Training Log–January 2013

As you all know by now, the CSPS is an evolutionary concept and I pretty much apply that philosophy to everything I do, including my writing. At least, that’s the excuse I’m going to use for my complete and utter laziness of late with these training logs. As the year has become busier and busier with training, teaching and research (alongside everything else in life), I’ve found myself writing training logs later and later after the sessions themselves, and sometimes just not finding the time. As a result, I’m going to do them as a kind of newsletter format where I aggregate all the training news from the CSPS into one monthly little post like this. Any questions on CSPS training are, as always, more than welcome any time as this is primarily for you, the reader, to see what it is that we get up to!

January’s been a great month this year for change and progress, especially at PHDefence in Stockton Brook. With their newly-stabilised payment structure, there’s guaranteed training for their students every week regardless of numbers attending, which has pushed forward a period of great progress in this stability for their students. They’ve even got a new student who’s making great progress, and a couple of students who should be ready to grade soon so it’s a very exciting time for them!

At PHDefence, the higher grades have been focussing on their weapons techniques a lot, particularly the use of the long stick (Jō staff and Bō staff for the more traditionally-minded). So far it’s been mostly stick acclimatisation drills and basic striking as this weapon’s new to them, but soon they’ll be progressing to more in-depth stick usage. They’ve also been doing some aerial coordination drills as a preliminary to their spinning and aerial kicks.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll just say it again here, especially with talk of the spinning and aerial kicking:

I’ll just take a moment to explain what PHDefence is and what my relationship with it is. PHDefence is a local martial arts class, based in Stockton Brook at the moment though it’s been all over the place through the years. It’s owned and was founded by Shifu Paul Horrobin, who created a hybridised martial art mostly based on concepts from Wing Chun (yǒngchūn ~ 咏春 ~ ‘Spring Chant’), Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (zhènfān jiéquándào ~ 振藩截拳道 ~ ‘Jun Fan’s “Way of the Intercepting Fist”’) and Shaolin Kung Fu (shàolín gōng fū ~ 少林功夫 ~ ‘Young Forest Kung Fu’) among others. The basic premise of what they do there is the attempt to take traditional martial arts concepts and make them practical while retaining their martial-arts focus. I just want to make clear here that they are not a self-defence or self-protection class, and that while I am a self-protection instructor while I’m teaching there I’m also a martial arts instructor. I alternate between teaching and training there every other week, with Paul teaching every other lesson. While on occasion I mix in odd concepts and training ideas from the CSPS, this is not a CSPS class. The reason I take such steps to make this clear is that I would hate for someone to read a PHDefence training log and think I was equating the martial arts training described to practical self-protection training, which it is not. Worse, I would hate for someone to read it and think that the training described was self-protective in nature.

Now that the perfunctory disclaimer’s over, I can get on with the actual point of the post! I won’t do that every time, don’t worry – I’ll just point people here if there’s confusion. I only make the point as it’s so important (to me) that martial arts and self-protection are never confused, and I realise that text on a screen can easily be written badly and misunderstood.

The snow’s been a constant source of amusement and difficulties, but as my friend (and excellent Systema instructor) Rob Poyton mentioned in a recent YouTube video, these difficulties only present opportunities if you approach your training with an indomitable warrior mindset. Whereas for PHDefence the problem was merely students getting to the session and needing to dry their feet, for CSPS students the opportunities for development were more apparent as we were training primarily outside!

Chris returned to his long-term training recently, and so we got straight to the point with a lot of drills involving use of the shoulder, elbow striking, hammer fists, knee striking and I don’t even know how many other striking methods. Taking an initial contact as a reference point, we used a set framework of movements to efficiently train the different muscle groups of the body to work together efficiently to present a functional combative response.

(What that means is, the pad got bashed hard, fast and lots!)

For Chris, the focus has been on brushing off the rust of Christmas and sharpening up the basic concepts of the CSPS with a slew of new approaches to the same things to further increase the adaptability of their application.

For Matt, the focus has been on initial training of the basic concepts, and I really must say how proud I am of both students with their continued effort and skyrocketing progress week on week.

