​​​​​​​What can a horrific week of terrorism tell the world about the challenges faced every day by security professionals?

According to media reports, three of the four attacks were explicitly carried out by the Islamic State; the other, in Lahore, was the work of others whose creed is similar to that of the militant organization. Reports also make the obvious, but gruesome point that the Islamic State has displayed a willingness to kill and maim wherever it can…"which usually means 'soft targets,'" according to a March 30 ​ Washington  Post blog.

Hardening soft targets is every security professional's priority. Through their webinars, sessions, and articles, the following speakers and authors add perspectives on how security has risen to that challenge in the past and how the tactics will need to shift for the future.

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In response to the recent terror attacks in Ankara, Brussels, and Lahore, these Security Spotlight resources are free to all security professionals

Book Chapters
ASIS 2015 recordings and slides
Security Management articles

Sources of Information on Antiterrorism and Threat Detection 
ASIS IRC Reference Guide

Related Events

Conference sessions on Antiterrorism at the 26th New York City Security Conference and Expo

  • Pre-Incident Indicators to Terrorist Attacks​​​​
  • Transportation Security: Air and Rail​​​​
  • The Evolving Active Shooter Threat: From the Texas Bell Tower to San Bernardino​​​​
  • Cyber Security in the 21st Century​​​​
  • A Comprehensive Counterespionage Program for Businesses​​​​
  • Lessons Learned: Paris November 13, 2015 Attacks​​​​

Emerging Risks from Islamic Militancy in South, South-East & Asia
Webinar, Recorded March 17, 2016
Speaker: Tim Williams, Stirling Assynt

Based on 15 years of reporting on Islamic militancy, Williams sheds light on the shifts in leadership and goals of the groups now engaged in terrorist acts throughout the world. He focuses primarily on the declared Islamic State of Iraq (IS), an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The two groups split over a difference of opinion on the civil war in Syria, which lead to an unprecedented split in the global jihadist movement. IL immediately declared a Caliphate in Iraq, which attracted sympathetic fighters from Northern Africa and Europe and resulted in early successes in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. But, in light of setbacks caused by the loss of territory in 2015, IS plans have changed. As a result, IS

  • Feels the need to carry out spectacular attacks to eradicate support for Al-Qaeda.
  • Needs to take the fight to new areas in Afghanistan and Asia.
  • Is encouraging fighters in Syria to return to their native countries to spread its ideas.

Current Jihadi Terrorism Trends in Europe
Webinar, Recorded February 4, 2016
Speaker: Glenn Schoen, Boardroom@Crisis

Talking through an agenda that includes understanding the context for terrorist trends and tactics as well as security challenges and emerging business practices, Schoen shares his perspectives on reacting to and changing the terrorism trajectory. He notes that the most recent attacks by ISIS against Western assets results from their anger toward the” enemy alliance,” nations aligned through the UN, EU, and NATO. He anticipates more “terror by design: larger plots and larger operations with more guidance.” While noting the large number of attacks that have been foiled by Western governments, he cautions against social media attempts by ISIS to misdirect, misinform, and make false threats against schools, corporations, and government offices. He lists tactics that ISIS will avoid as well as tactics important to security such as:

  • Public/private partnerships should be strengthened and assumptions on both sides dispelled through collaboration.
  • With police stretched beyond limits after an attack, corporate security should step in to reassure citizens by informing, explaining, and setting up emergency contacts for staff.
  • Understand the value that security brings to the fight: “The risk management value you bring as a security professional has rarely been as important to your organization as it is now.”

