Travel Tips – Part 3

Recap: In our last post, we talked about hotel room safety and security with regards to the location of the room within the building (i.e. floor number, proximity to elevators, etc).

Today, we are going to talk about two simple items that can go virtually anywhere and provide you with an added level of security and peace of mind while traveling.

From physical keys to key cards and RFID fobs, hotels use all sorts of access control technology to make sure you get into your room. But technology isn’t perfect, and you’ve probably seen a news article where these elements are exploited or bypassed.

When traveling, your room is (supposed to be) your safe space, your sanctuary and a place of rest.

Here are two tools to help you keep it that way, no matter where you travel.

These under-rated security devices are also two of the most effective.

  1. Portable Door Lock

A simple portable door lock, such as this one found on Amazon.com can be the difference between a quiet evening, and a drunken neighbor invading your space.

Installing the device between the door and the frame will provide an extra layer of security and protection. Not only does it create an additional lock that bolsters the existing deadbolt, it keeps the door from opening even if the deadbolt is not engaged. For me, this was a game changer, because if someone did have the key to my room, they still couldn’t get in without my permission.

  1. Personal keychain alarm

An ear-piercing siren of 120 db is a great way to draw attention to a specific location.

By using a personal alarm and a bit of duct tape, you can create a security system to let you (and anyone on your floor) know if someone is trying to open the door without your permission.

This is also great if you have small kids traveling with you and want to take a shower while making sure they don’t leave the room without telling you.

Good luck and safe travels!

Author: Aaron Lembo, Founder of Jack Of All Tradecraft, is an Intelligence Consultant, Field Operations Trainer and Eagle Scout. Learn more by following @jackofalltradecraft on Instagram.


Geolocating A Car Crash

from everydayspy.com

I first saw this photo in a blog post from EverydaySpy, saying he had been in a hit-and-run accident.

The post mentioned that he was in Abu Dhabi and was merging when this happened. I was intrigued and immediately decided to locate the photo.

I want to walk you through the process I used to locate the spot this photo was taken.

Step 1: Observe the focal point

The focal point of a photo is what the photographer was focused on. This is the subject or event of interest to the person taking the image.

In this photo, we can see the car. It has been damaged and it is parked on sand.

It is also important to note what we do not see. There are no visible emergency services. There are no other vehicles. No people. No sidewalk. No shrubs or trees.

Step 2: Observe the foreground

Behind the vehicle, we can see that the sandy space extends a good distance to a fence with barbed wire on top. In front of the fence line are tire tracks in the sand.

Again, no people or other vehicles are visible.

Step 3: Observe the background

Looking at the background of a photo can tell you a lot about a place.

Beyond the fence, to the left, there are some tall thin blue storage tanks. To the right, there is a dark gray building. In the very center, there is a hazy curved building that looks rather far away, standing by itself.

This curved building is the control tower for the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

© Lester Ali

The curve is only in one direction and can tell you which way the photographer was facing when they took the picture.

Step 4: Narrow down the position of the camera

Moving to one of the most robust free tools on the market, GoogleEarth is fantastic. I use it way more than I care to admit – even more so now using the built-in flight simulator to teach my kids about geography.

To recap, there is a fence, a series of blue storage tanks, a control tower, and a gray building. First, we locate the position of the control tower, and match up the curve with the photo. This tells us that the photo was taken to the North of the tower.

Looking northwards, we see a highway named E-12. There is also a ramp leading onto that highway from E-10.

Step 5: Find elements that match those found in the foreground

Zooming into the map, along the ramp area of E12, we see an oil facility.

GoogleEarth lets you see historical photos as well. Moving back in time, we get different views, at different times of day and different seasons of an area. Below you can see that the facility clearly has several tall blue containers and a gray building near an onramp for the E-12.

Step 6: Verify

Intelligence analysis is not complete unless you verify your findings.

To do this, using GoogleEarth, put yourself in the position you think the photographer took the image and see if your other data points line up.

We see that our blue containers match. The gray building to the right matches. And between the two, we have a clear line of sight (marked in red) of the control tower in the distance.

Assessment: The photo was taken at approximately 24°28’38.16″N, 54°39’49.98″E

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my post on being a targeting analyst.

