Embassies urged to adapt to new security threats

The new unpredictable methodology of terrorists requires diplomatic missions to be more vigilant and better prepared for emergencies, security officers at London’s embassies were told at the annual Diplomatic Protection (PaDP) Seminar.

Security officers learned that the threat level remained at ‘Severe’, meaning that an attack was highly likely. However the changing nature of random but orchestrated terrorist attacks, focusing on soft targets and crowded places, meant that all missions should have updated action plans and training for the worst case scenario needed to be practised with all staff.

Counter Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSA) from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) recommended missions attend free crisis simulation workshops such as Project Argus and Project Griffin to help them devise their emergency plans.

PaDP security advisers are able to offer advice on the design of a mission to reduce its vulnerability to attack, especially in areas open to the public such as consulates.

Preventing the new style of attack relies heavily on intelligence sharing and working with the community, including the diplomatic community. Diplomats were asked to be on the alert and to report any suspicious behaviour to their liaison officers.

Countering the terrorist threat in cyberspace has become another focal area. Envoys were briefed on the role of the new EU Internet Referral Unit (IRU) of Europol and how it will act to combat radicalisation through social media channels.

The IRU coordinates cooperation between EU partners so that they can be more responsive in combatting the “media mujahideen” by taking down their accounts or pushing them to less accessible parts of the web.

The seminar concluded with a talk from Neil Collyer of FCO Protocol about Project Hermes, the FCO-PaDP system for disseminating information to missions during a crisis, using texts, emails, the PaDP Secure Bulletin Board or the FCO Protocol website.

Collyer appealed to security officers to make sure that the FCO and PaDP had their most up-to-date contact details. These would be vital in the event of a crisis so that the FCO or PaDP would be able to contact the mission with important information and updates.