Stratfor Threat Lens: Year One

Sep 19, 2017 | 00:00 GMT
Two Ukrainian police officers investigate a car bombing in Kiev.

Two Ukrainian police officers investigate a car bombing in Kiev, gathering materials which will hopefully provide insight into how -- and by whom -- the attack was carried out.


Stratfor launched Threat Lens one year ago to help corporate security professionals and globally engaged organizations anticipate, measure and mitigate threats against their people, assets and interests around the world. In this episode of the podcast, Stratfor’s Fred Burton and Scott Stewart discuss what they’ve learned and what’s coming next ahead of their return to ASIS 2017.


Fred Burton - Hello, I'm Chief Security Officer Fred Burton, and this podcast is brought to you by Stratfor, the world's leading geo-political intelligence platform. To learn more about Stratfor Worldview, Threat Lens, or Stratfor's custom Advisory Services, visit us at Stratfor.com. There are a lot of people that may say, "Hey, you know there was a kidnapping here or there was a letter bombing there." But we're actually ripping into it, looking at the pictures, explaining the device and ways to detect the device so that your people won't be hurt if something's sent to you.

Joshua Cook - Welcome to the Stratfor podcast focused on geo-politics and world affairs from Stratfor.com. I'm Joshua Cook sitting in for host Ben Sheen, and that was a short preview of today's conversation between Stratfor Vice President of Tactical Analysis, Scott Stewart, and Chief Security Officer, Fred Burton, marking one year since the launch of Strafor Threat Lens. Starfor launched Threat Lens last year at the 2016 ASIS International Conference to help corporate security professionals identify, anticipate, measure, and mitigate risks that emerging threats pose to their people, assets, and interests around the the world. Both Scott and Fred will be back at ASIS this year to talk about new advancements with Threat Lens, and to share their expertise on a wide range of security-related issues. Thanks for joining us for the podcast.

Fred Burton - Hi, I'm Fred Burton. I'm here today with Scott Stewart to talk about our upcoming anniversary of the launch of Threat Lens. Scott it was this time last year we were getting ready to go to the ASIS Conference in Orlando, Florida where we launched our new product. And looking back over this year, how far do you think we've come, and where do you see us going?

Scott Stewart - It's been a good year for the product. I mean, it's been fun kind of working with the team and developing the team. We have some good young analysts, some very bright people. That's been fun, but it's also been great just engaging with the clients, finding out what they're concerned about, and then really doing our best to dig in to those issues and help them understand those issues in ways they can be proactive and protect their people and their facilities against the threats that are out there.

Fred Burton - I know in the course of our careers, coming from the Protective Intelligence Division at the State Department, we always had wanted the ability to have a protective intelligence tool, which Threat Lens is. What is it that you think that sets Threat Lens apart?

Scott Stewart - You know there are a lot of people that do notifications, a lot people that talk about what happens. But one of the things that I believe sets us apart is kind of our laser focus on the how. Really looking at the trade craft elements, looking at the tactics, the techniques and procedures that are being used by criminals, industrial espionage actors, terrorists, and then putting that into a way that explains these acts for our clients, and then allows them to take steps to really mitigate the threats against them. So really tactically deconstructing attacks, assassinations, hack attacks.

Fred Burton - Kidnappings.

Scott Stewart - Exactly. Kidnappings, letter bomb campaigns, things like that is different. There are a lot of people that may say, "Hey, you know there was a kidnapping here or there was a letter bombing there." But we're actually ripping into it, looking at the pictures, explaining the device and ways to detect the device so that your people won't be hurt if something's sent to you.

Fred Burton - In looking back over the course of this year, what do you think are some of our lessons learned that we have taken away from client feedback on the tool?

Scott Stewart - It's been interesting to see the the overwhelming response we've had to those tactical deconstruction pieces. Whether it's the piece that we did on how activists conduct pre-operational surveillance,

Fred Burton - And the graphics.

Scott Stewart - Oh yeah, the graphics are very good. Some of the kidnapping deconstructions, the letter bomb deconstructions or the forecast stuff. Even today you and I had a meeting with a client who said they really appreciated our Mexico cartel forecast.

Fred Burton - Right.

Scott Stewart - Because it helped them understand what was going on in Mexico as far the cartel dynamics and the landscape down there so that they can plan their security for moving their product about the country. So we had good feedback, and obviously we're always trying to get better. That's one of the things where it's nice to have those feedback loops and be able to talk to the clients and learn about the things that really trouble them or bother them and then try to incorporate that into what we're analyzing. Actually, one of the things that we're going to be rolling out, just as intel update, and that's going to be much more like a Twitter feed. Especially in a breaking event, it gives us the opportunity just to send short updates, short bursts of analysis, "Hey here's what this looks like, here's what we think, here's what it means for you," instead of just okay there's been an attack here. We're going to be getting into the details. We did a little bit of that with this Barcelona attack, recently being able to come out late in the evening and say hey, this really looks like it wasn't supposed to be a vehicular assault, but we had a large plot that was thwarted by themselves by blowing up the bomb making factory. Being able to get beyond just the news and get that analysis out quick, because that's what allows not only the clients to stay ahead of the news cycle, and ahead of the terror cycle, but it also helps them answer questions for their leadership. When that corporate security officer is in a meeting and his boss says, "Hey, did you hear about this thing in Barcelona? What do you think?" We give them ability to be able to reply with some pretty quick analysis.

