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Executive Protection

5 Steps for Successful Executive Protection Planning

There’s no doubt about it: your people are your most valuable assets to protect. That’s why it’s increasingly important to have an executive protection plan as part of your greater security strategy.

The Value of Prioritizing Executive Protection

High profile individuals face growing online threats, which can even result in real-world physical danger. Prioritizing executive protection is critical.

Executives with high online visibility or individuals who handle sensitive information are prime targets for cyberattacks, which require rigorous monitoring systems, better threat intelligence, and effective remediation capabilities. 

A strong executive protection plan is critical for securing executives in today's information-driven world. Adopting holistic security measures and advanced cybersecurity safeguards aids in risk management and threat detection throughout the surface, deep, and dark web. 

Extending protection beyond internal defenses provides the highest level of security for high-profile persons, such as celebrities, law enforcement personnel, C-Suite executives, military personnel, and other high-net-worth individuals. This strategic development of executive protection services has become critical as new risks demand timely and proactive responses. 

Organizations can enhance situational awareness and safeguard their key personnel from security risks with a dedicated executive protection specialist and a thorough risk assessment.

A strong executive protection planning program should include the following:

  • Monitoring and detection for threats such as impersonations, stolen credentials, and others across social media, surface web, and Deep and Dark Web
  • High-fidelity alerts for physical threats and disruptive events that pose a risk to key executives and their families
  • Reputation protection to safeguard customer engagement
  • Executive threat intelligence, reporting, and risk assessments
  • Takedown capabilities for removing fraudulent profiles and offending content
  • Ongoing monitoring and removal of personal information from data broker websites

The 4 Growing Threats to High Profile Individuals

In today's digital age, high-profile individuals face an array of privacy, safety, and reputation risks. Among these, four dangers stand out for their prevalence and potential impact. Zerofox, leveraging its substantial cybersecurity expertise, sheds light on these vulnerabilities, stressing the crucial need for vigilant monitoring and proactive measure.

Threat actors may use a combination of tactics that put executives at risk – ranging from the rudimentary to more evolved.

  • Phishing
    Impersonations, account takeovers, and business email compromise campaigns help adversaries trick everyday users into thinking they are someone else and gain the trust of others online. They may then exploit that trust to persuade employees or customers into sharing sensitive information, funds, or access via email or social channels.
  • Executive Extortion And Ransomware Campaigns
    Extortion and ransomware are prevalent threats, especially when private information has already leaked to a bad actor. These actors will coerce victims into paying a ransom in exchange for restoring access to systems and data or prevent sensitive information from becoming public and causing reputational damage. Actors may even create kidnapping scams in an effort to extort someone into sending ransom money.
  • Data Leakage
    An adversary with access to private information can leak proprietary data or dox an executive (releasing personal information like addresses and phone numbers) to create real harm. Additionally, illicit marketplaces exist in the Underground Economy where threat actors profit from the sale of stolen data.
  • Harassment and/or Physical Threats
    When travel plans are inadvertently exposed, executives may face physical threats or harassment. Additionally, actors may brazenly post violent threats or aim to incite harm targeting an executive on social media, putting the individual and their family’s personal safety at risk.

5 Steps to Creating a Comprehensive Executive Protection Strategy

Step 1: Identifying Assets in Executive Protection Planning

The first step in the creation of your comprehensive executive protection strategy is to map out who to protect. You’ll want to include executives and VIPs, but don’t limit protection policies and protected assets to the C-suite. It’s important to protect other key employees if they have access to sensitive information, are highly visible, have a large social media following, or are in a public-facing role.

A few examples of high-value individuals you may need to protect include:

  • Public figures
  • Talent/Celebrities
  • Athletes
  • Highly visible employees
  • Employees with access to high-value information
  • Executives and directors

For example, imagine that your HR director is spoofed on LinkedIn. The fake account may create a fraudulent job listing on a few different job sites, tricking applicants into sending their personal information. Not only will this tarnish your company’s reputation in the job market, but it can also erode trust between customers or potential candidates.