Other students preferred not to be named, unless you count my brother Jake, with whom I just fight, and that’s pretty much his training most of the time! We just fight. That’s what brothers are for, right?

February’s been an amazing month so far but I’ll elaborate more on that next time!

All the best,

FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

Review: ‘Powerstrike’ by Peter Consterdine

Consterdine, Peter. Powerstrike. Protection Publications.

Review: Powerstrike:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This review is part one of a two-part series. Part two can be found here.

Powerstrike begins, as with many of the British Combat Association’s videos, by making a very important point that all who are interested in practical and realistic self-protection should take note of; that real combat usually occurs at very close ranges. Another important point raised in the beginning of this video is that pre-emptive striking really is an essential addition to a self-protector’s skill set. Thus, this video is concerned primarily with pre-emptive strikes and the delivery system required to deliver them hard.

This video looks at traditional punching mechanics based on rotating around a central axis, before introducing the ‘double-hip’ striking method that Peter Consterdine advocates. This method, without going into the mechanics of it, is similar in ways to the ballistic and waveform striking methods used in Russian Systema. Both this and the Russian methods are based on sound biomechanical understandings and on physics rather than aesthetics or tradition and so they are very effective ways to strike more efficiently with a much greater impact.

This close-range and efficient delivery system is discussed with many demonstrations from Peter himself of striking with a fist, with the open hand and with the elbow, along with some discussions of other aspects of setting up your strikes and following up afterwards.

Over the years, Peter has developed the ‘Powerstrike’ system to deal with ‘street’ encounters, but the system revolutionises impact in martial arts and can be adapted to most systems. The ‘Powerstrike’ system develops the natural dynamics of the body, so that strength is not a requirement, rather the power comes from the natural transmission of body weight. These principles have been adapted into a range of ‘Pre-emptive Strikes’ producing a ‘One Shot’ knockout blow.
(Information from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/powerstrike.htm, 06.01.2013)

I would recommend this without hesitation to anyone – whether you’re in a sports, martial arts, self-defence or self-protection situation, the concept of the double-hip striking method can be useful to you.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) fromhttp://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found at http://www.peterconsterdine.com/powerstrike.htm

CSPS Training Log–PT Session 27.01.2013

IMAG0196 (2)

Sunday saw one student’s return to regular training after a few weeks over Christmas, and so we got straight back into it with training the basics in new and interesting ways – biomechanical drills, specific and generalised movement concepts and their application, etc.

As this student has two-hour sessions we had plenty of time to get through a lot, and so we broke back into some aggression-fuelled drills involving use of the shoulder, elbow striking, hammer fists, knee striking and I don’t even know how many other striking methods. Taking an initial contact as a reference point, we used a set framework of movements to efficiently train the different muscle groups of the body to work together efficiently to present a functional combative response.

What that means is, the pad got bashed hard, fast and lots!

We also went through some sensitivity drills using a (training!) knife and then finished with an open-ended finish where we went through some concepts around striking with the knees and how to use that tactically with a biomechanical awareness to gain useful advantages over an attacker. All in all, an excellent session and some good progress made!

PHDefence Training Log–25.01.2013

IMAG0335Hopefully the last snowy one for a while! Friday’s session was split between me and Paul. Paul did some partner work involving dealing with strikes – specifically barrages of them – and I added in the importance of being proactive in your ‘defence’ rather than being merely reactive. If your partner is saying ‘I thought I was supposed to be the one attacking!’ or similar then you’re doing well!

If they’re too preoccupied to say anything then you’re doing better!

What came out in this drill was that when you’re proactive by pushing into the partner and making it difficult for them to attack instead of merely dealing with their attacks reactively, you stand a much better chance of surviving. Also through this approach it can be possible to manoeuvre your partner around the room and put them in a position of disadvantage, such as in a corner. In reality of course, this would be you putting them in a position that gave you the opportunity to complete your objective in a combative situation – run off!

