Company & Individual Background Checks


Background checks are usually considered uncomfortable. The person being checked will often feel intruded upon or mistrusted. Despite that feeling of being uncomfortable it is largely accepted as a necessary evil. After all, who wouldn’t rather have background checks done for people who work with children?

The legal background varies greatly from country to country. In America for example, very nearly everyone can conduct a background check on someone if they have the necessary information. In the UK on the other hand, the person being checked needs to give permission and the check is then being done by a government agency.

Now, in what kind of situation are background checks common? Many countries require them for people who want to work with children. Banks and larger companies like to know if their employees have a criminal background as well, before employing them. However, background checks aren’t just done on potential employees, but also on, for example, new business partners. Business partner finance checks have a very obvious purpose-to give information about whether or not the potential partner is lucid and therefore a viable partner.

There are several kinds of different background checks-some are really more identity checks, while others give a full scale criminal record, credit check and a list of former residences. In most cases, someone that requests such a check will do so with a certain intention and therefore only check certain things. Typically, it’s governments that will perform more in-depth searches into potential employees or persons of interest.

A bank’s interest into potential clients is equally obvious-it will perform individual credit checks to see if someone is eligible for credit or an account. The reason to do this needs no elaboration-a bank cannot simply give credit to anyone, they first need to see if the person can be trusted with the responsibility.

As far as performing the actual checks goes, they can be done by several parties, for example background check companies, the government, a government backed organisation, or the police. Background check companies will need to be certified and adhere to a lot of rules and regulations concerning the dealing with personal information. Respecting privacy while performing these checks is an essential checkmark in these situations and one of the few comforts possible for people that feel intruded upon by the checks. The companies are usually liable for leaked or misused information and will never give the information to anyone not allowed access to them.

Pre-Employment Screening, Employee Background Check, Candidate Background Investigation


A pre-employment screening is a necessary evil in many different careers-working with children is the prime example. In few countries in the world is it possible to work with children without a proper screening first to make sure that the person does not have a criminal background or anything in their history that prevents them from working with them. Generally it is criminal records that can become a problem here.

It can also be, quite simply, that a company does not want to employ someone that might tarnish its reputation. While it’s of course illegal to discriminate people will often lie about their misspent past, and an employee background check will show the truth. Even if no check is being done, telling the truth and admitting to past misdeeds is always the best option in the long run-in some countries not mentioning that kind of thing is illegal and can be punished with immediate loss of the job in question or even a lawsuit.

In some, rather rare cases, candidate background investigations are also done before someone is given a sizeable promotion rather than before being employed. This is done to make sure that a public figure, someone that may perhaps be in the eye of the media, will not bring disrepute to the company.

The usual screening will consist of a verification of the person’s personal data, such as name, birthdate, birthplace, place of residence and social security number. After that the employment history will be verified, to see if the potential employee lied. Generally small discrepancies of a few days will not be mentioned, however if a job is mentioned on a resume and not at all comes up during a background check that will raise a few red flags. If, on the other hand, a job is not mentioned, that is usually alright, as there are several valid reasons not to mention jobs, for example a lack of relevance.

When that is verified too, a criminal check may be done. However it should be said that during standard employee background checks, criminal checks are very superficial, often times only including whether or not there is a criminal or juvenile record at all. The most in-depth information that can be acquired at all is the dates of the offences, and whether or not a prison sentence took place. Further details are never disclosed to either the employer or the company carrying out the check.

5 Times in History When HUMINT Was Used


We’re all familiar with that common scene in movies: a person of authority interrogating a subject—seated down, hands cuffed, and isolated in a quiet, secluded room.

Although this scene is often an exaggerated depiction, it is a good example of how human intelligence, or HUMINT, is gathered.

HUMINT is the information gathered through interpersonal communication with individuals, hence the term human intelligence. Information can be obtained through face-to-face encounters, phone interviews, e-mail correspondence and video calls, for as long as the source of the information is a human being.

Looking beyond the typical scenario of HUMINT gathering, and outside police districts, military camps and other law enforcement offices—when and where else do you think HUMINT was gathered?

Obtaining human intelligence before was done almost nonchalantly, and they probably didn’t it was HUMINT in the first place.

Let’s take a look back at history to see how some famous people used HUMINT to achieve their goals that shaped many military and political strategies of today:

1. When Moses sent 12 spies to Canaan

Moses, as chronicled by the Book of Numbers 13:2, sent his men to the land of Canaan which he intended to give to the Israelites.

