Human Behavior & Personal Security

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In the article “3 Neglected Skillsets for Security” we mentioned one of the most over looked and least appreciated aspects of personal security is the study and understanding of human behavior. In most cases security threats will come directly from human beings. This may not be totally true in certain environments – for example where IEDs may be the predominant threat – but even in those locations reading human behavior plays an important role which we will touch on shortly.

Behavioral analysis or profiling focuses on identifying human actions that are aberrant or out of context with the environment or situation. A criminal about to carry out an armed robbery or an assault will exhibit behavior that is different from a person walking to the store or going to work. Intelligence professionals often use the term “demeanor”. Demeanor is something you should pay attention to when evaluating a situation or person. Do the person’s deportment, activity and so forth fit the location and situation they are in? If not, why? There may be many reasons that a person’s behavior is out of context or out of place and many of those reasons may be benign but they are still worthy of your attention.

These same principles come into play when practicing surveillance detection. The ability to interpret human behavior and decide whether it fits the environment or not can play a key role in detecting surveillance. A surveillant will frequently need to remain in place for an extended period of time trying to appear “normal” and this attempt to be inconspicuous and maintain his cover will actually make him more suspicious if you are aware of your environment and understand the fundamental of reading human behavior.

As we mentioned earlier, even in environments where the primary threat may be IEDs there is an important role for reading behavior. While the IED itself is inanimate if it is command detonated there will be human beings involved in identifying the target and remotely detonating the IED and the opportunity may exist to detect these spotters based upon their behavior. Additionally someone will need to emplace the IED which provides another opportunity to detect behavior.

The first component is to establish what is normal in the environment – this is known as the baseline. This is a fluid component that may change based on the hour of the day, day or the week and so forth. The key is to get a sense of what is normal at that particular time and then look for aberrations or anomalies. The next component is to develop a basic understanding of body language to more readily interpret the behavior of the person in question.

We have just scratched the surface of this topic here. I recommend for those that are interested in more information on this topic that you check out \. The folks at are much more knowledgeable than I am and do a great job explaining the subtle nuances of behavior detection and analysis as it relates to security.

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