5 Signs of Terrorism

By March 20, 2017 November 25th, 2019 No Comments

5 Signs of Terrorism

In the post 9/11 world, terrorism continues to raise concern, alarm, and take the lives of countless innocents. While some may be complacent, or think their area is safe – embracing the psychological mindset ‘it will never happen here;’ the fact is news outlets don’t report all near miss incidents.


This isn’t fearmongering, this is fact. Near miss incidents occur more than most people realize, and publicizing it would do irrevocable harm to homeland security efforts to thwart future attacks. On a rare occasion an incident may come to light, as the story of Jalil Aziz in Harrisburg, PA recently did. At the end of the day, it takes citizens who notice suspicious circumstances to report it – in fact it’s so important the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an entire program dedicated to gaining the public’s involvement in national security and anti-terrorism efforts.


Here’s 5 signs that terrorism may be afoot.



  • Surveillance. In the infancy of the cycle terrorism follows, terrorists will heavily surveil their target of interest. During this time, they may pose as tourists, use telephoto lenses and observe from afar, or utilize an array of clever disguises or social engineering to effectively survey their target of interest. Generally, terrorists will be interested in all 24 hours of the day, busy times, holidays, weekends, etc. The surveillance may continue for weeks, or even months or longer.


  • Gathering Information. This partially ties in with their surveillance. In general, during or immediately following the surveillance phase; terrorists will use any number of ways to gather information about their target of interest, including social engineering. Terrorists may identify person(s) who are then surveilled to identify possible extortion opportunities. There are many ways to gather information and undoubtedly, terrorists know every one in the book, and have even written a few themselves.


  • Testing Security. Following the surveillance and information gathering, terrorists will test the security measures of the target of interest. This will almost always include disguises and pretexting, false or foraged credentials, and a number of other actions. This phase will allow the terrorist to gain entry in such a way to evaluate whether or not their surveillance and information they gathered is accurate; and how successful they can breach the security measures and personnel. As an example, a terrorist may pose as a utility or communications ‘subcontractor’ coming to ‘fix’ something; or perhaps an elderly individual with what seems like dementia – perhaps they have a card with a message that reads something like “This is Abe, he has dementia. call John Smith at 555-555-5555.” Terrorists will go to great and elaborate lengths in this process to accurately test security, and intentionally get caught to test security response – without getting caught.


  • Acquiring Supplies. Once the aforementioned phases have successfully occurred, along with a few other things not mentioned; the terrorist(s) will make a decision to proceed with their attack, or look for a new ‘softer’ target. Assuming they are moving forward, they will need supplies. There a wide variety of indicators based on different retailers or service industries that may give clues of possible or probable terrorism (see below.) This is one of the most sensitive steps for terrorists – as they are generally very vulnerable in this stage. While there are a number of ways a terrorist could acquire the supplies they need to carry out their unconscionable act – they may for a number of reasons obtain their supplies locally. This again is likely one of their biggest vulnerabilities.


  • Dry Run / People Who Don’t Belong. Once the terrorists have everything set-up and in place, they will generally perform what’s referred to as a dry run. This is another stage of high vulnerability for the terrorists, as they are perfecting the final details for their attack. Much like when they gather their supplies, they will likely be extremely careful and calculated in this stage. This is generally one of, if not the final opportunity for detection of the terrorist(s) prior to their attack. The length of this stage varies based on their target of interest, type of attack, number of terrorists, etc.


At the conclusion, the terrorist(s) will begin their final stage leading up to the actual attack being carried out. This is generally the shortest stage of the process, especially when all other steps have been completed successfully and thoroughly. It is crucial that if you observe something out of the ordinary that may have some link with a possible terrorist act that you report the situation without delay.