Home Automation Podcast Episode #166: An Industry Q&A With Kris Coleman
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Kris Coleman, Founder, President, and CEO at Red Five Security shares tips on protecting your privacy in the digital age.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Kris Coleman. Recorded live on Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Kris Coleman
Before founding Red Five in 2004, Kris served internationally with the CIA and later with the FBI in California, handling missions including terrorism attacks, weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorism post 9/11, and multiple Olympic security details.
Kris brings over 28 years of experience in the security and protective intelligence services industry. His depth in the public and private sector has allowed the Red Five team to specialize in high-quality, proactive, and discrete security services.
Today, Red Five operates with the goal to provide world-class, state-of-the-art security and protective intelligence services.
- How Kris moved from the public sector working with the government into the private sector founding Red Five
- Kris' five Pillars of Resiliency that he details in his book Raise Your Resilience
- Tips on protecting your privacy in the digital age
- When integrators and members of the design community should bring in a security consultant into the project
Ron: My guest today is I want to say maybe one of the more interesting people, all of my guests are fun and interesting. But if you're into cloak and dagger and security and the world of intrigue and mystery out there, my guest is going to be a lot of fun for you to listen to and learn about. It goes back into the early days.
My guest and I met many years ago, back in the early days of Firefly Design Group, when we were doing consulting and technology system design not only for integrators, but we were doing that type of work for high net worth individuals and families around the world. We were often in a role consulting and advising for, you know, end-users and or through their rep representatives. Often in those cases, there was the need for a security consultant or a security advisor. My research ultimately led me to this individual and his company, and his company has continued down that path. We're going to talk a lot about the fun and interesting things they're doing today. But that was the way he and I got to work together, and I really got to see the professionalism and the expertise. I was in awe because I just find that stuff so interesting. My guest is Kris Coleman. He is the Founder and President, and CEO of the firm called Red Five. They are a world-class state of the art, security and protective intelligence services company. Kris is going to tell us exactly what that means. I also recently picked up Kris's latest book and was reading through that. We will be discussing that as well. But let's go ahead. Without further ado, let's bring in Kris, and let's get this interview started. Kris, how are you, sir?
Kris: Hey, Ron, I'm great, thanks. I appreciate you having me.
Ron: It's my pleasure. You and I have been connected for a long time on LinkedIn, and I'm always reading your posts and seeing your content. And I saw that you had come out with your latest book last year. And I reached out, and your people and my people got us where we are today. I'm glad that happened.
Kris: Great stuff. Great to be back. I connected and seeing what you're up to.
Ron: Well, things are a little bit different now. We're no longer doing that engineering stuff. You and I worked on some projects together. We've moved on from that. And we're now squarely doing marketing, but marketing for the same technology integrators that I've spent my 20-year career working with and serving. There is that. But tell us about Red Five. I gave a bit of a description from the bio I have here. If you don't mind, give us what Red Five is?
Kris: Yes. Red Five came out of what was about a fifteen-year career at both the CIA and the FBI. I had originally found myself in college trying to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up and had a bunch of different majors and found myself at a job fair talking to the CIA representative. And I'm like, you know, this could be pretty cool. I always like international intrigue and foreign affairs, always involved in, reading a lot about that, and staying up on current events. I signed up and not even graduated from college. I was working at the CIA and spent a lot of time with them, going through all the training down at the farm and going through many different experiences with them, getting ready to deploy overseas and really operate as an intelligence officer. I was very fortunate to spend about eight years with the CIA. It was a tremendous experience running around many different countries, learning about different cultures, obviously working on national security issues, forwarding furthering the whole mission of the CIA, and collecting intelligence. I'm going to ask the silly question, how much do the movies get? Right. There are a few movies that are quite good. There's a lot of them that really take it to the ground. The artistic license is very pervasive out there. But it's all good fun.
I would say probably a lot of it is a lot more boring than what Hollywood puts out there. But the reality is the mission couldn't be more important for the places we find ourselves are extremely volatile. They're dangerous. But we're doing things that have to be done to collect information to keep our policymakers well informed. It's been a tough, tough twenty-plus years. I mean, I joined in '90. Now we're thirty years since I joined. The mission has changed a little bit because of the nature of the threats that are out there. A lot of threats now are really asymmetric in nature, meaning they're kind of coming at us as a post-Cold War environment where terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, now cyber warfare, and all of which can be really carried out by singletons or small teams or small cells and have a massive impact, negative impact on our society and our US interests and our allies interests. It's a tough job. It's thankless. A lot of my colleagues over the years have lost their lives and service at the CIA, and I and my hat are off to them for giving the ultimate sacrifice and that their names will never be known. They'll be another star in the wall at CIA headquarters. Great experience at CIA and my first of two rounds there. When I wrapped up my time doing protective operations, I was overseas for several years, but then came back and was focused on protective operations, keeping me very busy until I joined the FBI.
Ron: Did the FBI recruit you to join them, or did you find something at the FBI that you found interesting from a career path? It's a great story because all my FBI, Quantico classmates all thought I was out of the planted mole in my FBI class. Of course, you're coming over. You're still working for the CIA. But the reality was no. I found a path that was attractive to me because there were more opportunities domestically to use my skills. Not only did I already have some international experience, but there was an opportunity for me to be involved in some domestic work, and it was just a typical career choice. Let's try something different. That landed me in San Francisco. I was working in San Francisco, working in national organized crime and dealing a lot of terrorism, started with working Russian organized crime, a very busy environment in San Francisco.
But then obviously, my background lent led me more towards going towards terrorism, international affairs. I found myself working international terrorism out of the Oakland resident agency there. Oakland and then 9/11 hit, and being a part of the SWAT team there in San Francisco and the FBI SWAT team, we responded on 9/11. Unfortunately, those aircraft, one of which was supposed to land in San Francisco, ended up going down in D.C. Just a tragic day. You were deployed to be on the receiving end of the hijacked airplane on its way to San Francisco, or at least that was the flight plan. That's correct. So we were waiting, but obviously, you didn't receive that tragic aircraft. But we ended up having other missions almost immediately. And in the Bay Area, dealing with no leads, don't you know, that sprang from the 9/11 investigation?