Then in my half we worked on ground mobility with some standard Russian drills, groundfighting with a focus on controlling elbows, controlling legs and use of the head when fighting on the ground. After that, we did a rather enjoyable leg-locking drill inspired by an excellent British Combat Association video (the review will be appearing here soon…).

To finish, we began work with the higher grades on the long stick and how to use it with some simple stick acclimatisation drills, partner work and solo work. It’s always fun when a group gets onto a new weapon! I can’t wait to get to work with this a little more.

See you all next week!

PHDefence Training Log–04.01.2012

IMAG0206This is a belated post, I do apologise. PHDefence training logs likely will be often as training is 19:00-21:00, I always remain available for questions and general chat afterwards and the venue for them is a chapel so there’s a load of chairs to put back in rows afterwards in the hall they use. As a result, by the time I get home all I want to do is eat, sleep and watch Coronation Street! Yes, a self-protection instructor watches Coronation Street with his dinner. Shush!

In this first training log for PHDefence of 2013 (I still keep typing ‘2012’ first), I’ll just take a moment to explain what PHDefence is and what my relationship with it is. PHDefence is a local martial arts class, based in Stockton Brook at the moment though it’s been all over the place through the years. It’s owned and was founded by Shifu Paul Horrobin, who created a hybridised martial art mostly based on concepts from Wing Chun (yǒngchūn ~ 咏春 ~ ‘Spring Chant’), Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (zhènfān jiéquándào ~ 振藩截拳道 ~ ‘Jun Fan’s “Way of the Intercepting Fist”’) and Shaolin Kung Fu (shàolín gōng fū ~ 少林功夫 ~ ‘Young Forest Kung Fu’) among others. The basic premise of what they do there is the attempt to take traditional martial arts concepts and make them practical while retaining their martial-arts focus. I just want to make clear here that they are not a self-defence or self-protection class, and that while I am a self-protection instructor while I’m teaching there I’m also a martial arts instructor. I alternate between teaching and training there every other week, with Paul teaching every other lesson. While on occasion I mix in odd concepts and training ideas from the CSPS, this is not a CSPS class. The reason I take such steps to make this clear is that I would hate for someone to read a PHDefence training log and think I was equating the martial arts training described to practical self-protection training, which it is not. Worse, I would hate for someone to read it and think that the training described was self-protective in nature.

Now that the perfunctory disclaimer’s over, I can get on with the actual point of the post! I won’t do that every time, don’t worry – I’ll just point people here if there’s confusion.

So on Friday night it was PHDefence’s first session back after Christmas, and they’re all working towards their next gradings. At the moment they have someone on the first grading (Red), two on the seventh grading (Brown) and one on the sixth (Blue) who are all now ready to work on the concepts for their next grading. It’s quite an exciting time for PHDefence at the moment!

We started off with some simple combat-oriented fitness drills: 30-second rounds of simple wind sprints, then the same in pairs with student-chosen combinations at the end on focus mitts. After that we dropped the focus mitts and picked up some kickshields for the same again with kicking combinations at the ends of the sprints, again student-chosen. After those we went through some rounds of communally-chosen exercises where each student had a turn choosing an exercise to add to the session. This proactive approach allows the students to work out what works best and elect movements that flow concomitantly themselves, which adds greatly to the quality of their martial decision making.

Following from this initial section we went through some rounds of chisao (chīshǒu ~ 黐手 ~ ‘sticking hands’) for close-in sensitivity training, before widening out the range to a Systema-style slow spar. Then at random timings I handed one partner a stick which had the effect of both increasing and decreasing the range of the partner work at different times.

Afterwards, a section of choice modules was enjoyed where each student chose a drill for everyone to do. This ranged from kicking padwork drills to bouts of Jujutsu-style back-to-back groundfighting. Everyone’s choices came together very well to make a most enjoyable session.

At the end there was a module of basic aerial coordination drills for the higher grades as a preliminary to spinning and aerial kicks, and for the lower grades a few rounds of different padwork drills from sitting on a chair. To wrap up on a high note, a very enjoyable padwork drill using the shields for lower-body and then upper-body striking inspired by some videos I’ll be reviewing shortly from the British Combat Association – those reviews are going out every Tuesday morning so make sure to keep your eyes open!