Furthermore, you’ll want to include location addresses relevant to a protected person, such as their home, office, or frequent travel locations. Monitoring for physical threats or disruptive events occurring in or around these locations is important to avoid risks to physical safety.

The ZeroFox Advantage: Proactive Alert Policies

ZeroFox can apply protective alert policies for VIPs, executives, highly visible employees, and personnel with sensitive data or information access. Some of these policies include executive impersonations, high-risk mentions, and data exposures. ZeroFox can also monitor targeted locations that are relevant to all protected persons.

Learn how ZeroFox can help 

Step 2: Using AI and Automation for Advanced Executive Protection

Protecting your VIPs requires a comprehensive approach to threat data collection. You’ll need a solution to continuously monitor, collect, and analyze millions of data points across the web. 

To ensure your leaders aren’t being impersonated, you’ll need to continuously monitor for fake accounts and take immediate action to remove them before they can do damage. You’ll also need to monitor your protected peoples’ public accounts to avoid inadvertent sharing of credentials, IP, or customer data. This includes watching new vectors of attack, such as AI-generated deepfake videos and advanced social engineering tactics that have become more prevalent in 2024. You must do this while monitoring malicious marketplaces and hacker forums (on the Dark Web and elsewhere) for potential exposure and sale of passwords, credentials, or attack chatter.

Locating and removing the offending content manually would take countless hours and resources. However, AI classifiers, advanced analysis models (such as OCR and facial comparison), and automation can help streamline the process.

Your executive threat protection solution should enable configuring automated alert rules and policies specific to your organization’s needs. For instance, you can build automated rules to alert your security team of any mentions of your executives or protected locations on known hacker forums or communities. Recent data indicates that Computers & Security showed that AI-based vulnerability scanners identified critical vulnerabilities in web applications with 95% accuracy. This automation will allow you to scale your solution better while eliminating noise.

Put simply, the functions of automation within a platform can complete suggested actions, such as providing alerts when something is amiss, be it an errant, noncompliant post or an employee-targeted scam. 

Based on these alerts, you can submit and process takedown actions, which refer to reporting the violating content to host providers such as social media networks, hosts, registrars, etc.

The benefit of automating some of these functions within a given platform can amount to millions of dollars in ROI.

The ZeroFox Advantage: Visibility with Platform Scans

The ZeroFox platform scans more than 7.7 million URLs and data sources weekly, creating visibility that a manual process would not be able to achieve. This translates to major financial value and cost optimization as it widens the ability to identify and remove offending content.

Case in point: According to a 2020 Forrester Total Economic Impact Report, the reduced cost of disrupting and taking down impersonating executive accounts with ZeroFox is $1.4M (a three-year, risk-adjusted present value).

Step 3: Integrating Human Intelligence into Your Executive Protection Planning Process

Relying on AI and automated processes is only half the solution. The next step is to deploy human intelligence to proactively triage, analyze, escalate, and enact a remediation plan. That’s because context and validation via expert human intelligence is a critical component of threat intelligence and operationalizing threat data.

Human intelligence is necessary to act on alerts found via AI – without this, you risk getting bogged down with false alerts, red flags, and misaligned expectations.

Let’s say the system alerts for an impersonation of a high-ranking executive. Before taking action, the alert must be vetted to ensure it meets the criteria of a fraudulent or spoofed account. To accomplish this, the SOC team validates the alert and confirms it’s a relevant threat. Additionally, the SOC will triage it, apply a risk assessment, and escalate it for further action (such as recommending it for takedown).

Human intelligence can also cut through the noise to quickly gauge the credibility of physical threats. This is crucial when there are dangers to public safety involving violence, emergency response situations, and natural disasters.

Finally, an expert analyst should provide deep dive assessments of executives and their related assets at regular intervals to identify risks, vulnerabilities, and malicious exploitation based on their digital footprints, along with key recommendations to mitigate digital risk.

