The Dark Side of VIP Clients in a Digital Era

In Blog, Knowledge, Services, Uncategorized on

If you have a high profile in business, or indeed are well known for your family legacy – or both– then you’ll hopefully enjoy the lifestyle benefits that come with that status. But there is growing awareness, and sadly experience of the risks that you run when the outside world knows who you are and that you’ve done well for yourself and your family. As a result, there is a dark side of VIP clients and a growing number of high profile business people who are engaging a risk review for themselves and their families to safeguard their protection in a digital era.

The fact is that there are fraudsters, scammers and organised crimes rings who will specifically target high profile, high net worth individuals (HNWI’s)  simply because they know that the risk/reward equation is biased significantly in their favour if their “mark” is wealthier than the average. Empty the bank account of an average adult and you stand to net a few hundred or even a couple of thousand pounds – target a millionaire and there could be tens or even hundreds of thousands to be had. Hold a millionaire to ransom with their online secrets and bingo – your reward can rise significantly.

In essence, there can be a dark side of digital for VIP clients and so, if you advise clients that fall into this category, here are some key aspects to be aware of:

The Deals and Deal Makers

The reporting of deals and deal makers is great for business press, however this media coverage can heighten the risk for individuals involved.  If your client recently sold a business; has been appointed to a significant role, or joined the board of a PLC, they have just joined an elite group of individuals. It may be prudent to run a security risk review and consult with the PR Team on how best and when best to actively promote the details.

When It Is a Big Deal

It can often be the deal itself that draws attention even to a relatively under the radar individual. This can include major product launches, new export and new territory developments, or controversial production such as pharmaceuticals or animal testing. In such circumstances ensuring that individuals and their families are clear on best practice, security on social media and social engineering is also recommended.

The Power of The Brand 

When the brand itself becomes a high profile talking point, executives can become under threat. Recent media coverage in the US has highlighted this growing issue.


“Prominent Silicon Valley companies spend liberally to protect their intellectual property. Some also shell out considerable amounts to protect their executives. Apple’s most recent proxy statement, filed earlier this month, shows the company spent $310,000 on personal security for CEO Tim Cook. But that’s a fraction of other tech giants’ expenditures. “

[ 2019]

Portfolio Non Execs

Serial Non Executives (NED’s) often fall into this risk camp. Regularly not affiliated to one single company they can revert to multiple email address usage and or private email addresses. Shared data across unstructured secure filing can create risk of GDPR breach, as well as malicious attack or ransom risk.

So what can HNWI and High Profile clients do?

This can all be daunting. Net-Defence focuses on helping people sleep at night, removing fear from the dark side of digital and protecting assets, data and people. In tandem with a UK client base across private, public and third sectors, Net-Defence has a unique track record of protecting VIPs internationally and has been engaged by both UK and US Law Enforcement in such cases.

Here are just some of the ways in which you might be vulnerable and our tips on how you can minimise that risk or even eliminate it:
  • Identity theft – fraudsters will go to great lengths to get hold of personal details in order to steal assets. So dates of birth need to be guarded carefully; using password protection software helps to protect access to bank and other online accounts; ensure pin numbers are never shared – this includes other members of the family.
  • Social media – more than most, HNWI’s need to vet very carefully what is posted on social media that could be of use to a criminal. That means restricting permissions where possible to only allow only true friends and family to see posts, even then assume none of it is secure; being very selective about what pictures are posted online (what’s in the background? Details of the inside of private homes?  car registration numbers? ) Holiday photos are lovely but they rather give the game away that key layers are thousands of miles from home. This discipline applies to every member of the family too.
  • Home technology – clients possibly surround themselves with the latest tech to make life easier and to help manage what little time clients have after business. But the same technology can make life easier for others too. Some research carried out suggested that almost 80% of routers in US homes were not password protected. An unprotected wifi network in the home can provide a suitably armed hacker with the ability to access mobile phones, tablets, laptops or even smart home devices. That means they can pick up on passwords or even listen into conversations.
  • External technology – every coffee shop, restaurant and airport lounge seems to offer “free wifi” nowadays. But what are the risks of using it? The keyword to look for before logging in is the word “unsecure” in the network description. Be aware that this means just what it says and avoid it.  Being set up with a security VPN can keep you far more secure. Be aware also of the ability of some hackers to set up a fake wifi connection (often with a very similar name to the genuine wifi being offered wherever it is you are), meaning that if you log in you’re sending and receiving all your messages and files via the laptop of the person in the corner of the coffee shop hell bent on relieving you of what is yours. This method is often used in luxury hotels so do ensure you and your clients confirm with hotel staff the current wifi and password access codes. Consider your own VPN and look out for Cyber Essentials Plus accredited hotels and venues.

These are just some of the vulnerabilities that we all face, but the wealthy and famous all the more so because they are being singled out by criminals who would rather have one big payday than several small ones.

To be truly protected you should speak to specialists like the ones we employ here at Net-Defence. We will audit current activity and advise on the steps you can take to make your clients email, video conferencing, telephony and electronic information  safer than they could hope to do themselves. We can carry out penetration tests to ensure that every weakness is exposed and closed off before the wrong person finds out. We complete this work for high profile individuals or for Board members on behalf of companies. An awareness session can also be delivered for collective Board members.

When families are involved we have both male and female team members who are experienced in supporting children learn about the impact of social media within high profile families too. We deliver this work with exceptional consideration, careful panning and sensitive language to ensure learning is maximised, avoiding developing fear. A feeling of robust support and protection is the approach.

So if you fall into this category  – or you’re a Professional Adviser, PA, Personal security or IT Director responsible for others who do – then get in touch with us and start the process of reducing that risk.

ND Private

Confidentiality is absolute at Net-Defence. We have very experienced and skilled, restricted access team members for this very sensitive work for high profile private individuals and their families. All discussions are held in strictest confidence and we regularly work under NDA. You can contact the ND Private Team directly at or Call 03300 241 666 and ask for Joanna Goddard.