Interesting, so quite literally, to the left of the attack is everything that happens before an incident or something terrible unfolds. So, let’s go through this timeline.
From the beginning, in the preparations that these attackers are making, what types of people and groups do you typically find engaged in these preparatory operations?
Every type of criminal. Even your bank robber. Your bank robber is going to “case” the bank or banks that they’re targeting, and that bank robber is looking for the weakest target. So they’re casing the banks, they’re testing the banks, and they’re stalking some of the bank employees. They may even try to co opt people at the bank while they’re conducting on-the-ground reconnaissance against those banks. And then amongst the banks that they’re casing, they select the weakest one. From their assessment and from their on-ground surveillance and all of the things that they’ve done in preparation for their attack, which is the bank robbery, they select that final target. And then they, of course, conduct their bank robbery. And, I wouldn’t say every bank robber is going to go through that process, because some people are just going to walk into a bank and hand the teller a note and say, give me money. But those people are going to get caught very easily.
The ones who want to get away with it, I would say the more than average criminal will do these preparatory acts, and again, this is all types of criminals– all the way to your assassins, to your terrorists, to your child predators. We know that child predators will go through this same exact process. Instead of a left of boom mentality, they have a grooming mentality. So they go through this entire process, and they call it grooming. So all of these nefarious people, whatever their motives are, they go through the same processes, they conduct the same type of activities– left of boom, left of the moment they attack their target.
So when you [TrapWire] are looking into the surveillance part of this, you are looking for the types of activities that are typically conducted during the left of boom phase – what type of information sticks out to you that the attackers are looking at or looking for?
They will begin by looking at any aspect of the defensive measures in place for the target they’re studying. Whether it’s a security presence, a law enforcement presence – on the military side, they call it force protection – military police. That’s often the first organization or group that the criminals or the threats will be assessing, because those defensive measures stand in their way.
If they are targeting a bank, they will be looking at the bank guards. They will be looking at any aspect of physical security, or protection involving that bank – whether it’s door locks, alarm systems, or CCTV camera systems. On a typical military base, same thing. Do you have guards at the gate? What type of weapons do they have? What type of radios do they have? What type of uniforms do they wear? They’re collecting all of that intelligence, so that they can do an assessment of their targets. Out of the group of targets that they are looking at, they are going to eventually weed out stronger targets and focus their attention and resources on the weakest target. That is the one they will go after.
After studying the target’s defensive measures or security features, they will begin to collect information on the specific target of their operation. This could be a bank vault, a server room, an arsenal for weapons theft, an individual targeted for assassination, or the location of a crowd if it is a terrorist attack designed to maximize casualties. They will look for things like avenues of ingress and egress, pattern of life for a targeted individual, the identity of insiders who could be targeted for information or recruitment. The list goes on and on. They may then move on to the question of timing. When is their target most vulnerable or accessible? What time of day and day of week is best to maximize casualties? When is the security force most vulnerable or at its weakest? Depending on the attack or criminal act they have in mind, the timing will have a specific logic.