Surveillance Mapping

Surveillance Mapping is a term we use to describe the mapping out of the area around a given property, as it relates to potential surveillance vantage points, and the information that can be collected on the property from those vantage points.
As had been explained in a previous article, a vantage point is a location from which a hostile surveillance operative can conduct surveillance, and a good surveillance vantage point is one that will give the operative access to a large amount of visual information, while allowing him/her to collect this information covertly.

I find that the idea of a fortress makes for a good analogy here. Many people think that fortresses are made to be impenetrable, which is quite incorrect. The general idea of a fortress is simply to narrow down the probable avenues of attack, and then concentrate more attention on those avenues, instead of thinly spreading your attention over all locations equally. Ultimately, there is no such thing as an impenetrable fortress because even fortresses have weaknesses. Any entrance, for example, is an obvious weakness, and yet, what would be the point of a fortress with no entrances? The idea is simply to limit as much as possible the number of such weaknesses, and then understand and protect the remaining ones as best you can.

In order to fully understand the weaknesses in your property, you need to find out where your adversary can observe these weaknesses from in the first place. After all, the knowledge about your facility’s weaknesses does not simply materialize in the mind of an attacker, it must first be observed – and must be observed from somewhere, i.e. a vantage point.

The two important questions to ask at this point are: Where are your facility’s security weaknesses, and where are the possible vantage points from which these weaknesses can be observed? Anyone can come up with their own ideas about their own security weaknesses, but this type of self examination has a tendency to become circular and misleading. Checking one’s own security level is about as effective as asking yourself how you feel; which is to say that it’s not completely useless, but it’s not exactly an objective representation of reality either.

Most human beings are naturally optimistic, and from my experience, I have noticed that most security managers and directors are no exception. Left to conduct their own vulnerability assessments, most managers and directors will tend to fall into what is known as Confirmation Bias. If you don’t actually want to find any security problems in your facility, you probably won’t.

The problem is that potential attackers do actually want to find security problems at your facility, which therefore makes them much more likely to find what security managers and directors cannot. It’s quite sobering to realize that a potential attacker is probably looking at your facility’s security situation much more objectively than you are – carefully weighing the various risk/benefit ratios, and dispassionately comparing the vulnerabilities and gaps in your property to those of other potential targets (more about the Hostile Planning Process here).

The best way to begin dealing with this is to look at your facility in the same way that a hostile entity would – or rather have your facility looked at in the same way that a hostile entity would. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider hiring a trusted external consultant who can more objectively observe the property; mapping out the various weaknesses and vantage points without allowing biased opinions to cloud their judgement.

The next question to ask is how can surveillance mapping help to better protect your facility? The answer to this question has three parts:

1. Determining where the weaknesses and strengths of the facility are – what it is about specific locations in the facility itself that constitutes either a weakness or a strength, and why? From my experience, I find that many facilities determine their weaknesses and strengths quite incorrectly (something I don’t completely blame them for since, as I’ve mentioned, it’s very difficult to self examine such things).

2. Locate the potential vantage points around the facility – the places from which a hostile surveillance operative can learn about your facility’s weaknesses. These two sets of locations (vantage points in the Outer Circle and weaknesses in the Inner Circle) are intrinsically connected, since the former is where hostile surveillance is located, and the latter is what hostile surveillance is looking at.

3. Determine how to better cover the vantage points and better protect the weaknesses. This can be done by: a) Targeting the vantage points – making sure that anyone who occupies them is detected and receives security attention, beginning (and usually ending) with polite acknowledgement, but escalating if necessary. (more about the subject here). The use of security camera systems can also come into play, as long as the cameras are pointed at the right locations, and the footage is used in combination with security responses. b) Strengthen the weakness at the facility itself – make sure to better control access into the facility, better monitor the immediate exterior of the facility, and in general, paint a less inviting picture (less easy) for a would-be attack planner who might be observing.

Though each of these methods can be used on its own, I strongly recommend that they be combined into a formidable one-two punch. Don’t give hostile surveillance anything inviting to look at, and make sure they have no safe place from which to look at it in the first place.

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11 thoughts on “Surveillance Mapping

  1. Very interesting term. I am a force protection consultant and would like to now use this term and methods as described on my website. Would that be ok with you, it is a very good term with a well laid out definition.

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