Kris: That kept us very busy for a couple of years, running out of the millions of leads that came in on the 9/11 case. On that 9/11 case, I was fortunate to be a co-case agent in San Francisco, trying to help tackle what one of the greatest tragedies in U.S. history was. It was a tough time for a lot of people, a tough time for the country. But we bounced back, as you would expect we would.
Ron: Yeah, we're resilient. I was reading that in your book.
Kris: Exactly, yeah. And I was fortunate. It took us out to Salt Lake City for the Olympics, which was obviously an extremely high-security environment post 9/11. That was another great experience. That actually was my second Olympics that I had worked. I had worked with third technically. I supported Barcelona from headquarters. But then I actually deployed to Lilyhammer, Norway, with the agency to support the Olympics. Salt Lake was my third, and I worked, and it was a great experience for the FBI, SWAT working there in Salt Lake.
Ron: Is your job when you're "working the Olympics" to protect the athletes? Is that the objective?
Kris: It's athletes and venues, and our mission specifically in Norway was counterterrorism oriented, intelligence oriented. Our mission in Salt Lake was to respond to any incident in our sector as a member of the SWAT team. Specifically, we were down there at soldier hollow, which was the cross-country skiing venue. Our team was deployed down in that area to respond to any kind of incident at the facilities or deal with an issue with athletes.
Ron: Got it. At what point did you decide because? It had to be a pretty big decision from working for the government to go to the private sector. How did you decide to do that?
Kris: Yeah, actually, I went back to the agency before leaving for the private sector. My wife was still at the CIA. But the bureau was intent on me staying in the West Coast, and I was intent on getting back to my wife on the East Coast, and so I made my way back by being rehired back into the agency and where I worked weapons of mass destruction. Then I also worked on challenges with terrorism and getting into training our allies on how to counter terrorism overseas. That last couple of years was very busy on the travel front. I think I did sixty-something countries in a couple of years, but tremendous experience working on different cultures, different agencies with different intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies worldwide. That's where I was actually recruited out of the government, was to go work for a private family.
That was really the beginning of Red Five, was I formed the LLC to do other things, and not even nine months after I did that, I was recruited out to work for a private family, and I spent a solid year rebuilding their entire program. That's when Red Five was really formulated, as this is going to be a company that solves problems for unique clients. It's what I have been doing for most of my government career. The same concept played right into Red Five. How Red Five would do that was by consulting, understanding the challenges our clients are facing, whether they're a high net worth family or they're a corporation or perhaps a philanthropic organization that had some challenges. Then we would craft the right solution when I wrote one of my first pieces, which was protective intelligence methodology for executives, the prime methodology, and that played into the Red Five's initial start. It's been a lot of fun ever since. We've supported, I think, more than half of the Forbes twenty at some point in our history. We worked on six of the seven continents. We're still angling for Antarctica. Maybe I'll get that next year.
Ron: But does it count if you travel with one of your clients to Antarctica? Does that count as operating on Antarctica?
Kris: I think I'd count that. We're going to make that a real experience at the end of this and take everybody down south.
Ron: Now, I have a very abstract question only because you said you worked weapons of mass destruction. And obviously, that sounds mostly terrifying. Just to appropriately terrify the audience, how small of a package could a weapon of mass destruction be put into that would do harm, say, to a city?
Kris: Well, there's a variety of different delivery methods, and there's a variety of different actual weapons that could be or items that could be weaponized. Right. You're talking about nuclear, radiological.
Ron: That's probably what I'm thinking about. I don't know. I'm going back to my movie references. Is it true a suitcase could do a lot of damage?
Kris: Yeah. If you're getting into biologicals, there are many questions about this current situation we're in. There are questions about what could be spread around anthrax. If you recall, after 9/11, we had anthrax attacks. Those are delivered in an envelope. Those can be quite small and be considered a weapon of mass destruction when distributed across different locations. Biological, chemical, we had a nerve agent attack in Japan, back in the subway in the nineties. Yeah, I'm sure it was the terror group that did that. Again, small delivery, but big impact. Right. The realities are that other than anthrax or a high explosive attack, radiological and chemical attacks, biological attacks can be very difficult to deliver. It's a low probability but extremely catastrophic impact. We need to be paying attention to those. But my work was primarily overseas, working to dismantle WMD programs. But now we're just looking to stay ahead of the bad guys that it doesn't take many of those folks to be successful, to wreck your day, or create a tragedy. The good guys, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, all of our agencies out there, including state and local authorities, have to be successful every day to keep that from happening. Again, hats off to both my colleagues in law enforcement and intelligence services.
Ron: Amen. The question, Chris, how do you find your customers, how do they find you?
Kris: A great question. We've been very fortunate over the 17 plus years to build a reputation of trust and credibility. We've got a great presence in the industry. We've got a great presence out there. And I think now in our marketing materials, and people typically find us by referrals. Good work begets good work. And we've been really fortunate that people call and say, I've talked to my colleague, my peer, my corporate peer, and you guys are the ones to do this. A lot of our work comes in referral-based. We're getting now more work from our marketing streams. But there's this element of they hear of us from a trusted colleague. They do their due diligence, whether that's a website or social media or calling around. The reality is they reach out, and a lot of our work is not completed. You've already been selected. Then there's a big piece there that comes with it that we're trusted. Right. We take that role of a trusted advisor extremely seriously. We are to be the trusted advisor. We do not take that lightly. We're big listeners. We come in with the referrals. We listen to what the clients are saying. We listen to what they say about their pattern of behavior on their family, and then we assess what the real risks are, and we come up with an answer. That's how we deal with it when it comes in, and we want to be a partner to those clients. That makes a lot of sense. We've got the trust element, then we have the pedigree, right. Where do we come from? What have we done for most of our careers? We've already talked a bit about that, but most of our folks are CIA, FBI, Secret Service, et cetera, military.
