Six Fundamentals of Wealth Security Management

Mike White

Our team is passionate about security and finding innovative ways to help a family improve its security practices

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Wealth naturally brings a unique set of security concerns, which is only exacerbated by increasingly sophisticated technology that targets high-net-worth individuals. Whether your assets have been recently acquired or passed down through generations, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start when protecting yourself and your family.

Our Private Client + Family Office Services team is passionate about security and finding clear, innovative and adaptive ways to help a family improve its security practices in ways that are not burdensome or overly complicated.

Below are some of the key areas we look at when beginning to build a robust security plan for private clients and the family offices they rely upon. Implementing these fundamentals will help you protect yourself and your family as well as your assets and reputation.

1. Information Security Management

Protecting private information and minimizing cyber vulnerabilities both call for tough questions about the family’s specific strengths and weaknesses. How is the family’s network configured? The proliferation of social media also creates a host of privacy issues for private clients. It’s important that a family understands the risks associated with the information they or others share in public forums like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many others. Social media audits, exposure assessments and monitoring help identify vulnerabilities in the families’ social media habits – such as taking pictures on vacation, posting birthday dates or even revealing the names of pets.

2. Cyber Threat Awareness

Although hackers might have been more likely a few years ago to target enterprises and government agencies, we now see evidence that cybercriminals are increasing their attacks on ultra-high-net-worth families, offices and businesses. As cybercriminals set their sights on vulnerable families and family offices, cybersecurity risk becomes increasingly troubling. Family members may not understand the measures needed to prevent espionage. Keeping track of credit cards and any stray payments, using personal devices in a safe manner, and identifying phone scams are all things that, after minimal education, family members young and old can handle themselves.

Using strong passwords is a must to keep yourself protected, and you should take this step further by using a unique password for each separate account you have. Using strong passwords increases your protection against brute force attacks from software that generates random and known passwords across multiple logins to try to guess your password.

To guard against this, a password manager should be employed. A password manager will retrieve and input the password in the appropriate account login. Therefore, you can use extremely strong and lengthy passwords without worrying about remembering them.

Robust and unique passwords are the first layer of protection. The second layer is two-factor authentication (2FA). At its most basic, 2FA is an identity verification software. If you or a threat actor enters the correct account password, 2FA will kick in and require you to verify your identity, most often by entering a series of random numbers or letters sent to you via SMS or an app.

Cyberattacks don’t always happen against your desktop and network. If you lose your phone, or someone gains physical access to your phone and your personal information is stored on that phone, you’re vulnerable. Always use a passcode lock to prevent access to your phone. It’s also a good idea to not store sensitive information on your phone. This includes passwords, personal information and sensitive photos. Using strong passwords, a password manager and two-factor authentication can significantly increase your cybersecurity posture and protect your accounts.

3. Residential Physical and Technical Security

While advancements in physical and technical security mean that assets are no longer kept in the ornate safe behind the painting, these same advances can create greater vulnerabilities. Often, families don’t realize what security measures they have in place or where they can improve their security posture. Many are only concerned with security in the after hours, not knowing that many burglaries and home invasions occur during the day. Physical security measures, such as locks, fencing, lighting and even landscaping, are valuable first line defenses and effective means for protecting your family.

For detection and assessments, implementing technical security controls increases your awareness and can buy you time to call for help before the threat is in front of you. Installing technical devices and ensuring effectiveness of existing systems is critical, as many systems we assess have gaps or could use some improvements. Cameras, intrusion detection, and electronic access controls provide families with a remote means of detection and interrogation of potential or actual security events. Are they used and programmed properly? Do you not set your alarm to avoid false alarms? Do you turn off camera motion alerts due to too many false or nuisance alarms? Understanding these systems and their capabilities and using them properly can provide families with increased confidence to better protect themselves.

4. Travel Risk Management

Wealthy individuals often find themselves traveling to international or other remote locations, whether for work or personal reasons. However, risks are fundamentally higher when in transit. More and more private clients understand these risks and seek out advanced travel security that can help ensure a smooth and safe trip. An approach that might have once been reserved for political leaders and dignitaries is becoming common practice for high-net-worth families.

5. The Insider Threat

Many are familiar with this term in the corporate world as a way of describing an “in-house” individual who does something to sabotage or hurt a business, such as stealing information. However, this can also happen on a personal level. For this reason, we often impress on families that background screenings and separation of duties are essential to make sure any content contained on personal devices or in personal spaces is not exposed to an individual with malintent.

6. Behavioral Threat Assessment, Investigation and Management

This step is only necessary if an individual is exhibiting concerning behavior or making threats toward a client, their place of business, or family members. Wealthy individuals have a far higher likelihood of encountering people with an unusual amount of interest in their activities. We emphasize to private clients that they sometimes need to think of themselves as a corporation, just with much higher stakes.

Identifying and assessing areas that make a family most vulnerable and have the highest negative impact on the families’ security, safety or lifestyle is key. Working with a professional group to guide this process will pay dividends by preventing or mitigating the level of risk and helping family members feel confident that they are less prone to a crisis event.

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About the author

Michael White
Mike led and directed hundreds of Secret Service Special Agents, Specialists, Sworn Officers and support staff.
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