Notes: Module 2

Why do adversaries choose this attack mode;

  1. availability of targets – easy identification of open targets
  2. distance – can make the attacks anywhere in the world and reduces the potential of exposure and detection by security forces
  3. methods of deployment – are varied and subjected to the adversary`s knowledge of the construction of the device  and the availability of the material to construct the device;
  4. intelligence – the adversary can use this method of attack to acquire information about a particular target`s operational and security measures.
  5. Distraction – when a threat or hoax occurs, certain procedures are activated as part of the emergency response procedures at the protected site. So through surveillance, for example, these response procedures, the bad guys are furnished with confidential information, such as evacuation procedures  will be very helpful in planning for future  response time or which definitely will be very helpful in planning future attacks

Explained; Threats are ever-changing; new explosives, new electronic trigger devices, and new biological and chemical substances are appearing in more frequent intervals; by carrying out a mail attack with explosives or dangerous substances, the adversary not only limits the risk to their own life but also exploits the following advantages (see the five lists above)


There are a few methods of attack you need to be familiar with; here are some examples, 

  1. Mail – through regular postal channels; such as a parcel containing a booby-trapped improvised explosives device can be sent through the postal office
  2. Places items – using courier service channels; can deliver a package to a person as a gift;
  3. Undercover penetration as a courier service; attacks using various methods
  4. Attacks against security forces – a package that the adversary will go through the security screening process can be set off from a distance, as an attack against the staff;
  5. Utilizing hampers/prize shipments as a temptation to the addressee to accept the post;
  6. Hoaxes – the use of hoax packages/letters may be designed to elicit a specific response, which may be used by terrorists to spread fear, divert attention, test and even determine response capabilities or assess security features.

They also have the potential to cause complacency among screening and security staff or first responders who have to deal with them on a constant basis. Hoax packages, and letters may also be sent to delay or cancel events.

Part 2

Postal threats can contain:

Mail threats can be broken down into three basic categories:

  • Improvised explosives devices – an explosives mail threat, an IED that is typically designed to function once it is opened as its vicitim^activated to booby-trapped. These types of mail threats can use either explosives or incendiary material and trigger once the package to the letter is opened or is triggered remotely; it could also be time triggered.
  • Chemical, biological, or radiological materials – chemical or biological threat – are any substance intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic, poisonous chemicals or their precursors, such as mustard gas nerve agents and sarin gas. A biological mail threat is any substance involving a disease organism, such as smallpox botulinum toxin, anthrax, and ricin.
  • Sharp objects are improvised weapons designed or intended to cause severe injuries once the target opens the packages. They are activated through the victim-operated mechanism.

3. Triggering Device

It is important for security operators to understand how an IED device can be triggered in order to understand the do`s and dont`s which will affect the security process while checking mail. The following are the key to understanding them:

  1. Timer mechanism device – timed IEDs function within are set timeframe, giving terrorists time to escape or to place the IED at a special location;
  2. Remote control initiated IED (mail/package) – radio control IEDs are electronically initiated explosive devices that use wireless detonation methods, consisting of transmitters and receivers such as cellphones, radios, or any over-the-air technology that can transmit radio frequency signals to an electronic receiving unit. A transmitter sends a signal to the receiver, which is modified to send an initiating signal to the initiator. It provides the adversaries with tactical advantages, as they do not have to be present in the device parameter as the device can be operated from a distance ;
  3. Booby traps – pulling, for example, like in the photo you see on the slide, can set off the device by opening the packing seal, and this can be constructed by using a pin and two metal sheets between an insulator; the insulator is connected to a string or fish line which is pulled by the target so once the target open the device it will go off.
  4. Booby traps motion – metallic liquid mercury which is often used, which acts as a conductor; once a target moves the device, the electric circuit closes and sets the device off
  5. Booby traps sensors – a sensor mechanism using motion proximity, light or even infrared is planted as a booby trap to set it off.

Triggering devices can be in combination with toxic chemicals, biological toxins, or radiological materials.

Lesson 4

Here is a slide of good examples of what a complete IED looks like and how it`s constructed inside the envelope. The various components, such as the battery, the switch, and the explosives charge, which is, in this case, is “datasheet” and the detonator, is clearly visible in this IED. You can see an activation switch labeled on/off, which is used to arm the device.  This means the device is set to go off once the on buttons are pressed. The target will trigger the main switch when opening the envelope. 


Christmas Card sent through Postal Services; President EU Commission Romano Prodi of Italy.

Al Qaeda Parcel Bomb – 29 Oct 2010

Using HP Desktop Laser Printer


« Back to All Notes

Shopping Cart