There's the credibility, the pedigree. Then and then we deliver it. Right. We deliver it in a way that makes sense for the clients. We've got a level of excellence that we strive for on every job we want to over-deliver—Trust, credibility, and delivery. A big part of the delivery is responsiveness. They say, "You're the first security company that even called us back." And most of these incidents are coming at us because there's a stressor, right. There's an undesired event that has happened. That's a big piece of that credibility, building the trust. We've got this ability to execute. That's really gone a long way.
Ron: Help the audience understand. You said you've worked with half of the Forbes 20 list at some point.
Kris: It changes, and it moves around.
Ron: But I'm just told there's a luxury consumer family that needs help. I can only imagine the infinite number of risks in your book. You call them Jackal's that are out there that that could go after them. You also mentioned corporate. I'm just curious, what is that split, or how do you think about how you help the luxury family versus corporate? And what does your business look like today in terms of that split?
Kris: Right. We're probably about 50/50. It probably shifts 60/40 from time to time. We came into this thing knowing that it would be the kind of clients we needed to service. They have really unique challenges that are there typically on multiple continents. They've got multiple potentials, avenues of attack for adversaries. They're high-profile targets. Whether they think they are or not. There's a lot of assets they're available to attack. And the reality is they all need, whether you're corporate or you are a high net worth family or private family, just in general, they all need privacy, security, and resiliency. Those are our three business lines, our service lines. We've done security now for 30 years. The security we know really well, we know in different countries.
We know in different disciplines, whether it's investigations, executive protection, due diligence, design and engineering, safe rooms, cyber operational security, travel mobility. So many different things are on the security front. But what we found and the rise of the cyber issue in recent years is privacy is now becoming an extremely urgent issue with our family, both on the corporate side for compliance and data protection and then on the private side for her identity. Dealing with identity PII information that would reveal anything about individuals, the family's identities, where they live, where their assets are located, or key information. Privacy now becomes sort of a key issue. Three years ago, before COVID even hit, now we're talking about resiliency. We were starting to do real experiences years ago with the resiliency issue for both families and corporate. Now we're talking about corporates.
We're talking about business continuity plans, continuity of operations, programs. What are you going to do in the supply chains disrupted? Where will you go when you can no longer come into the office because there's a pandemic? What is your IT strategy for that? What is your operational strategy for that? All these things around resilience around corporations are squarely in our space. For families, we're talking about several things. It's not only the residence. It's not only the second or third residents. It's also mobility. How do they move around? But we're talking about the family legacy and what's going on with the family offices because what we know is that 70 percent of family wealth is not passed on to the next generation. What's going wrong there? Right. There's an element thereof protecting the legacy. There's an element of leadership. There's a whole team building, skill-building. We get into that in the book about what are the five pillars of resiliency where.
Ron: Well, let me share that. The audience is hearing you talk about the book. I want just to put the name and the great I'm going to put it up on the screen here. Awesome. Raise Your Resiliency, that's actually the book that I picked up, and then I'm almost through, and I think it's fascinating, but continue, please. I just wanted to show the audience. For those listening, the name of the book is Raise Your Resiliency by Kris Coleman. And your previous book is Shield Your Privacy.
Kris: Yeah. The previous book is written by Heather Nickerson, one of our other execs. But that came out of this whole concept we talked about with privacy. We needed something to share with families because we make so much effort to educate and bring them around their awareness around privacy. We can talk a little bit about that. But the resiliency book. Yeah. Raise Your Resiliency came out of the third stool, the third leg of the stool. Yeah. The concept here is that you need to be able to bounce back from adversity. The concept applies both to individuals. It applies to families, and it applies to corporations. What we say is there's sort of a five-three-one system of resiliency. The assumption here is that there's one goal and everybody's goal is to be successful. Your goal is to survive and thrive. That's the one goal for everyone. It doesn't matter who you are. It's universal. You live anywhere, and you want to do that. But I also put forth that there are three critical units.
There's the individual, there is the family, and then there is the business. The concept there is you need to apply the five pillars to all three units to achieve the one goal, to survive and thrive. That's where the bulk of the book spends its time is on the five pillars and how they apply to the three critical units. It was a lot of studies. It was a lot of experience, a lot of things that we had been trained on in the government, both agencies, and many of my colleagues and interviewed my colleagues and looked back on what we have been trained in. There are really five things that matter. Those five pillars are articulated in the book and the first being awareness. You've got to have a real awareness that's based in reality. We don't want you spending time on social media. That's all you do. You're not going to get the ground truth of what's going on around you in your neighborhood, community, et cetera. The second pillar is really about a mindset. When we went over this repeatedly, it was really part of every training scenario we had with the government.
That is a survival mindset, a positive mindset, constructive growth mindset. It's not going to be, oh, we're doomed. We're never going to make it. This catastrophic thinking was really about. There is a way out of this. Let's find a way out of this. I can do this. I can find my way out of this, whether it's an illness, a bankruptcy or a setback with a family, a divorce, dealing with something going on in the corporation. There's a whole variety of things that can happen to us and any of the three critical units.
The mindset is absolutely imperative to get through a gunfight, right? To get through an altercation, to get through a pandemic, mindset's critical. Then fitness and fitness is a broad category, right? Physical fitness. It's financial fitness. It's this element around flexibility. It's an element around endurance. It's not about how much you can bench press or how far you can run, or how fast you can run. But have you set up your personal finances correctly? Is your business strapped for cash? And are you really able to surge into new areas? Are you not nimble in your business? Are you not fit? Fitness applies across emotional, mental, physical, financial aspects of all three critical units. Then we get into skills. And that's where the real experiences get a lot of fun. Right now, we're talking about skills. What kind of skills do you need to light a fire, change a tire, winter survival, desert survival, working through urban escape challenges? When you find yourself in a 9/11 experience downtown, and you've got to get out of the city, there are all kinds of things we can deal with. We're talking about skills. Family, it's about contingencies, contingency planning.
