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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
November 17, 2015


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Paris Terror Attacks: How Can We Combat the Threat of Further Attacks?

police bataclan paris

Police vans outside the Bataclan the day after the venue was the centre of a siege (photo: Maya-Anaïs Yataghène under CC 2.0)

Atrocities in New York in 2001, Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 taught the public and police alike to be particularly vigilant regarding suspect packages in airports and at train stations.

The appalling attacks of Friday night, which took place at five different locations across Paris and left 129 dead, involved somewhat different methods for wreaking mass casualties.

Using kalashnikovs as well as bombs and targeting people in restaurants, a concert hall and on the street, the terrorists adopted similar tactics to those used in the 2008 Mumbai attacks and struck at what they saw as the soft (and, according to their twisted ideology, immoral) underbelly  of Western civilization.

It is of course impossible to completely eliminate the risk of terror attacks (or indeed the risk of countless other threats). And efforts to do so can often undermine the very freedoms we’re defending.

So what can governments, intelligence agencies and the security industry do to reduce the risk of further attacks? I put this question to several security experts who offered suggestions that touched on intelligence sharing, data analytics, collaboration between relevant agencies and the role of the general public.

Ron fellows“What’s needed is a more automated ‘intelligence nervous system’”

Ron Fellows, Analytics and Information Management SME

In the aftermath of last Friday’s horrific attacks in Paris, the usual reports are beginning to surface in the media about “near misses” before and after the assault. What’s perhaps different about this atrocity is that the web of intrigue spreads across Europe and the Middle East and may have roots in the mass migration of recent months.

I’ve spoken repeatedly of governments playing at sharing data but the reality is one of data sharing on a case by case basis. What’s needed is a much more cohesive, more automated “intelligence nervous system” that can react in real-time to anomalies at borders and information received. If European governments are serious about dealing with this problem, let’s make this our own “moonshot programme”. The technology is there – but is the will?

“Better 20 false alarms than one missed opportunity”

Chris Cope, security consultant, Advent IMchris cope advent im

Counter-terrorism requires authorities to be lucky every time; terrorists only have to be lucky once.  For every major attack over the past decade, there have been many more foiled and the key to stopping attacks is intelligence.

France has some of the world’s best anti-terror forces, but without the right information all they can do is react.  Whilst British security services have access to the full range of suspect monitoring capabilities, CCTV and web/phone intercepts can only provide so much; many police operations are successful because ordinary people pass on information.

Terrorist acts like Paris should never prevent us from continuing with our way of life. Britain will never be enough of a fortress for the authorities to prevent every attack themselves.

Instead, we should understand that our continued security is everyone’s responsibility.

Information is key. Report anything suspicious to the authorities – better 20 false alarms than one missed opportunity to prevent another atrocity.

david rubens“A balance of effective intelligence and ongoing ‘enhanced normalcy’ at the local level” is needed

David Rubens FSyI, CSyP, main board director, UK Security Institute

The attacks on Paris were the realisation of the nightmare scenario of every western security agency: a well planned and coordinated multi-team attack against high-profile, high casualty targets, all carried out in the full glare of global news coverage. For those responsible for maintaining public safety in the face of unprecedented attacks, two lessons seem to emerge from the information we have so far.

The first is that counter-terror doctrine teaches that an attack of this sophistication and complexity will have created a level of ‘chatter’ that should have allowed the intelligence agencies to identify that something was happening, and to take the necessary counter measures as a preventative rather than a reactive response.

It is almost certain that organisational and operational failings that led to the successful delivery of the attacks will emerge. The second is that standard security protocols outside the Stade de France, where the France-Germany football game was taking place, were enough to deflect the attack, and prevent an even greater massacre. In the long run, it is the balance of effective intelligence and ongoing ‘enhanced normalcy’ at the local level that will be the most effective defence against future similar attacks.

simon chapmanWe need a “‘centralised intelligence’-led approach”

Simon Chapman, MD, Lodge Service

Processes fail because people neglect or stop following procedures: centralisation enables regular testing, scenario planning, audits and metrics.

The threat of terrorism needs a commercial, ‘centralised intelligence’-led approach: where the control centre is linked over the internet to businesses and other venues to receive CCTV, news, reports and other data – and fast. When the central management team receives an alarmed alert, it is confirmed and the state emergency services are notified and guided to the incident, whilst private security guards, repairs and other teams can be dispatched.

Barrie Millet“How do we get everyone on the same journey and how do we do it at pace?”

Barrie Millet, Head of HSSE and Resilience, E.ON UK

Through some fantastic work by the security services and police we have managed to prevent so many possible attacks in the UK.
However, there is a need for new thinking around how police and security companies/sector interfaces, with less of a focus on pure financial cuts.

The world threats have morphed very quickly and the sector and police have been slow to adapt and leverage synergies. To face up to the future successfully there is a need to radically change the ways of working. The challenge is how do we get everyone on the same journey and how do we do it at pace?

abbey petkar magenta“Collaboration between the authorities and private security providers could minimise the threat”

Abbey Petkar, MD, Magenta Security

The terror attacks on Paris have once again shown how vulnerable we are to the threat of physical attack. Authorities across the world are now on high alert for further attacks, which could see resources stretched to their limit.

Collaborating with private security firms could ease the pressure by making use of their skills. Security staff already work alongside police forces at many public events, for example at the recent Rugby World Cup.

Security guards have a strong commitment to care for the people and society at large, are highly trained and are equipped to do the job at hand.  They could provide vital support and help meet heightened standards to keep the general public safe.

There is already an existing network which alerts security companies to security threats, and further collaboration between the authorities and private security providers could minimise the threat from further attacks.

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Efim Rabinovitch
Efim Rabinovitch
November 17, 2015 5:25 pm

I suggest that you can visit http://www.secureletterbox.com/page3.htm
for getting some ideas about the current insecurity of the UK

November 17, 2015 6:15 pm

All of the above expert opinions are valid and reflect sound common sense.   The reality is that extremist attacks will continue to happen despite the vigilance of the security services and the connectivity of national and international security services. At this level I do question the inclusion of private security companies as the ability to access the necessary level of data needed to identify and “increase in chatter`” is beyond private security companies.   I also caution expectations that national or trans national security services will every be able to pin point attacks; that capability relies on the security… Read more »

November 18, 2015 2:00 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the Paris attacks represent an evolution of terrorist threat to our cities and public as stated in the lead article. This type of attack fits the historic methodology of terrorist outfits since at least 2008. ‘Hit and Run’ and ‘Seize and Hold’ are both tactics that have been used before –Mumbai, Westgate, Paris (jan 2015) and remains one oftheir most effective method of causing mass casualties /panic whilst creating the maximum publicity for their ‘cause’. Having previously spent over 20 years in the police service dealing directly with the operational response to terrorists and subsequently… Read more »

Adam Bannister
November 18, 2015 3:10 pm

799co Thanks for your response. Some very good points. I do believe the UK is probably well equipped to respond effectively beyond that 10 minute period you talk of – but yes, a lot of damage and death can be wrought in that 10 minutes. 

And yes, you’re right about the supposed evolution of tactics. I do recall the Mumbai attacks and it was an oversimplification to suggest tactics have suddenly evolved, so will change  the article accordingly! Thanks for your contribution…