Business travel in 2023 is back to pre-pandemic levels according to open source reports. As more people gather together and travel for in-person events, it is important to remain aware of potential risks that occur when scores of people congregate in one place. Normal risks to an event may include a fire at the venue, unauthorized access, and protests due to ideological differences. However, risks may also originate from online narratives (whether true or not) surrounding the event, its public perception, and its speakers. Gatherings that would otherwise be unnoteworthy may be targeted for retaliation against specific individuals or rocketed into the spotlight due to factors outside of the event planners’ control. Events with high-profile guest lists are susceptible to even more risks due to increased exposure and existing security concerns, such as stalkers or foreign intelligence concerns.
The Problem: Events are vulnerable to collateral risks, including those unrelated to the event itself
Events, small and large alike, may carry potential security risks based on factors such as exposure, location, and the guests themselves.
- The operational risks surrounding events are partially heightened due to a general increased willingness to demand change, and the Washington Posts highlighted a study showing the number of protest movements tripled in less than 15 years. Company and executive meetings are repeatedly at the receiving end of this trend, finding themselves the target of public shaming and other displays of discontent.
- Concentric observed recent widespread layoffs, concerns for the environment, and controversies tied to pay packages in current economic conditions are common themes driving protesters and activists to publicly target companies and individual executives during significant events.
- The convergence of prominent individuals with special access to sensitive information may also attract the attention of nefarious actors, notably cyber criminals and state-sponsored groups. The ability of cyber actors to infect WiFi routers can put guests at risk of hacking and data compromise.
- The decision for companies to pull out of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine drew ire from the Kremlin and is likely to put executives at risk of Russian cyberattacks. Russia increased its cyberattacks on users in NATO countries by 300 percent in 2022. China’s pursuit of intellectual property theft also heightens the risk of targeting.
- Social media activity also heightens the risk of exposure about an event. Events and guests with large public profiles are more at risk of bad actors, such as those driven by anti-wealth sentiment, gleaning private details about an event to make contact with notable guests. Details about an event may also be leaked by those with insider knowledge.
- Guests and employees may post pictures or updates that could inadvertently reveal privileged information about an event, especially if posts are geotagged with specific locations. Observant followers may also be able to use private jets tracking accounts to predict an individual’s, and consequently an event’s, upcoming location.
The Solution: Event Risk Assessments
Preparation is a key measure for mitigating potential risks at an event. Concentric’s Event Risk Assessments is one tool to help event planners and security managers better prepare for possible contingencies and ensure their guests stay safe. These reports investigate the online exposure of the event, known hazards at the venue location, and controversies surrounding guests to provide a better understanding of the full threat environment.
- Online Exposure: Concentric explores social media and news narratives to identify potential controversies that could spark demonstrations. We also look for leaks of confidential information, such as guest lists or agendas, or predictable patterns, including using the same lodging each year, that bad actors could exploit to gain access to the event and its guests.
- Venue: Concentric researches local safety concerns such as crime, recent terrorist attacks, and unrelated protests that could inadvertently affect the event. We also assess the paparazzi presence and foreign intelligence risks associated with the venue and the type of event.
- Attendee Risks: Concentric reviews guest lists to determine the likelihood of bad actors using an event to specifically target an attendee or their company.
Concentric also provides other services that can further enhance security at events:
- Event Active Monitoring: Concentric can conduct regular checks of social media leading up to and during the event and alert security managers to new and emerging threats.
- Tailored Security Consulting: Concentric can help conduct walkthroughs and develop security plans specific to the event.
- Executive Protection Agents: Concentric can staff security for the event, including security managers.
Concentric’s experience in assessing the full range of risks, from physical to digital to reputational, ensures a holistic approach to event security. Reach out to Concentric to learn more about any of our services.
Author: Reilly Andreasen, Intelligence Analyst, Global Intelligence