If you want to test your skills, check out @quiztime on Twitter. Quiztime offers new IMINT/GEOINT challenges every week.


Pandas, Puppies and Burnout

It has been a heck of a time in our house for these last two weeks with everything seemingly in a perfect storm of flux.

As the saying goes, life isn’t about learning to wait til the storm passed but rather how to dance in the rain. These past two weeks have been full of new dance steps, learning hard and fast about what works and what doesn’t during this time of intense change.

All within a two week span, we came back from a month of travel, welcomed an au-pair into our home, had the kids start at a new school with a new routine and new traditions, and then took on three 6-week-old foster puppies.

With all the changes in our house, and us still trying to figure out what the new baseline will be, there came a point where I hit the wall.

Everyday felt chaotic and full of surprises. There was a mad rush one morning to find our daughter’s her new panda hair-clips she got as a gift from our au pair. The puppies were constantly growing, changing, and learning new skills… like how to climb stairs. The kids wanted to switch transportation modes to school daily. Not to mention the slow trod uphill through emails about work and kids activities we needed to sign up for.

In the craziness of trying to be superdad, I stopped paying attention to my own needs and being realistic with my own time.

Knowing your limits and articulating your needs can be difficult.

I fell back on my old daily journaling habits to help me through what I was experiencing. My method is not unique, but it is simple and I want to share it with you because it works.

Here are the three things I do to help me, and now you can do them too:

1. Prioritize your objectives

When you wake up, take a look through your calendar. Pick your top 3 most important goals for that day. These goals are things that will leave you feeling fulfilled and energized by day’s end.

Determine the most efficient order to get your tasks done in. Work smarter, not harder by arranging your day to work for you.

Be realistic with your time, and how long each item will take. Build in time buffers for bio breaks, rest, and unforeseen circumstances.

2. Observe your use of energy and time

During the day, keep notes about what took more or less time or energy than expected. Did you leave the house at a good time or did you hit traffic? Did the boss drop some last-minute project on your desk? Did the meeting with your client leave you feeling drained or ready to bounce back?

3. Reflect on what you saw

At the end of the day, look back and see what part of your plan worked, what didn’t, and how it could be adjusted to better set yourself up for the next day.

With lots of moving parts, it can be easy to get swept up in the mix.
By sticking to these steps, you can handle whatever life throws you with ease.

Take the first step in setting yourself up for success.

This method works so well, we made a downloadable PDF called Plan – Execute – Reflect.

Use it everyday to give yourself more time, more energy and less hassle.


Corporate Espionage

It starts with a LinkedIn message.

You are a mid-career professional who is hungry and looking to grow your business. Maybe you’re a recent grad looking to expand your network. Bottom line is you’re actively searching for ways to get ahead. Then, out of thin air – a message pops up. This drive can become a vulnerability.

“Alan” says you can help him and make money.

He tells you that you are the perfect candidate for his consulting offer. You’ve got the right subject matter expertise and he is willing to pay you for it. The best part is, he says that YOU can name your price.

Then comes the pitch.

He just needs to ask a few questions first about a program for his client. You ask who the client is. “An investor” he says. “They just want to understand the product better”. Then he redirects the conversation back to the money.

If it sounds too good to be true…

This LinkedIn experience happened to me and I couldn’t wait to share it.
Background: my subject matter expertise is “finding things”. I find people, places, documents, you name it. I’ve been finding needles in stacks of needles for over a decade and I am really good at it.

After a little digging, and some pointed questions, I learned that my alarm bells were justified.

Alan was trying to give me money in exchange for information. His pitch was an attempt to leverage the human need for money to gain restricted information about a competitor’s product.

The company was performing corporate espionage, leveraging human needs.

You might be wondering what tipped me off about the message in the first place. To understand that, you need to understand the basics of how leverage works.

Leverage is like MICE. They are everywhere.

Back in the days of the OSS and then the Cold War, a mnemonic device was used to help intel officers remember the different “levers” to gain information from a target. M: money / reward; I: ideology; C: coercion; E: ego. Three of these are elements of any good sales pitch, which is why they are also used by covert operators the world over to get intelligence.