Antiterrorism and Threat Response: Planning and Implementation
CRC Press, 2013.
Author: Ross Johnson, CPP
Chapter 8, Observation Planning (pdf)

This 30-page chapter posits that observation and random antiterrorism measures are the heart of the antiterrorism planning process…with observation being the most active and aggressive. Observation has two objectives: to watch for terrorists pre-attack indicators and to be seen watching. The author describes seven signs of terrorist activity, including surveillance, tests of an organization’s security, acquiring supplies, and performing dry runs. In the first step, surveillance, the terrorist can tap into a lot of resources, such as Google Earth and the organization’s website. Detecting surveillance is based on the principle that if someone is watching you, they can be seen watching you. Detection, then, rests on the following three fundamentals:

  • Location refers to repeated observations of the survellant or his or her vehicle at different times and places in relation to the target.
  • Correlation refers to the activities of the surveillant in relation to the target, such as someone taking notes during shift changes at the plant.
  • Mistakes refers to the errors the surveillant makes that allow him or her to be identified for what he or she is, such as someone who signals another person when certain activities occur at the target.

ASIS members can ​save 20% off these related CRC books.

Surveillance and Threat Detection: Prevention versus Mitigation
Elsevier, 2014.
Author: Richard Kirchner, Jr. ​
Chapter 4.1.2: Surveillance Detection Activities (pdf)

The central point of the chapter is that a dedicated team of trained surveillance operations specialists should be considered the number one preventive measure for a high-value target. The author outlines what terrorists look for during their surveillance, including a target’s vulnerabilities, standard operating procedures, and ingress/egress routes. A central theme is what terrorists are looking for when the target is an individual and how to avoid standing out. Through elicitation, drawing out something that is hidden, terrorists can effectively extract information. This tactic is successful because:

  • It takes advantage of cultural weaknesses and the proclivity to be friendly and answer questions.
  • Questions can range from macro topics, “beautiful weather," to micro topics, “humidity is unbelievable."
  • Bits of seemingly harmless information collected over time by terrorists can be pieced together to form sensitive knowledge about the target.

The Evolving Threat Environment in the Middle East
Seminar Session 4107, September 2015
Speakers: Peter Page, CPP, Al-Tayer Group
John Cowling, Control Risks

Both speakers work directly with corporate clients throughout the Middle East. Their interactive session is peppered with details on how these clients have navigated the tangled web of laws, regulations, and cultural differences unique to each country and regions within those borders. They share thoughts on dependable sources of information in-country, the role of Western embassies, and the biases of local media. The session touches on such topics as how female managers are viewed, the status of local security guards, attitudes on the use of security hardware, and “what to do when things go wrong.” Among their points are the following:

  • Cyber attacks are going to increase and diversify perpetrated by rogue states or insiders.
  • Recruiting employees from another country often means relying on that country’s police to do the vetting for you, a risky practice.
  • Risk management as a philosophy in the Middle East is extremely important because of the need to manage all the variables and stakeholders.

Current Trends in Global Terrorism
Seminar Session 4112, September 2015
Speakers: Mark Papen, CPP, Battelle
Joseph Rector, CPP, PCI, PSP, 11th Security Forces Group

Using data and statistics from open sources, the two speakers discuss the transnational effect of terrorist incidents, analyze the nature of terrorist attacks, show how terrorists use cyberspace, and look into how terrorism affects American business sectors. They point out that the new breed of terrorists act because they are motivated and inspired by a cause rather than by an affiliation. Terrorist organizations have moved away from networks to nodes of actors and influencers who are unified through an ideology. They are following these trends:

  • Low scale, low tech, low cost, but huge impact killings present no down side to the extremists.
  • A lack of command and control will lead to more threats from “lone wolfs."
  • The “harvesting of children" through social media is deliberate and effective, and will likely be the most lasting damage of their actions.

Preventing Terrorist Attacks
Seminar Session 4311, September 2015
Speaker: Ross Johnson, CPP, Capital Power Corporation

Johnson begins his session by differentiating between terrorism, counterterrorism and antiterrorism, which he defines as the measures used to protect organizations from terrorists, the role of security. “We want to convince the terrorist to leave us alone while the counterterrorism organizations—police, the military, intelligence, and diplomats—hunt them down," he says. He proceeds to outline the five steps in antiterrorism planning: threat vulnerability assessment, security measures, observation, random antiterrorist measures, and response planning. In defining each step, he makes the following points:

  • Security measures must be flexible enough to meet a low threat level but able to be ramped up as the threat increases.
  • During observation, the key word is “unusual," because by the time the activity is suspicious it is too late.
  • Don’t learn the wrong lesson from success; if a plan works, it still needs to be stress-tested.

