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Enhancing Security Vulnerability Assessments: The Six-Sided Approach, Defense Zones, and Intelligence Preparation

Updated: Feb 25

Security assessments play a pivotal role in fortifying facilities against potential threats. This post delves into the integration of the six-sided approach and defense zones, highlighting the significance of intelligence preparation in ensuring a comprehensive and effective security evaluation.

There are numerous methodologies in use when performing target assessments. Which one you choose is a personal preference. We prefer to use a combination of two models, one being the six-sided approach coupled with the defense zones.

The decision to combine the six-sided approach with the defense zones model is driven by the need for a holistic assessment that considers both external and internal threats. This merged methodology allows for a nuanced understanding of vulnerabilities in various spatial dimensions, providing a comprehensive framework for security enhancements.

For the perimeter in, we focus on the security controls in place for four distinct zones:

  • Uncontrolled Zone

  • Outer Zone

  • Inner Zone

  • Unobstructed Space

In progressing through the assessment, attention shifts from the outer zones to the facility itself, adopting a six-sided approach. This method involves scrutinizing potential entry points from six directions: the four perimeter walls, the roof, and subterranean access points. The goal is a comprehensive analysis that reveals vulnerabilities, guiding a strategic reversal during egress. The scrutiny extends to weaknesses in the physical security controls surrounding the perimeter, including open windows, doors, and the integrity of hinges, along with the examination of underground tunnels and the accessibility of maintenance entrances facilitated by a roof ladder.

Once inside the facility, a combined methodology of defense zones and the six-sided approach is employed. The strategy is to heighten physical security delays as one approaches the assessment's goals. This nuanced approach recognizes the importance of escalating security measures as proximity to the objective increases. Upon reaching immediate goals, the assessment circles back to the six-sided approach. It questions whether the physical security controls effectively thwart direct access to the goal and explores potential access from beneath or above, considering maintenance entrances or any unconventional routes that might compromise security.


Engaging in thorough intelligence preparation work is essential for any operation, particularly when the objective involves gaining access to a secure facility. By taking a step back and revisiting our intelligence groundwork, we reinforce the foundation of our mission, ensuring a well-informed and strategic approach.

The initial phase involves a rapid assessment of potential points of entry, leveraging surveillance techniques. This includes a meticulous analysis of public satellite imagery, allowing us to identify key ingress and egress locations. Depending on the availability and currency of the imagery, we aim to pinpoint at least four, if not five, entry points swiftly.

Moving beyond this initial assessment, a more extended surveillance period is advocated. Spending several days observing the target facilitates the collection of invaluable data from various sources, such as satellite imagery, daytime and nighttime observations, and monitoring facility activities. This comprehensive approach is instrumental in understanding the routine operations of the facility, including occupation times, delivery schedules, and maintenance and cleaning crew routines.

The significance of this meticulous preparation becomes evident when considering the myriad questions it seeks to answer, including but not limited to:

  • Normal Times of Security Patrols

  • Number of Security Personnel Onsite

  • Security Patrol Methods

  • Presence of Engineering Personnel

  • Cleaning Crew Schedules

Want to learn more? Enroll in our Fundamentals of Target Analysis class today.

Need a target assessment performed against your home or business, contact us today!

This detailed reconnaissance extends to radio communications, where we scrutinize security and facilities chatter frequencies. This not only provides information on the operational status but also aids in gauging the level of preparedness and potential vulnerabilities.

This intelligence preparation work goes beyond mere surveillance; it forms the bedrock of our strategy, enabling us to adapt and respond to the dynamic environment of the target facility. Through a comprehensive understanding of the facility's routine and security measures, we enhance the likelihood of a successful and discreet operation.

In the realm of security, the security lifecycle constitutes a crucial framework that organizations employ to safeguard their assets and infrastructure. The four key stages—detect, deter, delay, and respond—form the cornerstone of a comprehensive security strategy. Detection mechanisms are deployed to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, enabling proactive measures before an incident unfolds. Deterrence strategies work to dissuade malicious actors by establishing a robust security posture and conveying the consequences of unauthorized actions. The delay phase involves introducing obstacles and barriers to impede the progress of an intrusion, buying valuable time for a timely response. Finally, the response phase is the orchestrated reaction to an incident, involving swift and decisive actions to mitigate the impact, contain the threat, and facilitate recovery. A well-rounded security lifecycle is instrumental in fortifying an organization's defenses against evolving threats, ensuring a proactive and adaptive approach to safeguarding critical assets.

An alternative perspective posits that the primary objective of security controls should be to extend the time it takes for responders to intervene and apprehend an assailant during an incident. However, this viewpoint raises critical concerns that challenge its efficacy. The inherent flaw lies in the assumption that the assailant's sole aim is to exit the facility successfully, which may not necessarily align with their actual objectives. In reality, assailants may have diverse motives, such as causing widespread panic, inflicting maximum harm, or achieving specific objectives within the facility itself. Consequently, an exclusive focus on delaying ingress and egress times may prove inadequate in addressing the multifaceted nature of security threats.

Moreover, this approach overlooks the potential consequences of allowing an assailant more time within the facility. Allowing an extended timeframe for an assailant to navigate the premises could lead to increased casualties, greater damage, and heightened chaos. By solely concentrating on delaying response times, security measures may inadvertently facilitate the assailant's objectives, providing them with the opportunity to carry out their intended actions more extensively.

The assumption that every assailant is solely motivated by the desire to escape with success oversimplifies the complex psychology behind such incidents. Some assailants may have motives that transcend personal survival, such as ideological or political agendas, and may be indifferent to the consequences of their actions on their own safety. In such cases, relying solely on delaying ingress and egress times overlooks the necessity of comprehensive security measures that address the broader spectrum of potential threats.

While delaying response times is undoubtedly a crucial aspect of security planning, it is imperative to recognize the limitations of a strategy that exclusively focuses on this element. A more comprehensive approach that considers the diverse motivations of assailants and aims to mitigate risks within the facility itself is essential for effectively safeguarding against multifaceted security threats.

In conclusion, the synergy of intelligence preparation, the security lifecycle, and the strategic integration of assessment methodologies such as defense zones and the six-sided approach is paramount in bolstering physical security assessments. Intelligence preparation ensures a comprehensive understanding of potential risks and threats specific to the physical environment. The security lifecycle provides a structured framework for continuous improvement, enabling organizations to adapt and enhance their security measures over time. When coupled with assessment methodologies like defense zones and the six-sided approach, organizations gain a holistic perspective, addressing vulnerabilities across various facets of their physical security infrastructure. This combined approach not only fortifies current defenses but also positions organizations to proactively anticipate and mitigate emerging threats. By embracing these principles, organizations can establish a resilient and adaptive physical security framework that safeguards assets, personnel, and critical infrastructure effectively.

Want to learn more? Enroll in our Fundamentals of Target Analysis class today.

Need a target assessment performed against your home or business, contact us today!

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