Personal Security Test

This exercise was created by the United States Marshals Service, Judicial Security Division’s National Center for Judicial Security. Its purpose is to test and raise your security awareness. This is a self-help test, provided to assist you in becoming an active participant in your own security. For privacy reasons, no information will be submitted, stored, or provided to any third party. Click on any question to learn more about it.

1. I receive security training on an annual basis.



2. I report all inappropriate communications and threatening contacts.



3. I know the name and contact information of the person to whom I am to report inappropriate communications.



4. I vary the routes I take between home and work.



5. I have located safe havens (i.e., police and/or fire stations) along my travel route in the event of a potential threat.



6. I converse frequently with my security and law enforcement providers regarding safety and security issues.



7. I have a vanity license plate and/or stickers on my windows/bumper



8. I own a home security system and use it



9. I have had a professional security assessment performed on my residence.



10. I check my credit report annually.



11. I contact search engines to opt out of having my personal information available online.



12. I have a plan at home regarding the handling of mail and package deliveries.



13. My internet connection is secure



14. My family and I use social media.



15. I communicate with my bailiff/marshal/staff regularly regarding all court proceedings.



Additional Information for Each Question

1. I receive security training on an annual basis.

Many states and their court administrators offer security training through law enforcement and security professionals. It is recommended that you attend these sessions personally and with staff and share the information with family.

2. I report all inappropriate communications and threatening contacts.

Simply put, all threats are inappropriate communications but not all inappropriate communications are threats. Inappropriate communication or contact is unwanted behavior, action or statements towards. It can perceived by the victim as intimidation and/or harassment.  A threat is an indication of danger; an attempt to control another through expression of an intention to inflict pain, injury, evil or punishment. The difference is a defining line for law enforcement. It is vital that you and your staff understand how critical it is to report even the most benign communications to your law enforcement provider so they can begin to mitigate and investigate the potential threat. Do not EVER feel it is something you should not report. Report it. Document it via email for evidence purposes. Make sure law enforcement conduct their due diligence.

3. I know the name and contact information of the person I am to report inappropriate communications.

Please understand that #2 is paramount. Equally important is knowing WHO you are supposed to report an inappropriate communication or threat to. Does this entity have investigative authority? (Many bailiffs and security guards do not.) If not, after reporting where does this information go? Find out, keep track and demand answers.

4. I take different routes when traveling between home and work.

Not being aware of your surroundings is an indicator that you are an easy target. Attack methodology is predicated upon good pre-operational (attack) surveillance of a target. Altering your travel routines suggests that you are not an easy target and have planned for potential threats. If you drive, take a different route to/from work a few times a week. If you walk to work, walk on the well lit side, against traffic.

5. I have located safe havens (i.e., police and/or fire stations) along my travel route in the event of a potential threat.

In concert with #4 you should be aware of some safe havens along your commuting route that you can access in the event you have vehicle problems, feel you are being followed, or if someone is taking aggressive action against you. Look for police and fire departments, hospitals, well-lit and/or crowded areas. Keep your cell phone charged and pre-program the number of your law enforcement provider in your cell phone in the event of emergency. Be prepared to blow your horn to call attention to your vehicle. Do not hesitate to call law enforcement.

6. I converse frequently with my law enforcement providers regarding security issues.

Face to face contact between you and your law enforcement provider has many benefits. Neither party wants to meet for the no-top-margin time at the judge’s residence at 3 a.m. after an emergency phone call. Frequent contact allows for parties to understand what security measures exit and do not and how threats will be mitigated. If you do not have an established relationship with your law enforcement provider, schedule an initial meeting for you and your colleagues with the assistance of your court or agency administrator.

7. I have a vanity license plate and/or stickers on my windows/bumper.

Most judicial attackers do not threaten first. This means you may not know you are under threat or being stalked. Just as personal information posted on social media is a weak link to you, so is advertising in subtle ways such as a vanity plate or car stickers. Information is currency for an attacker, and you should be discreet by not advertising school affiliation, family stick figures, etc. Easily identifiable cars have been used by assailants in the past to identify their victims. Remove/replace these items. (One caveat: some states offer judicial license plates for personal cars. The only acceptable time and place for this is if hearing cases in high-risk locations such as detention facilities. Otherwise, we recommend that if your state provides these plates that you do not get one. Moreover, request the state change this professional personalized plate to something less than specific to being a judge.)

