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July 11, 2018

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Why behavioural detection is crucial for identifying hostile intent

Behavioural detection can be a vital component of an organisation’s security strategy, helping to identify anyone with malicious intent.

That’s according to Andrew Palmer, border security lead at Gatwick Airport.



More transport security insights from IFSEC 2018

He explained to delegates at IFSEC 2018 that aviation security has historically tended to introduce new processes or technologies after an incident has prompted a reaction. Often these can cause a delay or disruption to passengers’ journeys.

However, he said operators are waking up to the fact that there are other options are now being utilised, which don’t focus solely on one specific threat.

Behavioural detection

Behavioural detection is one such technique and it is not limited to the aviation industry. It can be implemented across society, from supermarkets and banks to railway stations and tourist attractions.

But Palmer said that its true capability is only realised if a dedicated team of experienced behavioural detection officers (BDOs) is employed. Such professionals have a certain skillset to identify if a person has a hostile intent. They are trained in government recognised, tested and approved behavioural detection techniques.

Gatwick Airport introduced BDOs in 2013. Its team undertook passenger assessment screening training to understand what ‘normal’ looks like in an airport environment. Therefore any deviation from this norm attracts their attention and they will then look for a set list of behaviours.

Palmer said recognising the behaviours is essential, but it was equally important to understand why they are being displayed.

Hostile intent

So what happens once such behaviour is spotted? At Gatwick, Palmer said its team would speak to the individual informally and then make a decision on what to do next.

“They don’t say that person definitely has hostile intent – they could be displaying behavioural patterns because they’ve just had an argument with a loved one or are a nervous flier,” he said.

“The next step is therefore to have a conversation and find out why they are displaying these behaviours.”

If the BDO suspects the behaviour is unnatural, this intelligence will then be passed on to other security professionals, such as police or terrorism units.

Is it profiling? “Yes, but based on behaviour only,” Palmer explained. “BDOs aren’t interested in race, gender or religion. They stop people based on behaviours.”

Palmer said BDOs are not set targets for how many people are stopped or given objectives for how many people are passed on to other authorities. The danger of this would be that people could be stopped just for the sake of it.

But can you avoid showing behaviours?

Palmer said: “There is no set pattern. Often if you know you’re up to no good, the more you try to hide your behaviour, the more it comes out.”

He also explained that behavioural detection is not the answer to all our problems. Instead it must be used as part of a wider strategy to protect a site, staff and the public.

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Valerio Fonsmorti
Valerio Fonsmorti
August 3, 2018 12:11 pm

How can you spot those behaviours? I believe the role of the technology and real-time automation of such patterns are crucial in order to prevent threats and to empower law enforcement.

Valerio Fonsmorti
Business Development Manager
Ultinous Zrt.