It was awesome to see you all again.

Until next time,
FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

CSPS Training Log–PT Session 04.01.2013

IMAG0196 (2)Over 2012 I didn’t publish very many posts, out of a mix of laziness and busyness. I intend to make up for this by returning to the act of publishing these little training logs. For me, it’s a useful way to see how things grow and progress over time. For my students it’s a useful way to monitor their progress and easily look back on their sessions and for everyone else it gives an idea of what you might expect from a CSPS session.

Today started off with a nice personal tuition session with Matt, a fairly new student. An hour long, this session was fast-paced and intensive and we got through a lot of material. We started off with some simple pyramid-progressive striking in combinations to get things moving on the soft, knackered pads pictured above. They’re my first pair, still alive after about 11 years! Best Christmas present ever. Anyway, back to the training. We then moved onto a more taxing section of fast, randomised padwork encouraging instinctive responses without lengthy decision-making or memory-accessing thought processes getting in the way. See the dot and bash it! He did very well, with some nice, accurate kicks too.

The rest of the session was concerned entirely with ground mobility, as due to the constraints of the venue for this student training is outdoors and he didn’t want to roll on wet ground (understandably). Weather doesn’t stop him for anything else – padwork, partner work, exercises, etc – it’s all good. We’ve just been waiting for a dry day to get him started with the ground mobility. Today we went through forward and backward rolling from various starting positions and Matt made some excellent progress.

At the end, as always with this student in particular, I ended up chatting with him for a while instead of rushing off as he asked me about knives and this entered into a general chat about violence, weapons, the law, etc. Knives and surviving edged weapon attacks are a point of particular interest for this student so we’ll be focussing on that soon at his request.

Until next time,

FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

8 Crucial Considerations For Getting a Taxi

http://openphoto.net/volumes/lukestodola/20050126/openphotonet_1_pict0020.jpgIt’s that time of year when the nights are getting longer and colder, the days are getting shorter and colder, and the weather is getting wetter and colder. Oh yes, and it’s getting colder!

One result of this is that at the end of the day (or night) a lot of us will be getting into a taxi for our journey home. Let’s face it, it’s either that, get home wet and/or freezing cold after an unpleasant walk, or wetter and colder after a worse wait at a bus stop. If your bus service is anything like mine, then it could be a very long wait followed by a disgruntled walk anyway!

This reminded me of the fact that I’ve been meaning to throw these ideas up for absolutely ages, ever since I saw a little flyer made by the union at Staffordshire University (www.staffsunion.com) on the subject of staying safe while getting a taxi. As a result, here are eight small but absolutely crucial personal security considerations when using taxis:

1) Always pre-order your taxi. If you can, try your very best to pre-book your taxi in advance with a company you know and trust. Preferably one you’ve used before. This way your lift is more easily verifiable (if you order an ‘A-Team’ taxi and you get a ‘B-People’ one at your doorstep peeping, you may have a perfectly justifiable reason to distrust the taxi and not go out for it.

2) Don’t get in unmarked cars. This should be an obvious one but it was on the flyer so I’ll say it here as well just in case it isn’t! Whatever you do, don’t get into an unmarked ‘taxi’. You have no idea who is driving or what they want. You can, however, be pretty sure it isn’t a taxi. You can also be definitely certain that it isn’t worth the risk to find out!http://openphoto.net/volumes/petanjek/20111111/openphotonet_P1090581a.JPG

3) Make sure the driver’s badge and license number are clearly visible. This is information that you can get while booking as well, which provides an easy way to verify that the car you’re getting into is indeed the car you ordered. Ask the company to text or just tell you the licence plate number of the car, and/or the driver’s number. That way you can check it’s your driver.

