Saturday, November 21, 2015

The New Cowboy Spy

From the Ol' Timer...
"Howdy, partner. There is a new surveillance risk in town, and he be a-aimin' at you.

Worried about board meeting eavesdroppers; business espionage desperados, and bad egg buggists? Darn tootin' you are, and you've hired the local TSCM-slinger to keep you above snakes. Does a fine job of it, too. 

Oh, about Mr. New Surveillance Risk. He ain't no fancy foreign spy, crow-bait competitor, or even a chiseler employee. No sir, bub, he's the cow chip of the spy world; a tenderfoot with a mighty powerful weapon. A sneaky dude who'll leave you in court, emptyin' your wallet faster than greased lightning. Yes sir'ee, he's the Workplace Video Voyeur, and he ain't a-playing according to Hoyle."

Thanks for the warning, old timer. You're right as rain. I know. I've run into a couple of these hombres during my time on the trail. Let me tell you a story... 

My Fortune 50 client called me a few months ago. Seems, an employee found a spy camera hidden in one of their restrooms. The news media caught wind of it and jumped all over the story. It was an embarrassing mess. It may also be an expensive mess if the people caught by the camera decide to sue. 

We had been inspecting their boardroom, executive offices and off-site meeting locations for over two decades. This due diligence resulted in the capture of one spy, on-site (a competitor's employee), one wireless bug, and several general information security loopholes which they quickly patched up. 

Nobody expected a bathroom video voyeur, however. Yet this incident held promise of greater damage than any corporate espionage attack. In addition to being costly in dollars and damaging reputation-wise, a video voyeur attack directly affects employee morale. Its hard to put a price on that.

The company asked me for help. They needed to prevent future incidents. Made sense. After one incident, they could face "foreseeability," a legal term. In short, it is the theory that if something happens once you become aware it could happen again. If you do nothing to correct the situation, and it does happen again, you are considered negligent. Sexual harassment in the workplace also plays into future incidents. This makes for an expensive mix in court. 

In addition to protecting themselves, the company really wanted to assure their employees that they were taking the situation very seriously.

We discussed several possible solutions. 

Sending our Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) team to inspect all their restrooms and locker rooms (worldwide) was impractical, of course. What we eventually decided upon was a three-fold strategy, which turned out to be very cost-effective.
  1. A review of their Recording in the Workplace Policy for completeness and effectiveness. This policy covers all aspects of recording anything to do with the company (audio, video and data). Most companies don't even have policy.

  2. Development of an on-line spycam detection training program for their local facilities managers and security staff. This would professionally prepare them to conduct simple periodic inspections of the 'expectation of privacy' areas on company property. An inspection log and photos would be kept on file. The log documents inspection dates and results. The photos document changes in the area over time. Both may be used to show due diligence in court.
  3. A short on-line spycam awareness video was produced for all employees to view. This was placed on the company intranet. It explained the growing social problem of video voyeurism, the steps the company is taking to prevent the problem in the workplace, and self-protection tips employees can use to protect themselves and their families, wherever they are.

This company-wide solution cost them about as much as a one-day sweep of their executive offices, and it will be used at all their locations, for years to come. 

Other companies have not been so lucky. Another New York City firm paid two employees one million dollars apiece in connection with their video voyeur incident.

Yup, ol' timer. The times are changing. Companies need to start watching their butts, when it comes to butt watchers.