Now, back to the message.

1. Alan was offering to pay me, without knowing me or my specific knowledge.

2. Alan was willing to be flexible with my schedule.

3. Alan told me I could name my hourly rate.

These three alarms told me that whatever information his client was after was worth a lot and they were willing to bend over backwards to get it.

Remember your ABC’s.

A. Assuming nothing.

B. Believe no one.

C. Challenge everything.

When you work in intelligence, you rely on these rules every day to insure the integrity of your deliverables.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.


Whats in your (backup) wallet?

Here is an @ospreypacks rfid blocking money belt that I modified to have a few extra compartments.

Inside, I carry my passport card from @statedept , in case my regular one gets lost or stolen.

I also have a single sheet of @riteintherain paper with important numbers and addresses on it.

Bandaids (multi-use adhesive device for more than just booboos.)

Ibuprofen and Benadryl, in case a pharmacy isn’t nearby and I need to control swelling, a headache or an allergic reaction.

A small brass housed compass from @countycomm_gov

And finally, a micro SD card with ID and travel docs for everyone in my party.

It still has plenty of room for cash as well (not pictured).

This setup is lightweight and gives me peace of mind while we go from place to place.

🧦 Spotting A “Sock”🧦

There are a lot of fake accounts out there, but not all are created equal.

There are those accounts that I typically think of as ‘bots’ accounts. These are the internet’s version of robocalls – with links in their profiles and sexually explicit photos. They will often message you, trying to get you to click those links with the goal of stealing your information or infecting your computer with some malicious code.

To deal with bots, simply ignore the message.

There are accounts designed to look and act like a real person to the social media platform called sock puppets.

A “sock puppet account”, or ‘sock’ for short, is a fake account used by a person or an organization to gain information. It can be thought of as the modern version of an alias and they are used by both white hat and black hat actors in the OSINT space. This post will show you some ways you can spot them.

Here are four red flags that I found on a recent follower account that yield a high probability of the follower being a sock account.

🚩 1: The profile picture does not match the rest of the person’s photos

Take a look at the profile picture. The person in that photo is clearly fair skinned with blonde hair. However, the woman in the posted photos is dark haired and olive skinned.

🚩 2: The photos do not feature any positively identifiable features

Looking at the account above, you find no views of the persons face. You may say “they like to be private”. However, their profile photo features a face, so why hide it elsewhere?

This is an indicator that profile photo and the photos in the account likely do not feature the same person.

🚩 3: Photos are posted in a repeated and systematic fashion.

Look at the frequency and regularity of the posts. The posts from this account are posted every day around the same time window.

Are they posted at a regular interval?

(Posting at a regular interval mimics real-life postings of real people, and is a way to maintain a good sock puppet profile page without being flagged by social media algorithms. At least not right away.)

🚩 4: If the photos are found to be copied from other sources

The photo on the left – posted October 14th 2022 was found to be a repost of the photo on the right, originally posted August 1st, 2019.

One way to verify the authenticity of a post is to run it through a reverse image search like Google Images, TinEye, or Yandex.

So you think you’ve found a sock account, now what?

If you are concerned that a sock account may be following you, chances are its nothing to worry about. Remove the follower, block the account, and move along with your day.

On the other hand, if the follower is on your children’s (under 18) social media account, reporting it to the platform is a good move.

Stay tuned for more #OSINT related insights!

The Ideal Hotel

Pick A Hotel That Holds Your Safety In High Regard.

Time and time again, it has been proven in the security industry that the human element is the weakest link when it comes to our safety, security and privacy.
This is no different in the hospitality industry.

If your hotel clerk clearly says your room number or any other personally identifiable information (PII) that can let someone across the lobby know who you are and what room you are in, that is not ok. Kindly remind them that discretion is a key part of a safe stay, and ask for another room. Then notify a manager so that the best practices of the hotel can be updated.

I once stayed at a hotel where the manager reminded the concierge to slide my room number to me without announcing it. Out of curiosity I asked why and she said “in case you are being followed or stalked, so that no one can overhear your room number.” (This is a hotel I will be revisiting and recommending!)

Choosing A Room.