4) Sit in the back. This is advice I often see on things pertaining to taxi safety, and I’m in two minds about it. If you’re in the back you have advantages in a combative situation in that it’s more difficult for him to twist around to attack you and also more difficult for him to see what you’re doing behind him. However, if your driver is on a mad rampage wanting to send you both into a wall then you can more easily gain some control of the wheel or handbrake, or even (maybe) the pedals if you gain a lot of control over the situation combatively. Sounds ridiculous I know, but let’s not discount such an event as impossible. That would be an example of us leaving ourselves a severe weakness. We are very vulnerable in situations we previously discounted as impossible, so consider it seriously for a moment. Could you, for example, brake with an unconscious driver’s leg? How might you do that? How else might you try to stop the car and get out without death or serious injury? Aside from all that, sitting in the front means you can more easily see the dude’s (or dudette’s) hands. That’s something many people who’ve had the displeasure of being attacked with a knife (or indeed any other weapon) hadn’t previously thought of. Afterwards, most do.

5) Keep your mobile to hand. Common sense, but often not done. If it’s to hand, and unlocked, ready for you to dial emergency services at a moment’s notice, something serious could well be averted or made less serious. At the very least, it could mean that once whatever crime was in the driver’s mind has been committed, he may be more likely to be caught so he can’t do it again to someone else. In the best-case scenario, however, it may act as a deterrent because he may have noticed that you’re obviously ready and not an easy victim. Making yourself a ‘hard target’ is crucial to your personal security.

6) Avoid travelling alone. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this one! It’s pretty much instinctual. Do you feel more scared walking through the house in the dark alone or with a friend? That feeling is what I’m talking about. With others, you’re simply making yourself a harder target. It should be said though that you may want to be choosy with this, as there are those who are so deeply in a victim state that they can pull the people around them into danger (I’m sure most of us will know at least one or two people who might be considered ‘liabilities’ for whatever reason) and generally get people into trouble. From the perspective of your own personal security you want to avoid these people, and from the perspective of your social responsibility (don’t worry, I’m not about to get on my soap box) then you may want to consider educating them! That way they stop getting themselves into horrible situations and you get yourself a friend you can depend on when you’re out. Worth thinking about.http://openphoto.net/volumes/lukestodola/20050126/openphotonet_1_pict0019.jpg

7) Don’t throw your details around. When you’re booking your taxi, do so somewhere where it would be difficult for anyone to overhear your name, address or number. It may be possible to text these details instead of say them over the phone with some taxi companies, and thus avoid anyone overhearing if you can’t get away. When you’re waiting for your pre-booked taxi outside, if you’re asked by anyone claiming to be an unknown waiting taxi driver (or indeed anyone else) then don’t tell them. Instead, ask them for the name and destination of the fare they’re waiting for. If it’s your name and destination then that’s probably your driver! If not, it’s not so don’t go with them or tell them anything.

8) It’s your taxi – nobody else’s. Unless you know and trust them, don’t let anyone elbow their way into your taxi. You simply don’t know them or why they want to be in the taxi with you. If you want a good example of why you should think about this, go and watch Luc Besson’s ‘Taken‘ (2008) if you haven’t already.

Of course there’s many more considerations for when you’re getting taxis, but these are just a few thoughts prompted by a flyer. If you have any others you would recommend, then you’re more than welcome to furnish us all with your ideas in the comments below! If you have any questions then the same is true. Whatever you do, whether you’re getting a taxi or not then the kinds of thought processes that have led to these ideas are absolutely crucial for your general personal security. If the reasoning behind anything here doesn’t make sense, please make sure you get in touch and ask me what I’m thinking and why! If you disagree with me then that’s fine, but if you can’t even understand where the ideas are coming from then that’s an important issue that needs to be addressed! Either for you or for me.

Until next time,

Josh Nixon, ESP

Images courtesy of Luke Stodola and Jasenka Petanjek:
’Toronto’ found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=7176
’NYC Cab’ found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=24337
’Toronto’ (2) found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=7187
used with thanks.

CSPS Seminar Writeup–Endon Scouts, 19.10.2012: Night Safety for Children

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited down to Endon Scout Group’s headquarters where I gave a two-hour introductory seminar on staying safe at night for children. This is more a reference for anyone who attended than anything else, but it may be interesting for parents wondering what their son or daughter did on Friday too.