How do you get out of town when something bad happens? How do you decide when to shelter in place if there's civil unrest in your neighborhood? There are so many different things, and you apply to your business, and now you're talking about what kind of plans are in place at the business? What kind of skills do you have as a CEO, as a CFO, as a line worker? It doesn't have to be about being an executive, but what does it take for you to be resilient in your role as bringing in the income for the family? You're the breadwinner. You can just be working somewhere and get a lot out of this book which talks about resiliency in the business realm. It can be a breadwinner. It can be a singleton. You don't have to be a business owner or executive to get something out of the book. But then lastly, and probably most importantly, other relationships in our lives that make us resilient, the concept there is, no one gets through this world alone and does it well. In the intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, we frequently talked about one is done and two is one. You wanted to work with a partner. You wanted to work in a team. Whether you're on the street as a law enforcement agent, you work with a team of SWAT.
We were on a SWAT team, executive protection. We were executive protection team intelligence side. We usually worked in teams but frequently found ourselves on the street working alone. But the reality is we still had support elements. We still had technology elements. We still had all kinds of elements supporting us. That applies in our private lives today. Right? We have spouses. We have families. We have neighborhoods, communities. All of these entities support us mentorships and colleagues at work. You can't get through the day without a relationship that really supports you and allows you to bounce back. Because when the Jackel shows up, right when they show up at the business, they show up on your families, show up personally as a setback, as an illness, like a bankruptcy. Whatever is going on in your life, you've got to be ready for the Jackel. We used to do when we were teaching overseas, we would ask the students that might be from a different culture and a different language, what are you going to do with the Jackel shows up and they were like, we don't understand that. When you're playing soccer, right? When you're playing football, you have to decide what you will do when the ball comes to you? And in baseball, we always did the same thing here in the US. Right. What do you do when the ball comes to you on the third? You are going on the first. What is it?
On the second, make a decision. You're always prepared when the Jackel shows up. We used a couple of different analogies there. But when the Jackel shows up, what is it you're going to do? Do you have things in place? Do you have the ability a capital stream to help the business when times are tough? Do you have the ability to bounce back when you have a challenge at the home family to rely on for relationships? What are your skills when you're traveling across the country with your family in your RV, and you have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere? What are your skills to deal with the mechanical? God forbid, a medical dealing with adversaries and crime on the street? We really think there's a lot to be had here in the resiliency space, and our real experiences are set up to help private families, and corporate leaders, and individuals get more out of their lives today.
Ron: I'm not going to lie, Kris. I got really excited when I saw this. I thought this, you know, my wife and son will tell you I'm just I'm totally going to bury myself here in public. But like Bear Grylls and his television show and his shows, plural and all the different survival shows on TV, I think maybe in a former life I was maybe special forces, maybe a Boy Scout, I don't know. But the idea of preparedness, living through experiences that resonate with me, and your idea of building resiliency in those that you're where you're recommending this to the world at large. You've taken a step in building this into your business. Resiliency-based training. For my podcast listeners, I'm sharing the screen from the Red Five Security website, and there's a section on that site, and it says, "Real experiences." What are real experiences? How does this work, and how should those listening think about this? Is this right for them, or is this right for maybe their clients or people in their orbit?
Kris: We really want it to be open to everyone. Obviously, there's an element here of challenge or putting you in a real experience where right now we're looking at California, Utah, Texas, Virginia as locations. We've identified a site in Lana'i for more of a tropical challenge. And we're looking at places in Florida, Montana, but we've successfully run a couple of classes in Moab for offroad and Overlanding that they're incorporating these challenges for our clients. The thought process here is we don't care about your fitness level. We don't care about your gender. We don't care about elements here that that would typically be. And for some people, I'm not fit enough. I'm not this. I'm not that. But the reality is everybody can become resilient. Resiliency is a learned thing, right? We can put you in environments that create stress.
They are artificial in the sense that we are creating them. But real in the sense that you've got to execute something to get through it, and we can give you the skills to do that. We're bringing in former FBI, SWAT, former FBI negotiators, former CIA, former Secret Service, former military experts to help teach this. They're not necessarily those individuals that you would ever meet. But the reality is they are great instructors. I've handpicked these folks because they can transfer the knowledge. We're bringing them in. This is a cordial environment. It's constructive. It does not boot camp. Right. We're not screaming and yelling. That's not what this is about. But the reality is we're bringing in adults, and we're putting them in artificial stress environments so that we can build resiliency by repeated artificial stressors. We're going to take you out in Utah, and we're going to have you make your path through the wilderness to get to where you're going to be. But we're going to force a medical emergency, and you're going have to deal with it for some mechanical. You're going to have to deal with it.
We're going to deal with navigation issues. We're going to deal with teammate issues. Who's in charge today? Challenges around navigating routes, dealing with things at night, dealing with finding water, dealing with adversaries. That's just an example of a MOAB-type experience. We're also dealing with building resiliency skills. You've got to deal with the awareness issues. Right. We're going to focus these on the five pillars. How are you getting your information? What do those information sources look like? Do you trust them? Are they accurate? Are you making decisions based on reality? How is your fitness level? Right. If you're finding yourself struggling to get through this exercise, maybe you need to reflect on what your fitness level looks like now. Same thing with skills. Some people are going to come to this like I'm an avid camper. I'm a hiker. I'm good. No worries. But how does that go when you're faced with a crime? How many people have actually dealt with criminals and adversaries? That's not a great experience. And some folks will find themselves. They've never been in a fight. What's it like to get that first hit? We can put people in environments where we're not going to cause fights.