This is a classic example of espionage with all its ancient glory—devoid of high technology and complex methods. Espionage is one of the tools used for HUMINT gathering.

Through Moses’ 12 spies who were in a position of confidence against the enemy, they were able to gather information that aided the successful exodus of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan.

3,400 years ago when Moses ordered this, no one at his time labeled it as human intelligence. It only made sense when modern science coined the term HUMINT.

2. When Sun Tzu’s military conquests inspired him to write The Art of War

Hailed as the most influential Chinese military writer of all time, Sun Tzu promoted a new approach to warfare. He emphasized a non-conventional style of war by shifting the focus from an enemy’s strengths to concentrate on the weaknesses instead.

In his book, Sun Tzu stressed the use of alternative methods in battle such as psychological warfare, deception and strategic alliances. He underscored “foreknowledge”, which entails profound understanding of an enemy’s personality, rather than the military capability alone. To do these, intelligence must be gathered and done using the right strategy.

When Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, it became an acclaimed work that shaped both Eastern and Western military thinking.

3. When Alexander the Great interrogated Persians

Roughly 370 BC, when Greek-Persian relations were rather tense, a teenage Alexander the Great began interrogating Persian visitors to the royal court, then ruled by his father, King Philip II of Macedon.

True to his moniker, Alexander’s wisdom and strength at a young age earned him several triumphs that extended to the East. His profound understanding of climate, roads, culture and personality of his visitors and enemies made him an excellent military strategist.

Much of this information is credited to his collectors, and he would have reached his goal of “conquering the world” if not for his untimely death.

Another method of HUMINT gathering is interrogation of prisoner of wars (POWs) or detainees. Plenty of information can be gathered from POWs, which provides substantial insight about the enemy.

4. When Chanakya composed the Arthashastra

Loosely translated as “The Science of Politics”, Chanakya (also known as Kautilya) created the Arthashastra in 4th century BCE as a comprehensive guide on military, state and political strategies.

As an esteemed teacher, economist and royal advisor in India, he emphasized the practice of state control backed by a strong intelligence framework to gather pertinent information.

He also placed emphasis on the ideal qualities of a HUMINT collector, or the person trusted to gather intelligence. Courage, sharpness, intellect and integrity are a must, as well as a profound understanding of the arts. These requirements put the collector at almost-equal qualifications with the king and his royal counselors.

Chanakya further detailed the HUMINT practice as obtaining information through exploitation and judgment.

Spying is the practice of gathering confidential or top-secret information without the official permission of the owner. Agencies who employ spies aim to obtain information not otherwise given to them. This is a clandestine act, and is illegal in many cases—making it unacceptable and punishable by law.

5. When agentes in rebus of the Byzantine Empire made reports to the royal court

The Romans utilized a sophisticated form of HUMINT, employing agentes in rebus or “conductors of affairs” or “magister’s men”. They are like the ancient counterpart of today’s courier service—only that they exclusively serve the royal court and hold intelligence functions as well.

Selecting agentes in rebus was an intricate process. Men were carefully selected based on their abilities and morals, later trained intensively, then employed on a test run for five years.

Agentes in rebus is the primary arm of communications within the Byzantine Empire. They supervised roads and inns, carried letters, checked soldiers’ billeting and acted as customs officers. Most importantly, they reported relevant information obtained from their travels to the royal court.

Diplomacy is another HUMINT source, a friendly approach compared to espionage and interrogation. This is the practice of negotiating different concerns and issues between two parties, usually from state representatives entrusted by their respective heads of state. Diplomacy has evolved greatly, but even in olden times it was widely utilized.

6 Interesting Facts About SIGINT


In military practice, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies, signals intelligence (SIGINT) is crucial. It provides information that may not be provided for by other branches of intelligence gathering such as human intelligence (HUMINT) or measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT).

SIGINT is a method of gathering intelligence through signal interception. Encrypted data is translated through cryptoanalysis to decipher the real message.

Does this concept sound too alien? How much do you know about SIGINT?

Here are some interesting facts about SIGINT that are nice to know:

1. SIGINT dates back to the 1900s.

The first practice of SIGINT was believed to occur during the Boer War that started in 1899. The British belligerents placed wireless devices on board their Royal Navy ships.

Upon the Boers’ seizure of the wireless devices, they used these to establish transmissions, too. Since only the British used these at that time, that signals were not encrypted, and hence did not need decryption.

