Its difficult to develop and implement effective security measures without first understanding your level of risk. Context is everything when it comes to assessing security risk. You need to be able to look at how you interact with your environment and the particular security threats in that environment to develop an accurate picture of your personal security risk.
First, it’s useful to start with some definitions:
Personal Security Risk: The risk posed by security threats, primarily physical security threats, to a given person based on their profile and the environment they are in. This is distinguished from other types of risk such as financial, safety or health risks.
Threat: A person or thing likely to cause damage or danger.
Vulnerability: The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed and/or features or attributes that can be exploited to cause harm.
Risk: A situation involving exposure to danger.
To assess personal security risk, we can use the following formula:
Threat + Vulnerability = Risk (to person)
This means the presence of a threat or threats, combined with vulnerabilities in our routine, lifestyle or attributes results in an element of risk to us.
When looking at various risk scenarios we also must consider the aspect of likelihood or probability. For this we look at two factors: probability or likelihood and criticality or impact. As an example: Imagine you are traveling to a crowded tourist destination at peak season. Envision two separate scenarios:
Pickpocketing: From a probability standpoint, the risk at a crowded tourist area of having your pocket picked or experiencing some other type of non-violent theft is pretty high. The criticality is however pretty low. You may lose some cash, you may need to call your credit card company to cancel your credit cards. You may have some serious disruption to your trip if you need to go to your embassy or consulate to report your passport stolen and get a replacement issued. Still, all in all these are relatively minor inconveniences and you are unlikely to experience any physical harm or permanent consequences.
Terrorist bombing: A terrorist bombing of a crowded tourist area is a possibility, but the likelihood or probability is low. However, should you be present when this occurs, the criticality is very high. There is a significant risk of loss of life or critical, possibly permanent injury.
Look at your personal security profile to help you assess risk. Ask yourself the following questions:
Where do you live?
What do you do?
Where do you go?
Who do you meet?
What is your daily routine like?
What is your online presence like?
What are your identified vulnerabilities?
Let’s delve into these in slightly greater detail:
Where do you live? Do you live in or adjacent to a high crime area? What physical security measures are in place at your home?
What do you do? What is your occupation? Is it in anyway controversial? Is it public-facing? Do you deal with cash or valuables or have access to them?
Where do you go? What types of places do you regularly frequent? What is the risk profile of those places?
Who do you meet? Who do you normally associate with? What is their risk profile? Might you be inadvertently targeted based on who you associate with? Do you regularly meet with strangers, either personally or professionally?
What is your daily routine like? Where do you go on a regular basis? Do you use the same routes, park in the same locations or are otherwise time and place predictable? Do you regularly need to transit high crime areas or other identified danger areas? Do you regularly travel at night or early in the morning?
What is your online presence like? How much personal information is available about you online? This includes social media sites that you and your family members or friends use and where personal information may be posted. Can someone determine where you live, what you look like, net worth, etc. through open sources?
What are your identified vulnerabilities? What aspects of your routine make you vulnerable? What physical or behavioral attributes may make you vulnerable?
Your personal risk profile may change, both over time and depending on the circumstances. For example, you may live in location with low crime and your day-to-day routine may reflect very few vulnerabilities and generally low risk. However, if you have a job that requires travel to higher threat locations, then your risk profile will change accordingly based upon the situation.
Take the adversary’s perspective. Ask yourself: how would you attack you? Base this off your routine and your vulnerabilities, and develop realistic scenarios that represent potential situation that you might encounter. Use this information to adjust your awareness and your personal security measures accordingly. You can’t necessarily eliminate your vulnerabilities, but recognizing them and mitigating them will help you reduce your personal security risk