Burglars scour Hello! to target homes of rich

Philip Grindell
Written by Philip Grindell
defuse - feel safer in a public place

The Times on Saturday ran an excellent article with the above headline, Burglars scour Hello! to target homes of rich. The article supports and follows on from my previous blog about privacy. A subject that is clearly worth re-visiting.

In 2017 former Chelsea and England captain John Terry’s home was burgled whilst he was away on holiday. Terry’s home was targeted after he posted pictures from the French Alps and told 3.4 million Instagram followers he was having “a great few days away skiing with the family”

The article in the Times states that Hello magazine is now one the most subscribed magazine in the UK prison system. Why? Well, not because the inmates are fascinated by the stories of the rich and famous, but because they are researching properties and people to target.


The challenge is that today’s influencers and public figures often compete for the media’s attention, either print, social of television or the exposure that brings. They, like many of us, want to share their successes, their achievements and holidays, and yet when they do so they run the risk of being targeted for abuse, threats or as in the cases articulated by the Times, their assets.

So how does the modern influencer and public figure do so without increasing their security risk?

As a starting point, allow me to share how in telligence teams operate. When they want to research a subject, it’s to find that their social media is well managed and locked down, however that’s not always the case when looking at their family or associates. A great example of this was from what many would assume would be a security minded individual back in 2009. Shortly before he was officially appointed as the new head of MI6, the British Secret Service, pictures of Sir John Sawers in his swimming trunks appeared in the papers.

So how did this happen? Well, because his wife has posted them on Facebook the day before, whilst failing to secure her account. In fact, such was the freedom of access to her account that she revealed the location of the London flat used by the couple and the whereabouts of their three grown-up children and of Sir John’s parents. The details were removed after the paper contacted the Foreign Office. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8134807.stm

A similar example is that of the Ecclestone family who were selling their multi million pound property in London. A person who claimed that he was a Russian businessman in London on a flying visit requested to be shown the property. The agents, no doubt keen to sell and collect their substantial commission facilitate the request without conducting a due diligence checks. The ‘Russian’ having conducted suitable reconnaissance on the initial visit, visited a second time, and subsequently stole just shy of £500,000 were of possessions. It was in fact just one of a number of similar offences committed by a career criminal from London, stealing nearly a £1m of assets from high value homes. He was subsequently sentenced to 8 years in prison, so plenty of time to research Hello magazine!

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/burglar -posingas-oligarch-stolejewels-from-petra-ecclestone-mansion9035457.html

The lessons from these examples is simple, they were all preventable. Defuse Global has taken the best practice its founder introduced to Parliament, following the murder of Jo Cox MP, and now advises public figures on how to stay safe in public life. Good practice starts with reviewing what is publicly available about a client online. In essence what does their digital shadow look like and what can be found out about them. Can their social media be accessed? What about their family and their associates? Can their home addresses be identified? Are their vehicle registrations shown? Are their vehicles registered at their home or elsewhere? Do they advertise their movements and their assets? Once identified, Defuse Global then seek to minimalize the areas of vulnerability identified. This can be done in such a way to enable the client to continue to live their lives in public, showcasing their holidays, properties and movements but in a managed way.

If a clients is going to have a spread in Hello, Defuse Global will work with the PR company representing the client to ensure that as little detail as possible to increase risk is exposed, to ensure that perhaps subtle mention of security is included in the article, or in the John Terry example, security is provided whilst the client is away from their homes.

Influencers and public figures don’t want and, in many ways, cannot just shut down their publicly available information, but what they can do is minimalise the effect and ensure that where a vulnerability is increased, a measure to mitigate that is factored in

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