In true spy-geek fashion, I give a nod to Michael Westen from Burn Notice. In the pilot, he asks for a hotel room – “I don’t want a view. Facing a wall, something with no windows, if you have it. Far from the elevators, close to the exits – if you have it.”

In my experience, these criteria are unrealistic – who doesn’t want a window?! And what client doesn’t want a view? But I digress… There are a few nuggets of information here so lets boil it down.

1. No view. What is he trying to protect against?
If he has a view from his room, it is likely that someone has a view of his room, and could see him, gain positive ID, determine when and where he is, etc. If his room had a balcony, that also provides an avenue for someone to enter the room surreptitiously.

Real world solution: Be conscious of your view and what information it gives to other people. Pull your shades whenever possible to prevent giving away your own information about your activities.

Historical note – the templar knights did not have balconies on their outward facing walls, as they recognized it was a major security risk, allowing an enemy to scale and gain entry to their buildings.

2. Far from the elevators, close to the exits. When traveling with kids, or simply a huge amount of luggage, minimizing the amount of walking can be enticing. However, for several reasons, being close to the elevators does not give you much advantage. If anything, it handicaps you in an emergency.

Real world solution: Getting a room that is close to the stairs is a great option. Most guests do not use the stairs, meaning that your room will likely be quieter because it is away from the majority of the foot traffic. Also, in the event of a fire or evacuation, the elevators will be out of service, but its your lucky day because you’re right next to the stairwell!

Adding to Michael Westen’s criteria…

3. Floors 3-5 are best. Most fire trucks only have a ladder of 120′, which roughly translates to the 5th floor. Anything above that and you are going to have to find your own way down from a burning building.

The first and second floors are most easily accessible to burglaries and breaking and entering.

In light of these facts and statistics, it’s best to stick to floors 3-5 ( floors 2-4 in Europe).

(Fun fact: the ground floor in Europe is not ‘1’ but ‘0’.)

Orienting Yourself.

Once you get your room, its time to get familiar with the hotel layout.

After you get your room key, take a lap around the lobby. Learn where the amenities are. Make a map in your mind of where the pool, spa, breakfast bar and business rooms are – and while doing so, note the stair wells, exits and emergency equipment. End your lap with the elevator to your room.

Once you get to your room, set your bag down but before you lay down and let out a big sigh of relief, turn yourself around and face the door. There you should find a schematic showing the emergency escape route, with all exits, extinguishers and other emergency equipment marked. Take a photo with your phone for reference if you like.

Armed with this knowledge, it’s time to go for a walk and locate each one of the following elements on your floor:
1. Closest stairwell
2. Second closest stairwell
3. Which stairwell has roof access
4. Confirm placement of fire extinguishers
5. Note any service elevators and service stairwells

Some buildings have stairwells that lead through employees only sections prior to going outside. Others lead right into the lobby. Before the stairs become your only option, take a trip up and down them so you know where they lead to.

Inspecting Your Room.

Now that you’re familiar with your floor, its time to check out your room.
Check that your room has:
1. A working lock
2. Functioning lights
3. Functioning phone
4. Sprinkler head
5. Smoke alarm
6. Room safe
7. Windows (Do they open?)
8. Balcony (Is it a shared balcony? Can someone feasibly enter from a neighboring room?)
9. Door to a neighboring suite. (Does it lock properly from your side?)

Insuring Your Privacy

Insuring Your Privacy

Here are some low-tech and low-cost ways to insure the privacy of your room.

1. Get a rubber door wedge. These things are cheap, light weight, and there is nothing illegal or concerning about them.

– Placing the wedge against the floor and your door will stop any unwanted access while you are sleeping. –

2. Checking for hidden cameras. Close the curtains and turn the lights off in your hotel room. If there are hidden cameras, they will likely switch to infrared at this time, due to the lower ambient light. Now, using your selfie camera, scan the room over your shoulder, looking for any light sources that are not visible to your naked eye. (To make sure this works with your phone, face the TV remote at your camera and hold a button down. You should see a red light on your phone screen where the remote’s IR transmitter is.)

And you may ask, “But should you check for other more sophisticated bugs?” What if someone is listening in on us?

