Protecting an overlooked vulnerability in your organisation
You will find lots of information in the media concerning digital threats and as individuals we are becoming more aware of our security online, so if you are responsible for your business or organisation’s security then you are likely to be very aware of the requirement to protect your business digitally.
Of course, digital security is extremely important to a business, but you should never forget the physical security across your premises. To protect this, you may already have in place Key Cards, restricted areas, CCTV, or use security guards, however an area very often overlooked is your mailroom or incoming mail/delivery processes.
Your mailroom or reception area is a gateway to your premises regardless of the size of your business. Even the most basic mailroom security can effectively protect your staff, premises and assets.
Please don’t write off this information because you think that it isn’t applicable to your organisation. Whatever your operation or mailroom size; even if you only have a reception desk; please read on to learn more about the vulnerabilities and how you can address them.
Explosive/incendiary threats in mail and parcels (parcel bombs)
The use of letter/parcel bombs have been a threat almost as long as the postal system has existed, with one of the earliest recorded incidents in England occurring in 1712. In the UK, the chances of you receiving a live explosive device in the post are small but incidents occurred throughout 2018 and unfortunately will continue to happen so receiving this type of threat is something you should prepare for.
No organisation or business is immune from this type of threat. Individuals use letter bombs to cause harm, disruption, create media attention and spread fear. These individuals range from disgruntled ex-employees to terrorists and they can have many different reasons for targeting you.
Whilst the chance of your business receiving an explosive device remains low, you should be vigilant and create a plan of action for such an event. If you have already been through these steps in the past then it is important to review your plans, so they remain effective. You should ensure that your new staff are aware of them and refresh the memories of existing staff members periodically.
Your first step should be a frank conversation about who or why your business may be targeted. Take time to think about:
- Your services or products – is there any controversy surrounding these?
- Business/brand – is the business owned/connected to a high-profile individual? Have there been recent redundancies? Are you a well-know brand/household name?
- International/political conflict – could this make your organisation a target?
After this has been discussed, speak with a security consultant that specialises in postal security. They will be able to complete a postal threat assessment and then advise you on a custom plan of action, suitable for your organisation.
What should you do if you discover a suspicious item?
The CPNI (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure) has developed a campaign to raise awareness around postal security. Their advice for discovering a suspicious item in the mail is…
1. Avoid – Don’t touch it/move it!
- If you’re holding it, gently place on a cleared flat surface
- Keep it separate so it’s easy to identify
- Don’t move it
- If it’s in an x-ray machine, leave it there.
2. Move away immediately
- Clear the immediate area and nearby rooms, including those above and below
- If it might contain chemical, biological or radiological (CBR) materials, move affected people to a safe location
- Prevent others approaching or accessing the cleared areas
- Do not use mobile phones or two-way radios in the cleared area or within 15 metres of the item.
3. Alert Security
- It’s essential to report if the item has already been fully or partially opened
- Encourage witnesses to write down their observations
- Ensure they remain available to brief the police if necessary - and discourage them from discussing the incident before help arrives.
Chemical, Biological or Radiological Threats in mail and parcels
Another serious threat to your organisation is an item that contains chemical, biological or radiological materials in either small or bulk quantities. Individuals or groups sending these types of substances will have very similar reasons to those sending explosive devices. They want to cause serious harm, spread fear, disrupt your operations and create publicity.
In addition to the indicators for identifying suspect packages, other indicators of a CBR threat include:
- Powder or liquid coming/leaking from the package
- Packaging stained by liquid leakage
- Unusual materials/items inside the letter or parcel - either found once opened or when x-rayed
- Powdered/crystalline/granular substances or residues
- Sticky substances
- Unexpected odours observed on opening or when handling
- Onset of illness
- Irritation of skin, eyes and nose.
Many CBR (white powder) threats/incidents are false alarms but until the material is tested you will not know if it is harmful or benign. Until the material has been confirmed as safe, the area will need to remain cordoned off and staff isolated.
Your organisation will need its own procedure for discovery of this type of threat. Your managers should have training to both confirm the threat and then how to isolate the threat. They will also be the ones who notify the emergency services if this type of threat is discovered.
Other postal threats
Other threats that you may encounter and you should be aware of are items that include harmful objects such as needles or blades. These items are designed to injure the person opening the letter or parcel.
We recommend displaying a list/images of suspicious item characteristics for your staff. This would be used to keep your training up to date and provide a visual reminder of what to be aware of when staff are processing the incoming mail.
Deliveries to your premises are likely to come in all shapes, sizes and weights. If the threat is well-made or researched, then it will look innocent so if you have the facility then you should X-Ray all incoming mail and deliveries. Bigger items/parcels may also cause concern, but you can reduce your risk by x-raying all deliveries using a conveyor x-ray scanner (if you have one); matching delivery notes against orders; not accepting deliveries which are unexpected and inspecting all deliveries upon arrival.
For further information about explosive, chemical, biological, radiological and malicious postal threats please use the links below:
If you do require any assistance My Mailing Room have a team of experts who are happy to offer advice to businesses who want to screen their incoming mail. We supply and maintain x-ray and containment equipment, and offer free, no obligation on-site threat assessments and accredited training courses for staff and Postroom Managers. For more details about what services and equipment we can offer please visit our website at www.mailroom-security.com.
Theft of postal items/deliveries
Theft seems like an insignificant threat after reading about explosive and chemical attacks to your organisation, but theft is much more common and could have high costs for your business. Without security against theft; supplies, equipment and other deliveries are at risk.
Just as important for your business is the theft of confidential information. Information about your clients and other secure information is included with communications and could be extremely valuable to competitors or fraudsters and extremely costly if a data breach is published.
No procedure is without fault but implementing policies that include personnel security, background checks, controlling access and using recorded/tracked services for high value outgoing mail can be extremely effective.
Internal Mail Tracking software can also play a positive role in protecting deliveries once they arrive at your premises. This software tracks deliveries and parcels (using barcodes) allowing for signatures to be collected; creating a chain of custody as the item moves throughout your premises and between departments. This information can be securely stored, is tamper-proof and can normally only be accessed by managers or senior staff.
If you think your mailroom could benefit from Internal Mail Tracking then please contact us on 01322 288890 or visit www.mymailingroom.com/internal-mail-tracking. Our Incoming Mail Tracking Software is cost effective, easy to use, cloud-based and eliminates the need for on-site paper records.