Why?

A few days later, as the motorcade drove down a narrow street through town, a car hurriedly pulled out in front of them, only to slow down suddenly as the motorcade caught up behind it. Why?

The civilian car then stopped at traffic light, but the light was still green. Why?

The light turned red, and after a few seconds, the car sped off. What would you do in this situation?

The “experienced” German policeman turned off the armored car’s engine. Now, if anybody knows the German people, you know that they are very law-abiding citizens, so I will explain this one.

Because of the on-going energy crisis, German law dictated that drivers turn off their automobiles while stopped at a red light. So, although the policeman followed the law, he had absolutely no security mindset. They were now stopped on what we call the “X.”  An analysis of previous attacks was conducted several years ago. The analysis revealed that if the bad guys get you on the “X,” they have all of the advantage, and a 98% success rate of kidnapping or killing you.

Next week, we see what else went wrong, and the one thing that went right.