Spotting suspicious mail items and postal threats
Do not underestimate the impact that receiving a suspicious item in the post or via courier can have on your business. We all use virus protection and malware detection for our emails, but do you screen your physical mail and deliveries?
Most organisations publish their business address on their website then mail and deliveries are sent and received at this location (including personal items, such as internet shopping). Could your organisation be the target of a malicious individual/group that is looking to cause harm to employees or create negative press coverage and disrupt your day-to-day business?
How can you spot a postal threat?
Postal threats have been around a long time and due to their simple design are easy and cheap to make. Hoax threats are even easier to produce, however without screening equipment such as a security x-ray scanner it is very difficult to spot a letter or parcel that contains a threat (real or otherwise).
The CPNI (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure) has developed resources to raise awareness around postal security as part of their Mail Screening Matters campaign. Awareness of postal threats for all employees is very important – being able to spot even one suspicious indicator could prevent harm to a colleague and other damage.
All members of staff should always be on the lookout for these indicators.
1. Are there more stamps than strictly necessary?
2. Who is it addressed to? Not being addressed to a specific person, incorrectly using job titles or without a contact name. Also be aware of misspelt words.
3. Any restrictive markings, such as “private,” “confidential,” or “do not x-ray”?
4. Are there any greasy or oily stains?
5. Is the recipient encouraged to open the package in a particular way?
6. Is there excessive packaging material, like tape or string?
7. Can you see any protruding wires, or exposed foil?
8. Is the item weight unevenly distributed?
9. Is the envelope lopsided or does it have a bulky shape?
What should you do if you discover a suspicious item?
As discussed above, the ability to spot a postal threat can be almost impossible yet incredibly important. Your organisation should therefore encourage reporting any suspicious letters or parcels, and all employees should know who to report this to. A postal threat assessment and Security Scanning Training should be undertaken regularly and would normally involve security, postroom, facilities and other senior managers to ensure everyone knows what this process is.
You should follow your own organisation’s guidance, but best practice says that you should respond to the discovery of a suspected threat as follows:
- Don’t touch it! If you are holding it then gently place it on a clear, flat surface so it is easy to identify.
- Don’t move it.
- If it has been discovered via an X-Ray machine, then leave it in the machine.
- Clear the area including nearby rooms (even those above or below).
- Stop anyone else from entering the area.
- Don’t use mobile phones or radios within 15 meters of the item.
- Dependant on procedure, contact police or internal security.
If you are using X-ray equipment
For X-ray machine operators, awareness is still very important and your ability to detect threats will be enhanced by training. For this reason, you should keep your training up to date and ensure new members of staff are trained to effectively use your equipment and spot a threat.
MyGroupSecurity specialises in postal security and is trusted by many organisations to provide equipment and training to detect threats concealed within letters, parcels, bags or on individuals. If your role is to protect your staff and premises and would like further information about what we can offer then please get in touch.
Senior Threat Assessment Officer