My short answer to that is – “No.” I don’t personally recommend using any sort of scanner to check for listening devices. If you are caught doing so by the listening party, especially when traveling in a foreign country, it will be assumed first that you are a spy. In their eyes, why else would you be using sophisticated tech to insure a clean room?

Looking for a camera is easily done with a phone and explainable. Looking for an audio bug – not so much. If you are concerned, just operate as though someone is listening and act accordingly.


In the real world, the ideal hotel may be hard to find. Having a set of criteria to look for will help you pick the best available option.

To keep it really simple, learn the building layout, bring a door stop, and take the stairs.

Now get out there and explore. Safe travels and stay vigilant!

Travel Tips – Part 2

Make A Daily Carry ‘Go-Bag’

Preparing for your most-likely daily pitfalls will keep you ready for anything.

Your go-bag is meant to get you through your worst day. Let’s start with the basics.

  1. Water

Hydration is key to several natural processes in the human body.
Having water on hand will help you regulate through a number of stressful situations.

  1. Snacks

Quick calories give us energy to stay sharp and give you a cognitive boost.
Having high calorie dense foods like dates or nuts will recharge your body and mind. 

  1. Local map & compass

Along with a good local map, having a compass lets you navigate when you can’t otherwise get your bearings.

  1. First-aid & daily medication

Having a basic first-aid kit including a few band-aids, triple antibiotic ointment, moleskin, aspirin, ibuprofen, and an extra set of daily medications will set you up for success. Your environment and your daily routine will dictate what you put into your kit. 

  1. Local currency in small bills

When it’s late at night, and you have to go into a convenience store in an unfamiliar place, you don’t want to pull a US $100 bill out of your sock. Carrying small bills, spread out around your person will give you easy access to cash and help you keep a low profile.

With these items close at hand, you will be ready for the most likely scenarios, and have a solid foundation to help you through all the what-if’s as well.

Educating Teens About Trafficking

Growing up in New Jersey in the 90’s, the world was a bit smaller than it is today.

Places like the west coast seemed like another world and other countries were things we read about in history books and saw on the news. To book a trip to a foreign country would take planning and lots and lots of saving. Most middle class families like mine looked at air travel as a luxury. Even traveling from coast to coast was often done with the family car in typical “road trip” fashion.

Since the 90’s however, travel has become much simpler.

With a few taps of your phone, you can have a ticket booked to an exotic location of your choice. People can even book a trip for someone else. But what if that person is a minor?

TSA does not currently require minors to present identification for domestic flights.

On August 31st 2017, two teenage girls age 15 and 17 were stopped by an American Airlines customer service agent in the Sacramento Airport. As they checked in for their flight, the agent realized they had no identification, no adult traveling with them and that the tickets were one-way.

The American Airlines employee was concerned and immediately alerted local authorities.

The girls told police that they had come to the airport without their parents’ knowledge, and believed their contact in New York had bought returned tickets.

You may say “my kid wouldn’t do that” so let’s unpack this a bit more.

These girls were found through Instagram and lured to New York for the weekend with the promise of earning $2,000 for modeling and appearing in music videos. For a teenager, being seen and feeling valued is hard enough to pass up. When there is a paycheck and free travel attached, its practically a no-brainer.

This process is called “grooming” and it is used often in human trafficking.

Grooming is a series of manipulative steps that can make someone take action that they otherwise wouldn’t do. If someone asked you to cross a street for $1, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye. If that street were turned into a busy 4 lane highway, your answer may change. But if the number went up to $1,000, $10,000, or even $100,000, would you change your mind? Better yet, what if someone said they could provide you a helicopter that went across the highway, that would keep you safe?

Traffickers often target people’s need to feel important, and to earn a living.

The CIA breaks down human needs with the acronym: RICE. This stands for Reward, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego. These needs are used as levers to pull and make people act in a predictable or desired way. As the saying goes, everyone eats RICE and everyone relates to these levers in different degrees. Some people react more with the promise of money (reward). Others with a feeling of belonging or a sense of purpose (ideology).

In the case of the two teenage girls, they were targeted using ego and reward. They were told they would be featured as models and in music videos, and they would be well paid for their time.

“What can I do as a parent to safeguard my children against this?”