Johnson also recommends that practicioners use Risk Analysis and Security Countermeasure Selection as a cmprehensive resource for this topic, currently on sale in the ASIS Store.

“Planning After Paris"
Security Management, March 2016
Author: Holly Gilbert Stowell, Assistant Editor

After the November 2015 attacks in Paris, businesses grappled with the question of how to carry on in spite of the monumental disruptions. To come up with answers, security representatives from the affected companies conducted weekly conference calls to plan and discuss business continuity. They shared ideas and best practices on how to get things back on track. They found that their collective wisdom was an effective way to convince their CEOs of a position that other Paris organizations were taking. A number of issues were discussed, including the following:

  • Participants decided against outfitting security staff with bulletproof vests to avoid making patrons and employees anxious.
  • Instead of trying to hire more security staff, they sealed off multiple entranced and placed more officers that the doors that we open.
  • They shared security information, a rare occurrence in the past but a lasting outcome of the tragedy.

“A Defensive Stance"
Security Management, March 2016
Author: Lilly Chapa, Associate Editor

As 80,000 spectators, including French President Francois Hollande, were entering the Stade de France for a soccer match, a security guard stopped one patron with a ticket. During the ensuing pat-down, the guard discovered that the man was wearing a suicide vest, which he detonated after he fled, killing himself and a bystander.

The actions of that guard certainly saved many lives that night. But securing stadiums for any event is a continual concern for their security staffs. While there are not nationwide operating procedures for sports venue security, the major U.S. sports organizations share best practices and seek certification under the SAFETY Act. That certification , while not a mandate, is an opportunity for venues to apply for liability protection if they develop an effective counterterrorism plan. Many stadiums have taken innovative steps toward that goal:

  • Stadiums have involved fans in securing their surroundings, including developing an app that allows patrons to report security concerns.
  • Stadium security officials are turning to social media prior to games to monitor the potential for trouble in and outside of the venue.
  • Sports marketers are increasingly focusing their efforts –and finances—on fostering a safe atmosphere at sporting venues.

"Four Indicators Security Professionals Should Look For When Identifying Suicide Bombers"
Security Management, December 2015
Author: Michael Gips, Vice President, Publishing

The article begins with three scenarios in which a sense of foreboding was triggered by specific acts and behaviors that were difficult to articulate at the moment but were indicators of a terrorist bent on suicide. These types of attacks are spreading beyond the typical theatres of Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria into Europe. They are also becoming more sophisticated as terrorists share techniques and technologies on the Internet. However, the “telltale signs," or TTIs, can be detected through a four-part deception model: appearance, behavior and belongings, context, and documentation. For example:

  • A rough-hewn appearance among smartly attired people is a certain TTI.
  • Irregular behavior, such as heavy sweating, unnatural movements, or a blank stare is also a clue.
  • Poor, questionable, or counterfeit documents such as driver’s licenses or work permits should trigger close scrutiny.

Sources of Information on Antiterrorism and Threat Detection (PDF)

The Security Database & Library Catalog of the IRC has hundreds of records on the subjects of terrorism, counterterrorism, and antiterrorism, including references to books, Security Management articles, government reports, Annual Seminar recorded sessions, and other documents. Print items are available for use onsite in the O.P. Norton Information Resources Center (IRC) by ASIS International members. Some items have links to electronic versions accessible via the Internet.

Additional sources of information are compiled in the Resource Guide on Terrorism, available to ASIS members as a download from the ASIS website. To access these resources, sign-in to the ASIS website,, then scroll down to the ASIS Library (IRC) under “Quick Links" to navigate to the Security Database & Library Catalog.

For more help and search suggestions, see “Search Tips" on the website, or use the “Contact Us" link to send questions by email.