8. I own a home security system and use it.

A home security system serves many purposes. Looking at the security footprint of the home it is the no-top-margin line of defense for you and your loved ones against an attack or a family emergency unrelated to your position. As #4 suggests, prior to an attack or burglary, it is statistically proven that surveillance will be conducted of your home. If you do not own a home security system, weigh its cost against the peace of mind an installed system can provide when used properly. Of course having a home security system means nothing if you do not use or properly know how to use it. Many people who have home security systems do not use them because of inconvenience.

9. I have had a professional security assessment performed on my residence.

A home security system is but one layer of a good home security plan for you and your loved ones. A security assessment of your home should consist of, but not be limited to, the security system, lighting, locks, windows, lines of sight, windows, landscaping, environmental factors and how they work in conjunction with one another, as well as a safe room. It should detail your home’s strong and weak points so you and your law enforcement provider/security professional can develop sound security and safety plans for you and your family. Aside from a security system, we recommend a dog, specially breeds that protect, i.e., German shepherd or Belgian Malinois. 

10. I check my credit report annually.

Checking your credit report often will help determine if there is anything unusual about your credit history. It maybe the no-top-margin indicator that your identity has been compromised. Whether your identity has been compromised because of your position or not is insignificant. It needs to be reported immediately to your law enforcement provider BECAUSE of your position. It can be determined at a later time if it was because of your position or not.

Annual Credit Report

Equifax

Experian

Transunion 

11. I contact search engines to opt out of my personal information’s availability online..

The Internet is both a blessing and a curse. Many judicial officers run for election and a common way to get their message out is via the Internet. The balance between public official and private information is all too transparent in the information age. That said, you can minimize the information “out there” regarding you and your family by opting out of search engine information. It is an uphill battle but worth the investment of your time.

Google Privacy Center

Yahoo Privacy Center

Bing Privacy Center

Some search engines offer, for a small fee, the ability to opt out and can be found on those sites. 

12. I have a plan at home regarding the handling of mail and package deliveries.

Consider using your office as a delivery address. This keeps your private address private, the same can be said for using a PO Box or Private Mailbox. Using the office address also allows for the package to be x-rayed. If you cannot have the package sent to your office then develop a plan within your family where all family members are aware of the company that will be delivering and the potential date of delivery.

“From letter bombs to poisoned chocolates – what to watch for and do”

13. Is your Internet connection secure to avoid use by others?

One of the most common ways criminals gain access to your identity is through Internet connections. It is critical that you maintain security software for your computer to protect your personal and credit card information, and that you update the software frequently. Recognize that many Internet connections require you to provide personal information, such as a phone number, last name or personally identifiable information as a password. These are clear indicators of who you are and where you live. Use non-descript names and/or numbers instead. If you must maintain a list of passwords and identifiers, do not carry the list with you or maintain it on your computer. 

14. My family and I use social media.

As stated in #7, your personally identifiable information is information that allows anyone to conduct covert surveillance of your movements, allows them to establish your likes and frequented places, and gives them the advantage of when and where to attack. This free giveaway of information has been used to attack judges, public figures, and domestic violence victims. We understand that many judges must use social media to connect with voters during their election process. Police what you and your family is posting. Do not advertise time and place of your movements and locations, do not identify your home, cars, children. Aside from your position as a judge, burglars and pedophiles use social media posts to pinpoint their targets, looking at photos of your current location.

15. I communicate with my bailiff/marshal/staff regularly regarding all court proceedings.

Communication is as critical at home as the workplace. Intervention and prevention of any violence is rooted in good communication with your team and must be a two-way flow. Security measures and countermeasures, knowing where to go and what to do should be determined prior to a proceeding in the event of an outburst or assault. Your team needs to conduct scenario-based training to effectuate proper response. One easy to implement best practice is the use of code words. Allow any teammate during the proceeding to say, “I think it is time for an administrative recess.” This means someone recognized a possible problematic situation and action must be taken immediately. Without impacting the case, this allows the judge to call a recess and security to handle the situation. Code words are also excellent to use with family outside of the court facility.

By John F. Muffler