When kids are young, you are their hero. You magically know the answer to everything and are trusted at your word – often to a fault. This relationship dynamic primes us as parents to want to fulfill that hero role as our children grow into young adults.

Being involved in your child’s life, especially in the teenage years can be hard. If you’re anything like me, you probably remember most conversations from your teens going like this:

Teen comes home from school

😃 Mom: Hey honey, how was your day?

😑 Me: Good.

End scene

This can be a hard barrier to break down.

Positioning yourself as a guide rather than a hero can strengthen your relationship.

If you try to be the hero to your teenager, they will shut you out every time. They don’t want to be saved. They want to explore and they want to do so independently. It is up to us as parents to guide them as they do. You won’t have an answer to everything, but there are three tools that you can use to be a guide:

1. Listen.

Take the time and effort to listen thoughtfully. Approach their lives with genuine curiosity and interest. Leave your preconceived notions at the door and listen with intention. Resist the urge to listen to half their story, then immediately try to relate with your own personal experience. If you do this, you will likely shut them down. Instead, convey that what they are going through is unique to them – because it is. Meet them where they are.

2. Equip.

Talk to your children about the real threats and dangers in the world. Explain why it is important to not disclose personally identifiable information on the internet, or trust people you meet online. Learn about and discuss the realities of trafficking, and unravel the narrative that will turn into Liam Neeson and come save them from a brothel. Equip them to make smart decisions about their internet habits and relationships.

Bark.com provides a number of talking points and ways to approach this difficult conversations on their blog site.

3. Empower.

Remind them that you are always there to be the hero – but your primary role now is as a guide. In this new role, you are there to help them find their own way. You can make observations, and be a guiding light. Tell them about times you’ve been targeted by a phishing email or received an unsolicited message.

A friend once told me that as a parent, we are shaping arrows. The intent was never for them to stay in the quiver, but to be shot out into the world. The best we can do is make sure they fly straight.

Evacuation Planning

When it comes to emergency preparedness, having a plan before things get crazy is the key to making the right decisions.

When the human brain perceives danger, cortisol levels spike and we are prone to make emotion, irrational decisions.

One way to make better decision under stress is through stress inoculation. This includes things like military bootcamp, ice baths, and training regimens of elite athletes. However these methods take time to become truly effective, and if not routinely practiced, their benefits will diminish.

A second way that is available to everyone and can be used immediately is a plan.

To make an effective plan, it is important to start with what you want to accomplish.

At the time of this post, in SouthEast Georgia, we are preparing for Hurricane Ian to make landfall in Tampa, FL later this week.

My main goal is to keep my family safe during and after the weather event.

Part of my emergency preparedness plan includes an Evacuation Plan.

The goal of my evacuation plan is to help me and my family decide if and when to relocate, and how to do so.

Step 1: Should I stay or should I go?

Determine what deciding factors will make you leave your home. Focus on objective elements. It may be that the Governor orders a mandatory evacuation. It may be that wind and rain data anticipate flood waters that will submerge our region. Or it could be that we need to leave due to some other medical or infrastructure related emergency.

Whatever your reasons, they need to be based in objective fact. If your home is 13 feet above sea level and you know that the ocean will rise over 15 feet, that is an objective reason to leave.

What is the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?

Side note: a hurricane “watch” means that a hurricane is possible whereas a “warning” means they are expected.

Step 2: What should I bring?

If you make the decision to leave, have enough food and medical supplies for at least a few days.

In our case, we have a bin in the garage labeled “hurricane box”. Inside it, we have vitamins, NSAIDs (ibuprofen and acetaminophen for adults and kids), a first-aid kit, pet food, and people food that is relatively consistent with our normal diet*. For food, we’ve got family staples like mac and cheese, rice packets, oatmeal and tunafish. All of these things will be happily incorporated back into our normal pantry at the end of this year’s hurricane season.

*I’ve learned personally, and corroborated with several people in military and prepping communities that having one of those 72-hour food buckets is great as a last resort. However, if you actually plan to eat it, be ready to have a stomach ache or two. The high levels of sodium and processed food means that your body will require more water to break down those foods. And if the ingredients are way outside your normal, your body may take some time to adjust.