Later on, SIGINT practice continued during the Russian-Japanese War from 1904-1905. The British naval ship, that time positioned in the Suez Canal, intercepted transmissions from the Russian vessels as they were preparing for battle with Japan.

When British forces utilized SIGINT in intercepting German radio signals, the use of cryptography then gained prominence. Because of its effectiveness in concealing the content of radio transmissions, cryptoanalysis is still being widely practiced today.

Since then, SIGINT methods developed intricately to provide vital military and tactical intelligence.

2. Intercepting radio waves is legal.

When the radio was invented in 1895, it revolutionized how people communicated with one another. Generally, no one can own radio waves. Privacy laws don’t cover these, either. Interception is legal in this case, in contrast to wiretapping.

SIGINT is a broad term that consists of two fields: COMINT (communication intelligence) and ELINT (electronic intelligence).

COMINT includes telephone calls, text messages, and online chats. It aims to obtain information such as the identity and location of the communicators, the length and time of the communication, and the encryption used.

ELINT focuses on the more technical aspect of the communication itself, such as electric signals. It aims to assess the radar capability of the target by using special sensors. Since this is commonly used in military practice, data obtained through ELINT is usually classified.

3. The Snowden Effect revealed the extent of SIGINT use by the US.

In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked a series of documents from the National Security Agency (NSA). A former contractor of NSA, he disclosed the extent of the agency’s surveillance methods. The Snowden effect forced the NSA, regarded as a very secretive agency, to explain itself to the public.

The growing public concern over US surveillance activities, hailed as the “Snowden effect”, affected the cloud-buying practices by companies.

In 2015, the NSA once more came into the limelight when Laura Poitras produced the film CitizenFour based on Edward Snowden.

In the same year, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance activities were illegal.

4. SIGINT applies to electronic warfare.

Electronic warfare (EW) utilizes non-hostile methods to enter the electromagnetic spectrum while denying the enemy’s access to the same.

One of EW’s sub-disciplines, Electronic Warfare Support or ES, focuses on the identification of electromagnetic energy sources.

For instance, ES analysts detect an unidentified radar signal and consequently determine the type. They compare it to countries who utilize this specific type of radar, including the aircraft, vessels, and vehicles used with it. Ultimately, they can identify the nature and source of the radar.

The practice of SIGINT overlaps ES in this case, as it supports decision-making for military intelligence.

5. SIGINT has ethical implications.

Any information transmitted electronically constitutes SIGINT. This includes sources from the Internet, telephone lines and radio transmissions, whether intercepted or sent to the wrong destination.

SIGINT does not touch on publicly accessible information, such as text messages or e-mails addressed to you.

However, deliberately gaining access to your opponent’s server, using programs to intercept messages, or hacking e-mail accounts are downright unethical.

How about information that’s mistakenly sent to you? Have you received a text message that wasn’t addressed to you? This is a more subtle, practical context of SIGINT when compared to its use in full-scale military operations.

However, receiving a message not intended for you happens every once in a while. Due diligence must be practiced. If you do receive a message by mistake, the ethical action is to advise the sender of the mistake, inform the appropriate department, and ignore or delete the information before it falls to the wrong hands and deliberately passed on.

6. SIGINT aids in decision-making for policy-makers.

We know that certain agencies like the NSA gather raw SIGINT for the translators and cryptologists to transform it into information that an analyst can scrutinize.

Once the raw SIGINT is processed and analyzed, the information is passed to other intelligence agencies such as the CIA. They collate information gathered from other sources to generate complete intelligence. This is vital for policy-makers that focus on pertinent issues like nation-building and national security.

Based on this process, we can say that producing finished intelligence is a tedious and meticulous task.

Because of the technological advancements of this age, intelligence collectors are overwhelmed with the high volume of signals. This makes it even more arduous for analysts to gather, sort, track, and extract the important data from the irrelevant ones.

Understanding MASINT and Its Practical Uses


MASINT: Information is first collected, then gathered, and finally analyzed.

This is a key process in intelligence gathering, when raw data is transformed into useful intelligence that supports decision-making.

Intelligence collection is a broad science, but we will focus on one specific discipline that is not as widely discussed as the rest.

Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) is a specialized branch of intelligence collection. It is a highly technical field that aims to identify and track the distinct attributes of target sources.

Breaking down MASINT

In layman’s terms, we define MASINT as the information obtained by sensors to describe and record the characteristics of a target.

MASINT uses the scientific process. It gathers both quantitative and qualitative data such as metric, angular, spatial, duration, magnetic, and many more types.