First off, I just want to thank everyone involved for the warm welcome and excellent atmosphere throughout. The kids, parents and staff that I spoke to were excellent and made us feel very welcome. The whole evening was an absolute pleasure!

We started off with a quick run through basic ideas of respect, honesty and awareness. Here’s a few points for your reference:

  • Respect: All CSPS sessions are based on a system of constant and mutual respect between all present. It’s not ‘teacher and student’, and not ‘adult and some kids’ but a group of people training together. Respect is earned, but we all deserve it the same as everyone else.
  • Honesty: Honesty with yourself is vital. If you don’t know why you’re training something, or can’t work out whether it’s going to work or not, then you have to be honest with yourself and accept that you don’t know! Then you need to be honest with your instructor and ask your questions! Honesty with yourself also means accepting your limitations as well as your strengths, and examining your attitude and mindset too. Honesty with your parents is also vital! If anything happens – whether it’s a small incident of bullying at school, a big incident of bullying at school, or an adult who tried to take you somewhere, or anything else that you didn’t like, you must be completely honest with your parents/guardians about what happened, in as much detail as you can manage! If the police are involved, no matter what happened again you must remain completely honest in every detail!
  • Awareness: Here’s the colour-code system that we played with last night:

White: Unaware. Able to be bashed without seeing it coming. Don’t be in this state unless you’re asleep!
Yellow: Threat awareness. Looking around, listening, etc. Not paranoid or scared – relaxed, but observing everything. Ready. Be in this all the time.
Orange: Threat evaluation. You see something you’re not happy about – whatever it is, and whether or not you know why you’re unhappy about it – and you start evaluating and thinking about what to do. You may cross the street, go the other way, find a safer route, etc. Still calm.
Red: Threat avoidance. You may need to run or hide. You may need to de-escalate by talking someone out of their anger, etc. You may even need to pre-emptively strike or similar in order to make your escape opportunity.
Black: Survival. This may be running, or hiding again, or it may be fighting tooth and nail to survive. A bad situation you really need to escape from ASAP.

This system isn’t mine – it was made by a man called Jeff Cooper, who I’ve never spoken to but I’ve heard many good things about. I’d recommend researching him if you’re interested. This is just my take on the concept, and may differ from some other people’s.

After that we got into the physical combatives focussed around striking and getting out of grabs predominantly. Then we drilled running away from someone insisting that we show them to a place. If you take nothing else away from our brief little session, remember this:

YOU SHOULD NEVER ALLOW ANYONE TO TRY AND TAKE YOU ANYWHERE. Your social awkwardness around saying ‘no’, not holding someone’s hand or running away without being physically attacked MUST BE IGNORED! I cannot stress this strongly enough. Social awkwardness will not save you! Leave it for social situations. Someone trying to commit a crime on you is not a social situation (depending on how we’re using the term), and as such the rules of social interaction such as awkwardness in particular do not apply!

Then we had question time, which seemed to be preoccupied mostly with what to do if you end up killing somebody! Funny as it may be to be asked that a few different times in a few different ways (especially the acid bath question made me laugh! Ahh, dark humour…), it’s a perfectly valid and important question. To simplify, I refer you back to the previous stuff about honesty. When telling your parents and the police in that situation what has happened, honesty is what you need.

What I will do for you when I get the chance is ask a police officer I know what exactly should be your considerations in a situation like that. Until then, I recommend a book called ‘Understanding Reasonable Force’ by Mark Dawes. Full details of the book, with review and room for discussion can be found on the CSPS forum –> Resources –> Literature at http://cspsonline.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=literature&action=display&thread=144 and you can get it easily on eBay or Amazon. Another recommendation I have on the legal side of things is to simply call the police on the non-emergency number (101) and ask! If there’s anyone who can give you advice on these things, it’s them. I’m a self-protection instructor, but not a police officer and not a legal advisor, so I really do encourage you to make your own enquiries.