Ron: I was going to say, do they get hit or do they get the hit?
Kris: It's a new environment, right? We want to put them in and experiences where they haven't been before. And then they're going to have to work with teams, which is a relationship piece. Then the mindset. Who's going to quit? This is scary. This is too hard. This is tough. I don't like this anymore. I want to go home. We have too much of that right now in our world. We need more grit. We need our generations coming up. They're going to lead this country, lead our states and our communities, our neighborhoods to be more resilient, and for me, national security. It's a big piece. Resilience is a national security issue. We've got to be more resilient. Whether it's a pandemic, whether it's an electrical grid outage, it's a disruption of the supply chain, civil unrest. We've got to be able to deal with this. And it comes down to the individual just must think that we get these skills out there. I've been fortunate and so very lucky to be trained by the best. Even when we were in the agency, and we were sometimes training with the FBI, we were actually given training by the military to help us deal with even some of the more specific skill sets we needed in our jobs as intelligence officers and law enforcement agents. We've been trained by the best. We want to share some of those to the extent that obviously it's appropriate to do so.
We're not going to give away state secrets and doing that. But a lot of it is common sense. A lot of it is stuff that you see every day. But we're putting it into context. Right. That's really critical here, where a security company that deals with privacy issues. But we're also now dealing with resiliency issues. I think real experiences are the way to go. They're going to be available on an e-commerce web page here soon so people can sign up. That'll be a great advancement of the program. But this has been several years in coming, and we've had a delay, obviously, due to COVID, but not to ask what impact is COVID had on launching this initiative.
We were ready to launch last March, right as this was coming. We had just wrapped up a big push on privacy, and Heather's book had launched, which is also on the website, and we were now transitioning to the resiliency part of our service line. We were ready to launch. But the reality was we could no longer get together. And that was really the key to this thing was face-to-face experiences with your teammates. We had just wrapped one up in October the previous year out in Moab, and we're ready to start teaching. We started to pivot a little bit too virtual, and people are burned out, and you're not going to get what you want out of that. We said we're going to wait on virtual resiliency training. We went back to developing a core curriculum and lining up relationships in these different states because we know it's tough for some. Travel's not on the radar yet. These are all going to be driving distance for some of these experiences. But soon, we'll be able to fly, and some are flying now to get to these experiences.
Ron: Yeah, are rates for these resiliency courses, are this public at or is that not yet published?
Kris: I don't think they're out there yet. I think they're going to be published here soon, and we're publishing as we go. But the reality is you're getting a small group, probably less than 10, 10, or less. You're getting the best instructors in the world, great environments for training. We're not going to put you in an environment that's not going to facilitate and enable you to learn. Some of the scenery is absolutely staggering and leads to somewhat we've had as feedback, about the experiences and there are transformative is the word that we hear a lot. I never thought I could do that. I never thought my vehicle could do that. I didn't think I personally could achieve that, which is great feedback for us that we're on the right track. We've had people come to the class that is in their 20s. We've had people come to the classes in their late 60s. I think that's also from the entertainment industry, from journalism. We've got people to go through corporate for private families, and we're ready to get this thing out there. We're hoping that once these are out there on the web, people can sign up.
We love corporations to sign up and say we've got four teams often. Let's get a purchase order in place, and let's run four different classes and let us bring our own corporate issues to the table. Right. Help us with team building. Help us with decision-making. Help us work together as a group through a specific challenge or disaster recovery teams, put us in an environment that's completely nonpermissive, and build a scenario around us. We've been asked in some cases, can we make this scenario-based? Some executive protection teams may want to say, "Let us land at an airport and fight our way through town to get to our private ranch." That's a scenario we can run all day long with our backgrounds, and then you get into private families. It might be that we want to operate as a family. We're bringing in ten adults from the family office and customize it for us. We can put it around a one day, a two day, a three day. But we're also customizing three and five-day experiences for folks that want to get something very specific to what they do or what they need. We're happy to do all of that around resiliency and real experiences.
Ron: Now that's fascinating, and I, in preparing for this interview and reading your book and navigating the site, I had seen this, but I didn't give it the time. When you and I were connecting in advance, and I was like, that's what it is. This is spectacular. I can't see how that wouldn't be really, really big. It makes the topic of resiliency and security and privacy that all of that makes it more accessible, I can imagine, for your business to a wider audience.
Kris: Absolutely right. People come to us, and they'll say, can you help me with the threat and vulnerability assessment for my new estate? Or help me with the digital problem around due diligence or a cyber breach, and happy to do that. Then they're like, well, how do we not let this happen again? And that's where like, let's get into some experiences. Right. What skills do you lack? And they're like, no one's really asking me that. We only talked about it. What about talking about your organization, your family, and your business. It comes down to what do I need to do to do this? We're going to get the adventure seekers right. I've got five friends, and we want to do this experience. It's going to be an educational vacation for families that may want to do that. An extended family, let's do vacation for five days in MOAB and have experiences and challenges. We can do that. But I think there's an element of services that leads to resiliency, experiences, real experiences, and there's an element of real experiences. But now there they've been with us for five days and the tropical environment, the winter environment, and they're like, we really trust you, right? We trusted you before, but now you've taken us through this challenge. Right. You're taking us through this gauntlet of how do we get through these things. And now we want you to help us with our personal vacation safari to Africa. Please send us some services for that and get us to get prepared for that, both medically and security-wise, digitally. Digital is the thing that most people overlook, but we include that some of our resiliency experiences.
Ron: I'm mindful of the time, and I have a couple of maybe super well topics that are super top of mind for me. And there, I know our audience is dealing with technology in the home or the office. I'm going to mention a dirty word, and that's Facebook or Instagram, social media. How do these families that you're advising manage that they themselves or their kids or their grandkids are on social media while protecting their family and not disclosing their location? What advice or maybe how you approach that? Maybe you might advise don't go on social media. Maybe that's the best answer. But what if you do go on social media? How can you protect your privacy?
