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Conduct security audits every few years: Downs

By Kathy Rumleski, Contributor

Larger companies can sometimes be the most vulnerable when it comes to security, Toronto-area private detective Jim Downs tells

“The bigger the corporation, the larger the number of employees, so there can be a need for more controls,” says Downs, founding partner and managing director of MKD International Inc., a Vaughan, Ont.-based private investigations firm.

While each business has different security needs, he recommends companies undergo a security audit every few years to assess vulnerabilities, re-evaluate protocols, and consider upgrading technology.

“A security audit can mitigate fraud and breaches of information, and help mitigate other risks to the company,” Downs says.

“We evaluate access controls, security protocols, conduct site reviews, and audit a company's critical systems. We also look at security camera systems,” he says.

“MKD ensures the cameras are doing the job required by the company because capability of these systems has advanced considerably over the years, and the technology is constantly changing,” Downs says.

Even if a company has appropriate security systems in place, technological advances may necessitate an upgrade, he says.

Downs recalls a security audit in which his staff was able to get through the security and into the office of a company president with little difficulty.

In another security review involving a Bay Street company, his team quickly accessed the computer network.

“We were also able to get into cellphones and see company paperwork. One of our investigators played the part, dressed in a suit, and looked like he belonged there,” he says.

“From there it was easy to go through the building. Their control system was minimal at best. There was a definite vulnerability. So we identify the problem, and offer a means to correct it.”

MKD also provides sophisticated surveillance programs for companies that may suspect, for example, that an employee is working on the side, despite being off on long-term disability, Downs says.

“We have surveilled employees off on disability or sick leave who have then started their own businesses,” he says. “You don’t like to think it’s common, but we have found that it is.”

MKD also works with lawyers on behalf of a commercial client, Downs says.

“Sometimes we are asked to serve individuals who don’t want to be found. If you are at someone’s door and they won’t answer, you can’t serve them,” he explains.

“In these instances, we can, for example, set up surveillance and follow the individual to serve them in a parking lot where they can’t duck and hide.”

Surveillance can also be used if a company suspects an employee is stealing, Downs says.

“We recently caught employees on camera who were stealing property from a company and storing it in their garage.”

For example, he says employees frequently take tools from worksites.

MKD has a team of investigators who are former police officers and have professional law enforcement and private investigation experience, Downs says.

“If a company needs surveillance, we will use one of our investigators who specialized in that area for a police service. They are very good at it. They are able to capture the evidence, and do it without being detected,” he says.

MKD also has alliances with other companies that specialize in such services as forensic fraud, Downs says.

“It’s extremely specialized work. Through them, we are also able to offer electronic countermeasures such as sweeping a building to detect listening devices to ensure communications are secure,” he says.

“We also offer computer forensics, where the system is examined to ensure there is no compromise. This is a huge area because there are internal and external threats to a computer network,” Downs says.

MKD is often employed by commercial clients to conduct due diligence or pre-employment screening, he says.

“Sometimes a condition of employment is a screening process, which includes a criminal record or credit bureau check, depending on the position,” Downs says.

“Checking someone’s social media can be part of this screening process as well. We want to ensure there is no potential compromise or skeletons in the closet. People sometimes don’t think clearly when they post on social media and its accessible to the public.”

Due diligence is also advised for companies involved in a merger, he says.

“We look at the background of a company and the individuals employed there. It’s all about mitigating your risks,” Downs says.

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