What is Executive Protection?
Executive protection refers to the cybersecurity monitoring, threat intelligence, and threat remediation capabilities used to protect corporate executives, VIPs, and other high-value targets from phishing, impersonation, business email compromise (BEC) and other digital attacks.
Corporate executives, high-ranking government officials, and celebrities are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals who aim to leverage their reputation and influence to victimize others. A cybercriminal impersonating an executive on social media or using a spoofed email address can trick unsuspecting victims into performing tasks, completing a fraudulent transaction, or divulging sensitive data.
The goal of executive protection is to monitor the public attack surface for fraudulent digital assets, such as fake social media accounts, spoofed domains, or fraudulent publications, and take action against the fraudsters to protect the executive’s reputation, safety, and personal brand.
Who Needs Executive Protection?
Executive protection monitors the public attack surface to identify and remediate cyberattacks that appropriate the executive’s identity in order to defraud their employees or other members of the public.
Most individuals who can benefit from executive protection may be divided into three broad categories: business leaders, government leaders, and celebrities. Here’s why executive protection is important for each of these three categories of high-profile individuals.
Business leaders at large companies are both powerful and influential. They often have a high personal net worth, the ability to allocate significant personal and business capital, and authority over a large number of employees. In addition to their personal brand, they represent companies with strong reputations and brand equity in the marketplace.
A cybercriminal who impersonates a business leader could use their power and influence to direct employees, authorize fraudulent transactions, or defraud customers of the business.
Government leaders include both monarchs and the elected leaders of democratic societies. Some government leaders are ceremonial figureheads with limited executive authority but significant personal influence, such as Queen Elizabeth II. Other government leaders hold significant executive authority, such as the President of the United States, who commands the world’s most powerful military. Government ministers and the heads of International delegations can also benefit from executive protection.
A cybercriminal who impersonates a government leader in a digital attack could use their executive authority to send fraudulent directives to government employees, extort private citizens, or damage diplomatic relations with trusted partners.
Celebrities that can benefit from executive protection include high-profile actors, directors, comedians, writers, recording artists, athletes, famous heirs and heiresses, and socialites.
While these celebrities generally lack the executive authority held by government and business leaders, they may have access to significant financial resources and a dedicated fan base that could be victimized by fraudsters.
A cybercriminal who impersonates a celebrity in a digital attack could attempt to steal personally identifying information from their followers, or direct their fans to donate money to a fraudulent fundraiser.
Why is Executive Protection Important?
Executive protection empowers business leaders, government leaders, and celebrities to detect and disrupt cybercriminals who would appropriate their identity to defraud their employees, fans, and other members of the public.
Here’s why it’s important for high-profile individuals to actively mitigate these types of attacks:
Preventing Financial Losses
Cybercriminals frequently impersonate business leaders in an attempt to steal financial assets from their organizations. The attacker might create a spoofed email account or a fake social media profile that impersonates the VIP, then direct employees of their organization to complete a fraudulent wire transfer to cybercriminals. Executive protection helps prevent the financial losses that can result from these impersonation attacks.
Maintaining Trust in Government Institutions
A cybercriminal impersonating a government official may attempt to steal public funds directly from the government. If they succeed, it reflects poorly on the government agencies that were defrauded and results in negative PR that harms public trust in the institution. Executive protection helps governments avoid being victimized by cybercriminals and maintain public trust in government institutions.
Preserving Reputation and Brand Value
Whether business leader, government official, or celebrity, nobody wants their name or personal brand associated with fraud. A VIP whose identity is misused by cybercriminals might have their reputation significantly damaged, especially if they are perceived to be at fault for failing to prevent the incident. This can have consequences that include job loss and degradation of individual or organizational brand value.
What are the Two Elements of Executive Protection?
Executive protection should provide critical visibility across the public attack surface, enabling SecOps teams to readily identify fraudulent digital assets and cyberattacks that target executive leaders or other VIPs.
Executive protection should include comprehensive protection from targeted attacks against executives, including account hijacking, impersonation attacks, and sensitive data leaks.
How Can ZeroFOX Help?
ZeroFOX provides cybersecurity monitoring, threat intelligence, and disruptive capabilities to dismantle external threats to executives across the public attack surface in one comprehensive platform. With ZeroFOX, business leaders, government officials and celebrities can protect themselves and their organizations from the financial losses and reputation damage that result from digital attacks.