Adversary Behaviour Modelling by Mark Chapple


Today UK faces a growing number of challenges, pandemic, floods, terrorism even state sponsored nerve agent attacks.  As individual security professionals we have to be aware of these threats and how to detect, deter and counter them.  At an organisational level, businesses will first identify these threats to include them in operational requirements for security systems.  Typical systems will include guards, radios and CCTV, but will also include security processes.  Current advice from the National Counter Terrorist Security Office (NaCTSO) outlines a matrix of 25 different measures that can be applied across five different national security alert states.

Published in December 2020 the current version of the National Risk Register (NRR) codifies 38 different risks to the UK; an attack against a crowded space is shown as the most likely risk event.  Actions by state sponsored actors, such as the Novichok attack in Salisbury, are shown in the NRR as the next lower level of probability.  These risks will also be in the mind of front-line security officers working in the retail and hospitality sectors. The UK response to the Coronavirus pandemic has pushed front-line security officers into the public eye and they are now recognised as essential workers. In the retail, transport and entertainment sectors, digital technologies are providing new opportunities for businesses and authorities to communicate with customers and for customers to communicate back.                                 

National Risk Register Crown © 2020

In February 2020 James Brokenshire the Home Office Security Minister announced that there would be a public consultation into security at crowded places. This consultation will be part of the proposed “Martyn’s Law”, a bill to propose a duty to protect public spaces.  In the face of current health and security challenges forward-looking venues and security service providers will already be looking to improve and differentiate their services.  They will do this not only to keep their customers and staff safe, but also to give them competitive advantage. 


Whilst security technology has advanced, security good practice relating to people and processes remains focussed on traditional risks and legacy thinking, such as the over-riding need to record evidential video of incidents at the expense of response.   Security threats have changed, in some cases even threats have evolved in response to legacy security solutions.  Elsewhere incidents like the Manchester Arena bombing have illustrated that the security profession has yet to fully grasp the potential of new digital technologies to help create a safer environment.

In the UK public expectations are evolving, there are growing demands to equity, the Prime Minister has talked about the need to “level up”. Incidents such as the Grenfell Tower disaster and the Manchester Arena bombing are increasingly bringing ethical, social and governance (ESG) to the fore in the national conversation.  Security professionals writing for this journal have already reported on the imperative to raise the bar in the front-line of our sector.  Both the response to the Grenfell disaster and the Manchester Arena attack highlighted that there can be differing perceptions between members of the public or staff inside a venue, those immediately outside and personnel in remote operations centres. These differences can and do impact on how a report is interpreted and the degree of urgency with which establishments and emergency services respond. 

With their new found status as key workers front line security providers will need to continue to demonstrate that their services are dynamic and responsive.


Security operational requirements for people, processes and technologies require updating to cater for contemporary risks and new ways of working. For instance: front-line security roles could in future be using social media and on-line services to communicate with customers, alongside marketing messages. To remain competitive owners of crowded spaces, venues and providers of front-line security services may need to adapt their methods to better detect and respond to today’s dynamic threat environment. Those suppliers that can adapt to new, proactive measures will be seen to be offering value-add services. 

Businesses and even local authorities who are driven by good governance, foresight and the need to compete will already exploring how they can change and differentiate.  Changes will need to be made to planning, training and exercising to allow each venue to create common concept of operations. To create a cohesive response, plans and exercises will need to involve staff, front-line security, sometimes even distant blue-light call handlers and emergency responders.


How could security professionals and venue operators step up to managing these emerging risks? Security operational requirements need to be more focussed to help detect and deter violent attacks, as well as provide evidential material after the event.  Staff, volunteers and security personnel need to be able to recognise how, where and when a threat may present itself. At a local level there will need to be a shared mental model between operators and staff, about what the threat might be at each venue.

Forward thinking venues will already be looking at how they communicate with staff and customers, some may even have platforms to allow customers to provide feedback directly to the venue.  Individual and collective training on threat-specific detection and response would provide updated context for those involved in location specific security. New digital tools could be introduced to allow venues to better communicate with the public.

Adversary behaviour modelling is developed from recognised processes for assessing adversary behaviour. During the past 40 years these techniques have successfully predicted and or detected terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and Overseas Territories. At home and abroad these methods have also detected acts of espionage by foreign intelligence services, as well as human and contraband trafficking at ports and airports.  These kind of site surveys will aim to identify the most likely times and places an adversary might conduct reconnaissance and mount an attack. By identifying local areas of risk, specialist advisors will be able to help venue operators to specify measures that are reasonable, proportional and affordable.

Adversary behaviour modelling will further inform emergency plans by statutory bodies such as blue light services, local authorities and businesses providing critical services in the energy, transportation and telecommunications sector who are covered by statutory obligations. At each site the assessment of a venue, iconic site or element of critical national infrastructure would consider:

  • The physical layout.
  • Weather conditions that may influence customers and an attacker.
  • The commercial operating model of the site, including business hours.
  • Communications relationships within the site.
  • Public information and awareness channels.
  • Customer demographics.
  • Site security:  how the adversary would view this.
  • Threat.  How and adversary might conduct their reconnaissance and attack.
  • Response:  how the adversary would anticipate any response.

This kind of analysis would draw on qualified and experienced practitioners with a range of skills including: counter terrorist intelligence and social media intelligence analysts, protective security practitioners, applied psychologists with expertise in criminal/ terrorist behaviour and crowd dynamics. The skills of experienced surveillance operators with understanding of street-craft and adversary tactics will also add depth to this kind of service.  

Adversary behaviour modelling would offer multiple benefits including:

  1. Reducing risk to customers, staff and business operations.
  2. Promote planning and training that would increase the confidence and effectiveness of staff, front-line security personnel and Blue Light responders.
  3. Provide front line security operators with evidence of continuing professional development that was relevant to the current National Risk Register.
  4. Demonstrate ethical, social and governance best practice on behalf of the venue.
  5. By demonstrating new, proactive security services, provide competitive advantage to discerning venues who wish to demonstrate to artistes and the public that they are a more secure place to visit.

This article would be the basis of our response to the anticipated public consultation on the Protect Duty bill and we would welcome an opportunity to collaborate with others on this matter.