Any questions, comments, etc are welcome and you all have my contact details. Thanks for an awesome night and I hope to see you again soon!

Spelling It Out For Them: Personal security tips from a discarded letter

A few days ago I went to see The Bourne Legacy with my brother, which I enjoyed very much. On the bus coming back from the cinema I just happened to see a letter on the floor, and thus chanced upon a great opportunity to open discussion on the very real dangers of leaving documents that contain personal information around. Of course the best thing to do with this information is to destroy them if we don’t need it, however this person had either never been told this or had failed to uphold his vigilance this time. Luckily for him, it was me who picked it up instead of an identity defrauder! Originally I was going to merely take it and burn it to protect his identity, however I noticed just how much personal information was on there when I was about to, and so I took the opportunity to make this post. Of course, I have removed all of the information itself from these images to protect his identity and have destroyed the original document.

Letter Part 1 Letter Part 2

So let’s take a closer look. After all, you might think a simple letter (or printed email in this case, strictly speaking) probably wouldn’t have too much information on and so wouldn’t be overly important – what’s the worst that could happen, right? I’ve gone through and labelled the relevant sections A-S (including repetitions). Let’s have a quick run through and look at them. One aspect of the psychological side of self-protection which is extremely useful and powerful is to cultivate the ability, through research and the ensuing logical thought processes, to see things from a criminal perspective. The classic example is to look at a crowd and identify victims from various criminal perspectives. Here we will be using this technique to identify how these various pieces of information could potentially be seen from a criminal perspective.

imageA – Name and address: Here not only do we have his gender and full name, but his full address with a postcode below. This alone is not good to throw around. Simple as it is, you should remember that this simple information tells a criminal a lot about you. More than merely where you live, we need to see this in more depth. With this information, the criminal can find a spot to watch you from and easily build up a profile of your habits – the times you leave for work, the times you get back, the arrival and departure times for other regular activities (gym, regular social meetups, etc) and the routes you take whether driving or on foot. The postcode makes it quick and easy to search for your address, and even with the simple usage of Google Earth’s Street View they can see what your house looks like, identify weaknesses, hiding places, escape routes, etc from the comfort of their own homes. With this an attack or stalking can be planned with ease.

imageB – National Insurance number: The top one of the blurred pieces here is simply his National Insurance number. This of course is just another piece of information that a criminal could potentially use when building up their profile of personal details with which to make changes to your accounts or it could be a security question they could be asked when attempting to get into an account, or when requesting information, etc.

imageC – Date: This may seem unimportant, but often when making banking inquiries you are asked for details of the specific message/s that you have pertaining to whatever you’re discussing. One of these is often simply the date of the correspondence, which in this case is helpfully left here.

imageD – Name: The mention of such a repetition here may seem irrelevant, but it is not. In a physical hard copy of a document such as this, it is essential from a criminal’s point of view. If the document is damaged, even mildly, obscuring any information then having it repeated is essential to verify or fill in missing bits that could be smudged, burnt, partially shredded, torn or simply worn off. In either hard (physical) or soft (electronic) documents, repetition is also important as it serves as a quick and easy verification: if an unusual name is there, it may well have been mis-typed, particularly if it seems an unusual spelling of a common name. In this case, a repetition of the name can offer some verification as to whether it was a typo or just an unusual name. This is of course important as the criminal wants to minimise the risk of making any mistakes and thus minimise the risk of sounding the alarm and getting caught out.

imageE – List of the documents attached to the email: This in itself of course is not personal information, however it would help someone making enquiries using this person’s identity sound more believable, for example making an enquiry about losing their ‘Give Me Some Money Please Pack’ (fictional and not on the actual list). In addition, they can give further ideas of the document’s context and the nature of the situation in general.

imageF – Sender’s name and position: Again, while this isn’t personal information to the recipient of this message it is useful for a criminal. When making an enquiry, it sounds much more believable to be able to casually say ‘I’ve just got a question about something in an email I had from Mrs Whatsherface, your Customer Relations Manager’ as opposed to something less specific.