Step 3: Where do I go now?

Break your route up into sections based on:
– travel time and
– direction.

Time: draw circles around your current location that represent how far you can go in 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours and 5 hours.

Direction: pick your possible directions of travel, using major routes and noting potential side routes as back-up in case highways are closed or inaccessible.

Once you’ve established your timing and directions, locate the following at each intersection on the map:
– accommodation
– medical facility
– fuel station
– food resupply

As an example, if you plan to travel North, you will need to find a suitable hotel or lodging, hospital, gas station and grocery store at your 30-minute circle, 1, 2 and 5 hour circles.

Continue to do this for each potential direction of travel until you’ve filled out each intersection on your map.

Bonus points if you call on your inner OSINT analyst and use a service such as Google Street View to know what places look like ahead of time!

Having this type of a plan in place will help you navigate yourself and your family to safety in changing conditions.

How Can Private Intelligence Help NGOs?

Empowering Action Through Certainty

Intelligence reports provide decision makers with a statistically-based prediction of the future.

NGOs often work in challenging environments and with limited budgets. Intelligence reports help NGOs make decisions about how to improve their work. Private intelligence firms provide NGOs with objective assessments of the issues at hand, allowing them to make better decisions for their clients.

But what exactly is an intelligence report?”

Thats a fantastic question, and I would love to answer it for you.

An intelligence report is a report of information that gives the reader insight into a specific topic (e.g. a person, region, or event). This report provides a level of certainty and understanding about the chosen topic. With this certainty, efforts can be focused on what matters.

Companies can use intelligence reports to make better operational and financial decisions.

Say your mining company wants to explore rich veins in a mountainous region. Before proceeding, they may need to understand the geopolitical climate of the people living in the area, or the typical weather patterns to determine what type of equipment would be required.

Humanitarian aid groups working abroad can insure their team gets to their destination safely, and prepped to do the most good.

An aid group could request a travel briefing and regional advisory report explaining what the best routes to and from camp are, and what local customs may help or hinder aid work once they get settled.

Intelligence reports can also assist in the event of a crisis.

No one wants to get the call that their team has been kidnapped. But these events unfortunately do happen. A group of missionaries in Haiti were kidnapped and held for ransom in October 2021 by a local criminal gang. (Al Jazeera)

Groups such as InterAction and Prevail provide high level intelligence services from risk management to threat assessments to kidnap and ransom assistance.

BLUF: Intelligence reports are a tool for NGOs to leverage to help them achieve their missions quickly, safely and in budget.

Thieves, Cameras and Sneakers

In an ideal world, a security camera can identify a suspect or a victim.

Sadly we do not live in an ideal world, and not all security cameras are created equal. The ability to identify someone depends on the camera’s capabilities including FPS and resolution among other things.

When it comes to cameras, you get what you pay for.

The better the camera, the better the identification capability. With a high-end 5K resolution camera from a reputable manufacturer, you can get great facial definition of someone running by even at low light, and make out the majority of license plates during the day.

But if you have a cheaper camera, you aren’t out of luck.

Even when someone is running in low light, there is a chance to get quality data. The key is knowing where to look!

When we lived in Baltimore, we banded together with a handful of neighbors to make an effective network of security cameras covering several blocks. Some had those really high-end cameras while others had more simple, cost effective IP models.

That being said, the capabilities of all the different cameras meant that pulling viable footage from any one location at any time was not guaranteed. Where one camera could clearly display a license plate of a car going 35mph, others could only show a blur of a vehicle.

As the old adage says, two heads are better than one – and a neighborhood watch surveillance network was born.

Over time we learned what each person’s camera limitations were and played to their strengths. Eventually, we solidified our understanding of what each camera could see, and what time of day or night they would be most useful.

When an incident occurred, we would let all camera owners know what time window to look at, and begin the process of viewing, analyzing and compiling footage to be sent to local law enforcement.

No matter how low or high quality the cameras were, the one piece of information that all cameras were able to show were shoes.

As a human runs, your front foot lands, connects to the ground, and you push back off. This process takes about .33 seconds on average. This third of a second window is long enough for a camera to capture a still shot allowing you to give credible data to the police.