With these, we get to know the target more—and know where they are going.

So how are these data obtained, exactly?

There are specialized electronic sensors with the sole purpose of identifying the characteristics of the source, emitter or sender. The sound of aircraft propellers, fluctuating temperatures, material composition of evidence—these are just some of the numerous features that MASINT can obtain.

MASINT is really just about gathering the by-products of these devices.

Such devices or equipment generate a certain by-product or “signature” that is measured, hence the terms “measurement” and “signature” in MASINT. These signatures can be biological, chemical, thermal, nuclear, radioactive, electromagnetic or mechanical in nature.

Based on this description of MASINT, we can say that it is capable of giving a fingerprint of any weapon system. It can provide unique and useful information that other disciplines may not be able to give.

The complexity of MASINT

However, by no means is MASINT collection as simple as defining it. Unlike human intelligence (HUMINT), where information can be gathered from human sources, MASINT requires complex tools and equipment to obtain information.

Since MASINT is widely used in military operations and warfare, a complete MASINT system involves a variety of electronic and sensory equipment to make intelligence-gathering as accurate as possible.

How MASINT started

The early use of MASINT remains unclear, but the techniques used now hail from an interesting history.

Ancient warship captains were believed to rely on the senses to measure the characteristics of the skies, wind, and water. There was no technology to analyze information, but rather a mental collection of signatures that formed the basis for tactical strategies.

Even engineers from the Middle Ages relied on acoustic phenomena—putting their ears on the ground to gather information from sound.

In World War I, soldiers utilized acoustic and optical intelligence to locate artillery that increased their odds of victory.

In World War II, belligerents used radar to track down foreign aircraft, and employed chemical detectors to identify chemical agents used in warfare.

Compared to HUMINT, SIGINT or GEOINT, MASINT is a more recent discipline. Due to limitations in documentation and evidence-based research, the full potential of MASINT cannot be quantified.

Ongoing MASINT studies also remain classified. However, it is a promising discipline.

The sub-disciplines of MASINT

As if MASINT isn’t complex enough, you’ll learn that MASINT itself is just the tip of the iceberg.

MASINT deals with a lot of signatures with varying characteristics. Here are some of the most common forms of MASINT:

● Radar Intelligence (RADINT)
○ Collates dissimilar elements that do not fall under HUMINT, SIGINT or GEOINT

● Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence (FISINT)
○ Intercepts unknown electromagnetic signals emitted from foreign aerospace systems

● Acoustic Intelligence
○ Deals with the collection and analysis of acoustic signals

● Nuclear Intelligence (NUCINT)
○ Measures information obtained from nuclear weapons, devices, methods and facilities

● Electro-optical Intelligence (ELECTRO-OPTINT)
○ Analyzes information from electromagnetic sources within the light, UV and infrared spectra

● Laser Intelligence (LASINT)
○ Collects information from laser threats and measures power sources, power levels, and frequencies of laser systems

Application of MASINT

MASINT provides intelligence on the weapons of the enemy, their equipment locations, and patterns of life.

For the military commander, MASINT facilitates full understanding of operations. When utilized properly, MASINT is effective in foiling clandestine and deception methods executed by the enemy.

MASINT can identify air missiles and track submarines. It can also detect an unknown radio frequency, but this will need SIGINT in order to decipher any encrypted information. Nevertheless, MASINT makes it possible to collect the information relevant to the transmission, and not necessarily about the message itself.

With the knowledge of a weapon’s location, counter-intelligence measures can be formulated.

Here are some general instances when MASINT can be applied:

● Assessing battlefields
● Detecting strategic and tactical missiles
● Detecting and recognizing aircraft, ships, and submarines
● Detecting nuclear and chemical activities
● Detecting, locating, and identifying explosives

Even though MASINT may seem more strategic than tactical, it actually provides a more insightful approach to the situation when analyzed and disseminated correctly.

Integrating MASINT with other disciplines

There is no all-knowing intelligence discipline, no matter how much we want it. How does an omni-sensor sound—an all-seeing tool that saves valuable resources? Can you imagine how phenomenal it would be for military practice?

But no, there is no one discipline that is one-size-fits-all. We know that intelligence collection has reached its finest when all disciplines are utilized to arrive at the best decision.

To create a true omni-sensor, a multi-disciplinary approach to intelligence collection and analysis is crucial. When you integrate MASINT to HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and TRASHINT—you will arrive with accurate, insightful intelligence that aids in decision-making.