imageG – URL: If an email has been printed by hitting File –> Print from an Internet browser, by default it’ll have the URL of the file you’re printing in the footer. URLs can include a lot of personal information, which varies between different websites. One example is what I have noticed with my university’s in-browser email access system: the URL for my inbox has my full university email address in it, which is simply my university username followed by ‘@student.staffs.ac.uk’. This is assumedly true of all Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access setups by default, but regardless the important thing to remember here is that URLs can hold a lot of information. Even if it looks like a random bunch of letters and numbers to you, to someone who knows what they’re looking for there could be useful clues hidden away in there.

imageH – Date: Again, this is another repetition of information which can be useful for verification.

imageI – Name: You get the idea.

imageJ – National Insurance number: Once again, another repetition here of a key piece of information.

imageK – Date: Yet again, you get the idea by now.

imageL – Name: I know. I’ve mentioned this before.

image

M – Date of interview: This is crucial information. With this, a criminally-minded attacker could have known what his or her target would be doing on a particular day. A few ideas to take away from this: beforehand the recipient of this message is likely to be in a rush and they won’t be at home for a while on the day in question. Perfect. That’s bad enough, but let’s look further…

N – Time of interview: Now not only does the criminal have the date but the exact time that their target will be away from home, so they could use this as a time to attack them while they’re likely to be distracted and in a rush or they could simply take advantage of knowing that their house would be unoccupied at the time in question (or at least that this person specifically wouldn’t be at home – with their previous stalking opportunities they could have ascertained whether they live alone which adds other elements to this information’s usefulness). With the added knowledge of the duration of the interview, and that the target has to see someone else beforehand, they can work out a considerable window of opportunity.

O – Place of interview: This is even worse than the other information – now the criminal knows exactly where and when their target will be, so setting up any number of situations is rendered easy for them. What makes this worse, however, is the addition of the next piece of information:

image

P – Documents: Here the criminal reading this message finds out what his or her target will have on him when he attends the interview – more personal information. The claim form mentioned will undoubtedly have a wealth of personal information in it, and the other information will almost invariably include a form of photographic ID such as a driver’s licence or passport. Through mugging or subtler methods of theft, these documents could potentially be taken and copied. It may sound far-fetched, but it is far from impossible.

imageQ – Sender: Again, the name and position of the sender here. More verification.

imageR – URL: See above (G).

imageS – Date: Once more, just a repetition useful for verification. This is the date the document was printed of course, not necessarily the date it was sent or received.

Some Important Things to Remember:

Let’s keep this simple:

    • Documents contain information, and sometimes this can be useful to people who don’t hold your best interests at heart.
    • This information can be used to stalk you and build up a profile of your habits. This is useful for a criminal who wants to attack you, attack someone you live with, steal from/damage your property or use your identity for other reasons. That’s not an exhaustive list by any means – just a few ideas.

What we need to remember here is that simply put the information in these kinds of documents, or indeed potentially any other, can be used for criminal activities against you. I’m by no means an expert on this – I haven’t got a degree in criminology and I’ve had no experience of dealing with identity fraud – however I do know what to look for in terms of security holes and how criminals could exploit them.

The simple solution to this is to do everything you can to not leave any holes for them to exploit – this concept extends to all aspects of your life but let’s keep to the example of documents and information for now. When you don’t need these documents any more, burn or shred them. Better yet, shred and burn them! It’s not impossible for shredded paper to be put together by a committed individual, especially if you only shred one document at once. Shred documents along with random pages from an old magazine, or off-prints of unimportant things from when the printer last played up – anything to throw confusion into the heap. If you burn your sensitive information, make sure it’s fully burnt before you throw away the ashes! We’ve seen here from even a fairly cursory glance at the information in this letter how much can be gained from even an address.

The simple rule: if you wouldn’t shout it from your roof, tell it to a random person in the street or post it online publicly, then it’s sensitive information. Don’t leave it for the wrong people to find.

You can find more information on fraud and how to protect yourself and others against it at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/Typesofcrime/DG_181626.

Stay safe!

Josh Nixon, ESP

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