mail sorter (U.S. Postal Service photo)

Third of Companies Got Mail Threats in Past Year While Biological Screening Doubled

A third of security and mailroom professionals surveyed reported receiving a threat by mail over the past year while nearly half of all organizations still only screen some or none of their incoming letters and packages.

A third of respondents in the annual SoBran Mail Security Benchmarking Survey also said they’re more concerned about threats received via mail than they were at this time last year.

The 2018 news cycle was enough to feed that concern, with ricin-laced letters and improvised explosive devices sent to top political and agency officials. At the corporate level, the person behind malicious mail could be an insider threat currently or formerly connected to the company.

With 37 percent of the survey’s respondents working in government or as contractors, just 42 percent said all of the incoming mail at their organization is screened — usually with a visual inspection (67 percent) for things like wires or leaking substances or X-ray examination (73 percent).

The rate of entities screening for biological agents nearly doubled from the previous year, jumping from 17 percent to 33 percent.

Ten percent reported using sniffing dogs and/or nuclear detection, 20 percent use radiological detection, and 23 percent conduct screening for chemical substances and/or explosives.

Fewer organizations are screening mail in the same building where employees are at work, dropping from 60 percent in 2018 to 43 percent this year.

“Evidence of the effectiveness and importance of mail screening is demonstrated by the fact that over a third of the companies surveyed had at least one mail threat detected in the past year and 16 percent had more than 3 threats in a year’s time,” states the survey. “Threatening letters more than doubled while drugs and illegal substances quadrupled.”

Organizations mostly cite tight budgets for not screening mail as they should, followed by a lack of equipment, apathy, employee training, lack of management support, time and space.

More than 65 percent of respondents vow to increase training over the coming year, while 28 percent plan to acquire more advanced screening equipment and 9 percent intend to reform current screening processes.

“It is more imperative than ever to employ mail screening as a critical component of an overall organizational security plan along with physical security and cybersecurity,” said SoBran Vice President of Security, Strategy and Services Will Hobbs.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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