Kris: That's a great question. Right. It is the world we live in. It's digital. It's intrusive. It's sometimes misleading. But it also obviously is hitting something in our brain that we want to keep doing it. And that's probably by design at some level. Marketing and social media are in some ways architected that way. And that's just the way we're doing today. Right? We're doing social media. We're doing outreach with video. For us, the challenge is immediacy and oversharing. Right. If you're instantly posting the fact that you're no longer at home because you're on vacation, that exposes the fact that your home is no longer occupied, and someone could come to take advantage of that. You're giving the adversaries information that they don't typically have because you're oversharing. Families get into this environment where they're, "We're going on vacation next week. We're going to be gone for ten days. We're going to go here, here and here." Not only are you exposing the fact that your house is not occupied, but you're telling people where you're going to be. And if you are a person of affluence, you're now telling you that that asset is no longer in a secure environment, and you're going to be in a different environment, and you may be more vulnerable.
That's particularly adventurous when we get into celebrities and professional athletes, and corporate executives with active threats. We don't want them to be telegraphing where they're going to be. We will often talk to families, and they're like, we don't know how the paparazzi are waiting for us in Cabo. And we're like, "Well, what are you putting out on social media? Well, nothing. But what are your kids putting on social media? Oh, that might be where it's coming from, and then we do a quick look for them, and yeah, the son of the daughter broadcast this five days ago that are going to be landing in Costa Rica, and you're going to go deep-sea fishing. We can't wait to be there.
Ron: We're going to be at this resort, and then we're going to go on this hike of this mountain this time. There are elements of time that are important to us, not only oversharing but wait till you're back. Right. Wait till you're typically everybody wants to post.
Kris: Is that instant gratification and look where I'm at and get all the likes and the comments. But the reality is going on vacation. I have a great time. Take all your pictures. Wait till you're back. Post them that, and that doesn't sit well with the new generations. But the reality is that that's the best practice on the security front. You know, you could go down the path and say, don't do anything, don't post, don't be on social media. But the reality is we're not going to stop children and some adults from doing that. It is the world we live in. And so we have to manage the risk. That's where we come in with families. It's a measured risk management approach that helps them balance risk management with living their lives. Right. We're not here to tell families that you can't do this or corporations can't do this because they need to do what they need to either make money or enjoy their lives. As an adviser, we come across as an adviser to them the trade-offs and educate them on what is at risk when they do that and how they might avoid that if they're interested if they're willing to take those measures. And that, I think, has been really important for us.
Ron: Kris, we've had several comments throughout the show here, but I'm just going to show one that Brandi just posted, and she says, great question, Ron, I'm so particular about posting any location-specific posts that went on vacation or away from home. And then Eddie, an integrator out of the D.C. area, and says, "I hate the amount of information that people share on Facebook. This is definitely an issue. And we've told clients about this." Do you advise, Kris, that this gets a bit nuanced or technical, but I think I'd read this at some point, and I know I did it for myself? I think I've turned information, geotagging, or locations off my social app so that I don't automatically know where I'm at when I am posting. It's so hard because you get to dive through the menus, and they make it so hard to do that.
Kris: Yeah. And a lot of our clients come to us like, how do we do this? Some of our families, you know, we have one house, forty-two iPads around the house, and numerous phones and all kinds of devices. We talked about the Internet of Things earlier. But this whole element of pervasive technology, everything is tagged. Everything has got some kind of a geotag. It's got some kind of other identifiable information and photographs that we take. And now all the social media is doing facial recognition, and these are your four friends in this photograph are going to tag them, too. You have to get into the menus. Like you said. You have to go deep into these things, and we can sit down with families, and we do this an education session with them, and we walk through and like this is how are you going to do this? But now you've got to do it every time there's an upgrade. Right, because it typically resets, and it takes you back to other sets of settings.
There's a need there to be disciplined about your settings. There's a need to be disciplined about a new device that comes into the household that's got open architecture, which is great for convenience. But the reality is, the integrators need to pay attention to that because they're in this space, and they're saying, "Yeah, we'll put all this great stuff in, it'll be extremely convenient, and you'll be able to connect to anything." Well, if you leave all those ports open and you don't actually manage the permissions, you're going to have everybody inside those cameras.
Ron: And I want to go down that path because I've been in this space long enough. I worked with thousands of what we call integrators, and I know for a fact many integrators and many techs at integrators have access to not only the networks inside of homes but have access to the cameras inside of homes. Anyone in our industry knows this. And if I was a high net worth customer or whatever, I'm not sure I know that, but if I knew that, I think I would be pretty concerned that that is the case because although they well, I'll just say it is our industry. It's a good industry, and they work hard. But are they vetting every single person on their staff with security, background checks, and all of that to know that all of those people should have the license to look at all of the internal security cameras of a multi-millionaire, a billionaire customer? Have you seen this in your interactions? The way you're protecting families is something I'm assuming you're getting into?
Kris: Oh, yeah. I think this is why families do ask us to get involved. Right. And we're never there to replace the integrator. We're never there to push the team out that's already there. We're always there to bring value. Often, we'll come in and say, OK, let's talk about the totality of what's going on in the house. What's the behavior of the family? What's the system? What are the systems being put in? What are the security systems being put in? Then let's talk, if we need to, about safe rooms, because those are a whole different thing. This element comes in about what's going on, what technology is going into the house. A lot of us will be brought in, at least on our side, will be brought in after the fact, after the architect, after the low voltage system to integrate the security systems are put in. OK, we're like, well, we need to tell you that those forty-two cameras you just installed have adversarial back doors installed in them by the manufacturer in China. Regardless of what you do, someone will have access to that you don't want to have access to. Then you're like, why didn't we know? Then the owner is upset because the integrator has something that is really got a massive vulnerability. I know most of the integrators. That's not their desire to create something. Never.