Fred Burton - I know that's a very nice feature, especially with everybody on their mobile platforms today. To be able to push or forward that quick analysis out as to what we might think have occurred. I know we've gotten some positive feedback on that.

Scott Stewart - Absolutely.

Joshua Cook - We'll get back to the conversation with Stratfor's Scott Stewart and Fred Burton in just a moment, but if you'd like to learn about Threat Lens, visit us at Stratfor.com. And if you'll be in Dallas for ASIS 2017, be sure to visit us at booth 4583. Again that's booth 4583. We'll also include a link in the show notes for more information about Fred Burton's book signing, or the sessions he and Scott Stewart will be presenting, including Terrorism, Drivers and Trends to Watch in the Next Five Years, and The Risks of Taking Espionage Out of Cyber Espionage. Now back to the conversation.

Fred Burton - I know from the forecasting aspect too, in light of the horrific events in Charlottesville with the individual that drove into the crowd, I know we were doing some forecasting leading up to that. Why don't you explain a little bit to our audience on how we looked at that and some of our analysis as to how we saw this unfolding?

Scott Stewart - It wasn't a huge revelation, quite honestly. Anybody who's been carefully watching the United States for the last couple years can see the polarization that's going on, and really the anger that's been brewing on both the extreme left and the extreme right. That's one of the things that we really had in our inaugural forecast for Threat Lens, is we were looking at

Fred Burton - A year ago?

Scott Stewart - Yeah, a year ago, how this is going to impact not only the U.S., by the way, we really believe we're going see this similar dynamic in Europe, of an increase in violence from both the extreme left, the anarchist types, but then also the extreme right, the alter nationalists, the neo-Nazis, et cetera. We think that it's running a cycle. We've cycles of this stuff in the past. Think back to the seventies where we had the days of rage going on at the same time as the American Nazi Party under George Lincoln Rockwell, The Order, and these other right-wing guys at the same time, the rise of the posse comitatus. We saw another spike in '99 where you had the summer of hate with all those anti-Semitic attacks and murders and such at the same time that we had the Battle of Seattle in '99. We kind of had a peak going there. I think that 9-11 took down a lot of the hatred and dissent on both sides, but I think we're really seeing it swell right now to alarming levels, and I think that all of our readership and our clients need to be really of aware of this not only to protect themselves against these sorts of incidents in the workplace, but just even to protect their protectees if they have executive protection during the protests. Or even if you have a retail store, or an office building, or something that's in close proximity to one of these protests, with the violence we're seeing, whether it's just riotist type behavior, or perhaps even these vehicular attacks, shootings, bombings, that are going to come, you really need to protect your people and your facilities from these threats.

Fred Burton - Very well said. I know to me it's always fascinating to look at who's reading our material, and I know that as it pertains to Threat Lens, we have not only corporate clients, but we also have individuals that appear to be expats or international travelers and so forth, and the interesting aspect of that is you do have an audience out there for Threat Lens that just wants to stay abreast of what's happening, but also be able to go to a trusty-worthy location where they can get more than what the news has to offer, some unique insight into what it might be that has transpired. Whether we're talking Charlottesville or Barcelona or London or Nice.

Scott Stewart - Yeah, absolutely. In some of the cases it's not just about protecting your company, but sometimes your family assets and other things, so there really is that interface there for NGOs as well. We've brought on several NGOs as clients who have these concerns about their people, about their facilities. Honestly in this environment, whether it's the jihadist threat, whether it's the anarchist threat, or the white-hate threat, there are just a lot of concerns out there for everybody whether you're a corporation, an NGO, or just a high net worth family.

Fred Burton - As we learned a long time ago, as young agents, the world is a dangerous place, and I hope that the next year with Threat Lens we can only continue to offer a very useful product for our readers.

Scott Stewart - Yeah I hope so and we're going to continue our efforts to provide useful, actionable, intelligence that helps them stay what we call 'left of the boom.' To be able to avoid attacks and avoid issues, which is really what it's about. It's much better to avoid something than respond to something.

Fred Burton - Well said. I think we'll leave it at that, and I look forward to the next year of Threat Lens.

Joshua Cook - Thanks, Fred. That's it for this episode of The Stratfor Podcast. Again, if you'd like to learn more about Stratfor, including Threat Lens, Stratfor Worldview, or our custom Advisory Services, visit us at Stratfor.com. And if you'll be in Dallas for ASIS 2017, come by to say hello. We'll include a link in the show notes about how to find us. Have a comment or an idea for a future episode of the podcast? E-mail us at [email protected] Or give us a call at 1-512-744-4300, extension 3917. You can also leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to the podcast. We appreciate your feedback. And for more geo-political intelligence, analysis, and forecasting that bring global events into valuable perspective, be sure to follow us on Twitter @Stratfor.

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