Understanding Vulnerabilities

Commuting to cities presents a challenge across multiple fronts, with safety and security at the top of those challenges. Of course, not every city is dangerous, and not every danger applies to you. You need to understand both the environment and what you project out. Essentially your vulnerabilities.

Are you traveling to an area that is known for general crime? Are you commuting to a city that is safe, but there are current extenuating circumstances that make it dangerous? Are you in an office building that also hosts a politically charged company or organization? Questions like these can give you a sense of the environment.

Are you walking in the street by yourself at night? Are you wearing visible and shiny jewelry? Are you looking at the phone all the time while you're walking? Do you wear earphones when you walk in the street? These questions, for example, can indicate issues on the things you project out, or your level of situational awareness.

In both cases bad actors and would-be attackers can exploit anything on you that can give them an edge. A vulnerability.

What is a vulnerability? In this case, a vulnerability is how easy of a target you are. What are you lacking that is enticing an attacker to target you. What do you show to the world, or don’t show, that makes you a "prey".

There are many things that can become vulnerabilities if you don’t assess and address them. For example, in a city, things like these can make you a target:

  • Not understanding your surroundings, looking like you don’t belong or are new to a certain location
  • Not understanding how things work in a certain urban landscape, like what to do or where to stand when a subway approaches the station
  • Not speaking the language, in cases where you are commuting to a different country
  • Having a poor or difficult attitude, like acting overly rude or looking overly arrogant
  • Looking different, as in, you are in a different country and you look like you are not from there, or you go to a place where there is a certain dress code and you wear something different

There are a few things you can do to help minimize these issues.

  1. Do a bit of research about the area where you commute to. Perform some open source intelligence online, ask people that commute there, and read the general stats about the place.
  2. Based on what you learn in the previous step, create a plan for commuting, and prepare yourself. For example, if it’s generally unsafe to be at a certain time in the morning, then plan to arrive after, or if the information is telling you that petty crime is on the rise and theft is big, then make sure you leave your expensive watch at home and bring only a slim wallet with some cash.
  3. If it’s a new area you are commuting to, or you want to know more about the one you go to often, use Google maps to look at the entire area. Familiarize yourself with the streets, traffic patterns, and make sure you know the different routes in and out of the place you work.
  4. Get your head off your phone, do not wear headphones, and just look around. Walk like you belong, project an image that you are secure of who you are, that you are aware of your surroundings, and that attackers need to pick a different target.

To finish, remember the Philosophy: to have a better, easier, and safer commute you have to remain light, be comfortable, blend in with your environment, and remain aware.