Ron: But maybe they don't know what they don't know.
"We've helped architects deal with lines of sight, glass protections, and hiding things in plain sight that will protect people from security issues. But you don't see them because we've hidden them well."
Kris: Exactly. They're trying to create convenience and a great experience and this interactivity, which we totally get and we're not countered to. But if we're involved early, just as a side consultant, we can say what kind of camera is going in here? The client has a security vested interest in security. Some clients don't care. That's great, right? They're wide open to that. But some clients really do care. And if you bring us in, we can say, let us take a look at the device s that have been suspect for this job. Let us help you make the best choice. That's where we're a great partner. Whether you're a construction company or an architect, you're an integrator. You're a designer. All of those pieces have elements of security. We've helped architects deal with lines of sight, glass protections, and hiding things in plain sight that will protect people from security issues. But you don't see them because we've hidden them well. And the same thing for integrators. If we do this early and the specifications, we can be a big help in avoiding vulnerabilities that are built into a system. And we want to be that partner. That's the role we can play. And it's not a heavy lift. We can come in and do a threat assessment and give really good advice on that.
Ron: Do you find, Kris, that you are brought in early at the architectural stage of projects? I'll just say if there's construction involved on that side? You mentioned safe rooms. Clearly, that's an architectural element of the home that needs a tremendous amount of forethought. Are you finding that you get brought in, or does it not always work that way? What's best?
"It's best to be in early. Even in the jobs you and I worked with early on, the easier it's going to be to avoid, I would say, undesired outcomes, inadvertent mistakes."
Kris: It's best to be in early. Even in the jobs you and I worked with early on, I mean, the earlier work in, the easier it's going to be to avoid, I would say, undesired outcomes, inadvertent mistakes. We worked with one recently, and they're like, this is the room. This is the safe room. OK, that's the worst room in the house. You should not have picked that room. And they're like, well, that's the room we want. I'm like, well, OK. The reality was you couldn't use it. It wouldn't support the weight. It was tactically the poorest choice in the house. It was disadvantaged for the owners. There's a whole myriad of reasons why the electronics can't get to that room.
Ron: I'm curious how did it become the safe room in the customer's eyes? Was this an architect?
Kris: Either it ends up being like the families said, this is the room. OK, well, let's have an education session with them, and we can help them pick a different room. Or there's this element of I already know the bad guys are coming in the black helicopters, and we're going to go to this room because they're misinformed about the threat or the architecture as a default without maybe history or knowledge of safe rooms is just selected the room. After all, they think it's the best one to use. And then you get into issues like, oh, all the walls are already sealed up. We're going to retrofit this room. And that's a disaster because it won't support the way the plastic panels will work or whatever the mitigations will be. Then there are all the integration issues. Right. People want to run the existing security system right into the safe room. We don't recommend that. There's a whole other thing you'd be doing around safe rooms and integration of technology. We're always late. We always want to be in early. We do so much better. The family is so much happier when we're brought in early in the design phase. And frankly, we can we could advise on the architectural aspects. We can advise on construction materials. We can advise on the placement of safe rooms. Then ideally, what we do a lot of is advise on technology.
Ron: You and I worked on a job together back in 2010, and I remember how much I learned about safe room design and architecture by sitting in on it. I didn't get to sit in on all your meetings, but I sat in on some of your meetings, and I've been inside. I was like a kid in a candy store. I was like, oh, this is such neat stuff to learn about. I mean, it's scary when you think about why it needs to exist. That's terrifying, in fact. But just the science and a lot of the logic you and your team put into what happens and why it's fascinating.
Kris: It really doesn't have to be expensive, right. If it's built to the threat, it can be a ten thousand dollar upgrade. It can be a million-dollar upgrade. But that's the thing. Get in early. We can really help with getting the cost right. And it's built right.
"Within the next two to three years, they will not sell any appliances that do not have an Internet connection. It's just the world is going to where everything in your house is smart."
Ron: Another quick topic here, and I'm mindful I'm almost at the hour mark here, so I've got so many more fun things to talk to you about. But I won't do that for our audience. I know we have to keep it nice and tidy. IoT, the world of the Internet of Things, seems like the world is going to the reality where everything in your house will have an IP address at some point. I was in a conversation. I've been so many every day I don't remember, but it was in the last week or two, and as it was regarding a major appliance brand. They said within I want to say in the next two to three years. They will not sell any appliances that do not have an Internet connection. It's just the world is going to where everything in your house is smart. It's out there with an IP address. It maybe is listening. It maybe is watching. It maybe is reporting it may be as geotagging. How in the world do you protect your clients when the world seems exponential to be going frankly against the theme of protecting the privacy of your clients? Yeah, I heard you're exactly right. What I heard today was I want to say I may not get this right. Three million devices in cubic kilometers in a dense urban environment. One cubic kilometer, three million devices that are connected. It's unreal, right? How do you connect, how do you protect them?
Kris: For certain environments, frankly, we say go analog. For the bedroom, go for a specific office. This is a smart device, no go area. You might have an Internet connection, you might have a laptop, you might have a tablet, you might have a smart TV, but then you've now decided that those items are going to be dumbed down. You choose the settings. You will also firewall some of them off from the Internet altogether just for protection. We're a big fan of going analog when it's important. For certain rooms, we will suggest we do technical security countermeasures sweeps. For the bedroom, for the home office, this has really been important during COVID is those of corporate execs and all those workers are back working on an unprotected home network. Now you've got the smart assistant. You've got the smart teddy bear toy. You've got the other security systems in the house that may not be locked down.
"All of those houses are honeypots for bad guys who want to get corporate secrets and know where the office used to be locked down. Now you have all of the individuals, all the corporate execs are at their houses, right. Where none of those rules are protections are in place. That has to be terrifying."