You’ll also deploy human intelligence to create a briefing procedure for your security team and the people you protect following a takedown or thwarted attack.

The ZeroFox Advantage: 24x7x365 Threat Management

ZeroFox leverages a team of global SOC first-line threat experts who provide 24x7x365 managed services to review, triage, and escalate incidents and prioritize threats on your behalf.

See how we'll protect your VIPs in just 15-minutes.

Step 4: Proactive Measures to Mitigate Risks

Responding to real-time attacks is only one piece of the puzzle. Taking every appropriate prevention measure to reduce the attack surface is also critical. For example, a PII removal service can find and remove an executive or VIP’s personal information from data brokers who will sell that information to any party, including malicious adversaries. In the first eight months of 2023 alone, over 360 million people were victims of corporate and institutional data breaches.

When creating your strategy, it’s critical to remember that your protected assets can and should retain complete control over their own social media accounts, login credentials, and social media data. Enhanced security measures such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and regular security audits have become standard practices to further secure these accounts against unauthorized access.

The Security Administrator needs access to individual posts that pose a risk to you or your organization but shouldn’t be able to scour posts or access your social media accounts. Recent advancements in privacy-enhancing technologies ensure that monitoring can be done without overstepping privacy boundaries, adhering to the latest GDPR and CCPA regulations. 

Further, your team and solution provider must abide by all appropriate laws, regulations, and social network Terms of Service (ToS) regarding personal data. Regulators worldwide are increasingly monitoring this compliance, making it essential to stay updated on legislative changes to avoid substantial fines.

The ZeroFox Advantage: Commitment to Data Security and Privacy

ZeroFox takes the following precautions to ensure that information is kept secure and private:

  • Abiding by all laws and regulations, including GDPR requirements
  • Abiding by all social networks' Terms of Service
  • Never share or sell personal data of any kind
  • Providing the user the sole ability to choose what information, if any, admins and software will have access to protect
  • Adding a layer of permissions when a user connects a social media account, requiring them to explicitly allow close protection of their social media activity for each social network, using the network’s permission framework
  • Providing the ability for users to revoke access at any time directly from the social network

Step 5: Empower Executives through Education

As external cybersecurity threats such as social media takeovers and spoofed domains rise, executives and employees become the frontline of defense. They need proper tools and information to ensure security for everyone. To prevent future attacks, involve your VIPs in executive protection planning to help safeguard their privacy.

Attackers often rely on human error and lack awareness about current threats. However, this can be countered by decentralizing defense efforts. Help employees enhance their security settings and address critical issues while protecting their privacy and account integrity. Begin with central tools and comprehensive training programs to cover the basics.

Provide critical alerts and notifications to your leaders about potential risks, significant privacy or settings changes, and global security incidents. Utilize a vendor’s threat intelligence via finished reports, platform searches, or integrated feeds within your toolset. These resources enable quickly gathering and deploying insights, ensuring your organization remains secure.

The ZeroFox Advantage: Comprehensive Executive Threat Assessments

Executive Threat Assessments help key personnel understand risks, vulnerabilities, and malicious exploitation based on their digital footprints and key recommendations to mitigate those risks. ZeroFox assesses executive asset groups and related assets to identify risks, vulnerabilities, and malicious exploitation based on their digital footprints and get targeted recommendations to mitigate digital risk.

Keep Learning

Forrester has recognized ZeroFox as a leader in Digital Risk Protection with best-in-class takedown services.

Read this Forrester Total Economic Impact study to see how ZeroFox delivers a 267% Return on Investment.

Forrester has recognized ZeroFox as a <span class="text-fox-red">leader in Digital Risk Protection</span> with best-in-class takedown services.

ZeroFox has 700+ global disruption partners, including the biggest hosts, registrars, and social media platforms

ZeroFox has <span class="text-fox-red">700+ global disruption partners,</span> including the biggest hosts, registrars, and social media platforms

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