After a crime is committed, most criminals understand instinctually that changing their appearance is beneficial.

Someone running from a crime will often change their appearance by putting on a sweatshirt or taking off a hat. This is known in the world of covert operations as “light disguise” or “Level 1 Disguise”. The purpose is to break your physical profile so that someone who knows you would not immediately recognize you from 30 feet away.

Changing a shirt, a sweatshirt, even pulling off a pair of sweats and leaving shorts on takes very little effort to a skilled individual. These changes all require very basic, gross motor movements.

However, a person is not likely to change their shoes with the same ease.

Changing your shoes takes planning and fine motor skills.

One of the first things to go when the human body experiences an adrenaline rush is fine motor skills – and our neighborhood watch surveillance group capitalized on this fact.

By paying attention to the shoes of people present in camera footage before and after criminal activity, we were able to determine where a suspect came from and went to after committing a crime. Many times, this led to getting better footage of the person walking at a slower pace either before or after the incident – resulting in identifiable facial images that were provided to law enforcement.

BLUF: You don’t need the best camera on the market to provide quality data to law enforcement about criminal activities.

Travel Tips – Part 1

Finding your way…

Get A Local Map

When you first hit the ground in a new city or unfamiliar location, the fastest way to get your bearings, literally, is with an accurate tourist map.

Tourist maps are chock full of the most popular (and likely safest and vetted) restaurants, parks and attractions.

But not all maps are created equal. In this post, we will discuss the three MOST IMPORTANT criteria your ideal map should have, and why.

Having a physical, local map with key locations marked is invaluable and should be a top priority when going to a new area.

The ideal map should meet these criteria:

  1. Be to scale

The map should be laid out with appropriate spatial relations, with streets and spaces in between them accurately displayed. Too often, advertising companies try to get into the map-making business and create colorful, eye-catching maps that are completely inaccurate.

  1. Have most street names displayed

A map is only as good as the information on it. Some maps are so focused on advertising, they forget to give you the essential data to reach a store.
Annotating the locations of nearby hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores is also an excellent habit.

  1. Show a compass rose

Make sure that the map you use shows the cardinal directions, North, South, East, West.
Another tip is to note large landmarks in the area, and their relation to each other. That way, when you find yourself at one location but you can see two of your landmarks, you will know which direction you are facing, even if you don’t have a compass.

Aside from your physical map, having a downloaded map in your phone will help during the day-to-day.

For a solid mobile map application, I recommend the app “maps.me”. (I am not affiliated with or endorsed by maps.me.)

It features a detailed, downloadable area map that can work offline, without cell service or wifi.

BLUF: Having a printed map of the local area in your pocket or purse will make you more self-sufficient as you travel, and you won’t be stranded like the average tourist when your phone dies.

What is a ‘Travel Briefing’?

Imagine arriving in a foreign city for a business trip.

It is 23:39 local time, and you’ve just deplaned.
You’re tired and hungry and you have to catch the 7:05 train to a meeting in a nearby city tomorrow morning.

Most people travel by hoping and guessing along the way.

As you fumble through the airport, looking for signs for the taxi stand, your stomach pangs. You grab your bags and eventually find the taxi stand. As you hail a cab, you realize that you have no idea which direction your hotel is or how to get there and you hope that the cabbie is a nice person and won’t rip you off with a ‘scenic’ route.

It is well past midnight when you get checked in to your hotel and start to look for food. The clerk who checked you in has magically vanished and you are stuck wandering the nearby streets, guessing which direction will lead you to decent food that won’t make you sick.

A travel briefing takes out the guesswork and sets you up for success.

Now, imagine that you get off the plane and know exactly where to hail a cab and which major routes lead to your hotel. You have a local map with several vetted places to grab a bite to eat, which areas to stay away from, and the train station clearly marked for your early departure in the morning.

Not only do you know the local eateries and hot spots, but you also know the local politics, geography and climate as they pertain to your specific needs. Your lodging has been vetted to meet safety and security standards and you know where to go and who to call if you need help.

Don’t let hopes and guesses ruin your travel experience.

Before your next trip abroad, consider a Travel Briefing customized to your needs.

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