Ron: All of those houses are honeypots for bad guys who want to get corporate secrets and know where the office used to be locked down. And now you have all of the individuals, all the corporate execs are at their houses, right. Where none of those rules are protections are in place. That has to be terrifying. Yeah, we have to really tell clients. It's like if you're going to work in that room, take the Alexa out of the room, take the Google assistant out of the room, take whatever the device is. Right. Brand agnostic, take it out of the room, close the door and work in that environment without some sort of smartwatch. But you got to really look around and go. What about that refrigerator? What about the washing machine? What about the kid's tablet?
Ron: You mentioned to me before we went live? What about that TV? Is it watching me and reporting that out somewhere on the cloud?
Kris: Right. We go analog in some cases, take a piece of tape, and put it across the laptop camera when you're not using it. I mean, we've done that with our items we give away for Red Five is camera covers for laptops. We tell people that the government. We used to leave all of our devices outside of the special spaces. It's just the way you do things. And we do that now for some of our other projects. It's just important to not have the connectivity in the room, and it's not going to stop. But we are a big fan of the analog solution. Take the device out of the environment. When you travel, you're in a new environment altogether. Right now. You're in that luxury hotel room overseas. You don't know where the cameras and microphones are because the nation-state probably has already rigged that hotel to watch the foreign travelers. You need to really pay attention when you find yourself in a foreign environment or environment. That's not your normal environment. It could be Miami, it could be Denver, could be L.A., whatever, but it could also be China, Russia, South America, wherever. The reality is that some of those places are extremely wired for surveillance. And what you may think is a pretty innocent thing going on.
Now it's been totally recorded by the local government, and they're going to use it against you. We know that executives are targets. We know that Americans and Westerners are targets for collecting and surveillance and information. It goes everywhere from your router and your home office to your smart TV and foreign hotel room. You've got to be on top of this stuff. We tell people when you travel overseas, a legal pad and a pencil works really well. And if you really want to go totally analog and use a voice on the phone. But there are elements to raising your profile by doing those things. There are elements to using encryption that you don't want to do when you travel because that's going to raise your profile. But we get into that which we advise folks on travel, corporations, on travel, and privacy, security, resiliency issues. In the end, run, what we really want to do is ensure bad things don't happen to good people. That's the core of who we are as a company and what we really want to continue to do.
Ron: Yeah, I love that. I'm going to share that again, your screen on your website, right on the home page, says ensuring bad things don't happen to good people. I think the world is better, Kris, because you and your team are here and protecting us and protecting those you can protect. And thank you for all of your years of service and to all of your team members, all of their years of service to protect the United States. Definitely greatly appreciated.
Kris: Thank you, Ron.
Ron: Kris, thank you for coming on the show. What is the best way for those out there to listen or watching and want to learn more about you or your firm? What's the best way to get in touch?
Ron: I'm jumping over to LinkedIn again for those that are watching, you see the Red Five LinkedIn profile, and on LinkedIn, Kris, do you want people following Red Five, or do you want them connecting with you directly? How do you like to operate there?
Kris: Oh, I'm good with either way. We're highly responsive. I'm happy to partner in teamwork with whatever people need. We're just not responsive, that responsive group. Whatever works.
Ron: Well, it's been many years, but I can tell you on the projects that you and I did together, I was in awe and frankly taking notes on the professionalism of how you carried yourself and how you represented your firm. For anyone out there listening, that needs a security consultant advisor in their portfolio of go-to people. I could not imagine a better person out there than Kris and his team. And I chased Kris down, by the way, to be on this show. He did not solicit me to say any of the above. It just clearly he and his team made a great impression on me.
Kris: Ron, the feeling is mutual. You guys are great. And I'm really proud of what you guys are doing to One Firefly. It's awesome. It's a great shift. And it's really a testament to entrepreneurship. Congratulations on all your success, and thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here and do it again sometime time. This has been great.
Ron: We definitely will. Thank you, Kris.
Kris: My pleasure.
Ron: There you go. Yeah, Kris just referred to the pivot concept, and in entrepreneurship, you know, you have the opportunity when struggling, or as Kris calls them, jackals come after you to jackals, come after everyone. And the question is, what do you do about it? And at One Firefly, we decided to pivot and pivot and pivot and pivot until we found really a better place. And I can tell you my life. I've never had more fun doing what I'm doing, helping my customers than I am right now. In hindsight, I can say I wish I had made some of those pivots earlier. I was too stubborn, couldn't get out of my own way. When I finally made those pivots, you really see the One Firefly you see today, which is the industry's largest marketing agency serving integrators around the world and helping them grow. It was his words definitely ring true to my experiences. And I definitely recommend go out there, pick up his book, Raise Your Resiliency by Kris. He's got just great content. He was talking about those pillars. Here they are. I'll show them on video. There you can talk about, or there you can see he's talking about the five pillars and then the three units, personal, family, and corporate, and then the primary goal is to survive and thrive. I love that it really rings true to how I look at life and family and business. I love that he put that down for all of us to read.
In case you have not already done so, please subscribe to the podcast. Right now, you're watching the video potentially because this is after the interview. You're only watching the video. This bit of audio does not go out on the podcast. But if you want another way to consume the interviews we do every week, definitely subscribe to Automation Unplugged. And if you feel so inclined, please leave us a comment, good or bad, whatever that is. You know it all. It all is. Frankly, it all helps the algorithm. Jot those comments down, and it'll be appreciated. And then certainly you can business visit us over at www.onefirefly.com, or you can give us a call. On that note, I'm going to sign off. Thank you all. And I will see you next time.
Kris is currently Founder, CEO, and President at Red Five Security. Red Five Security operates intending to provide world-class, state-of-the-art security and protective intelligence services. Kris comes from an extensive security background, including time with both the FBI and CIA handling counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction. His depth in the public and private sector spanning over 28 years has allowed the Red Five team to specialize in high-quality, proactive, and discrete security services.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
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