Rift Recon Presents At The 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum


Rift Recon LLC and the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) join forces to present a comprehensive security workshop at the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) next month. The workshop will be geared toward protecting high-risk individuals in possession of sensitive information.

The sixth annual OFF will take place on May 12-14th. Former Russian political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, American actor Jeffrey Wright, and iconic Turkish protester Erdem Gunduz will join 25 other remarkable speakers. OFF will bring together a diverse and global audience to share experiences and discuss how to best promote free and open societies. Rift Recon CEO Eric Michaud and Senior Intelligence Advisor Brian O’Shea will be joining the ranks of some of the world’s finest minds and bringing their security talents within easy reach of the people that need them most.

"You can’t help being a target, but you can help what kind of target you are," advises O’Shea. "Our workshop in Oslo will provide a remarkable opportunity for Rift Recon to aid at-risk individuals who we wouldn’t normally have access to."

Michaud and O’Shea are facilitating the workshop in collaboration with representatives from HRF, whose team members reached out to Rift Recon after hearing about their cyber and physical security intensives. OFF workshop attendees can expect a fast-paced, in-depth security training that focuses on identifying when you are being targeted by hostile entities, introducing premeditated protocols you can practice to lessen your risk, and how to swiftly minimize damage should your security be compromised. The training will draw largely from Rift’s Two-Day Employee Physical Security Intensive and the soon to be available Social Engineering course.

"Dictators have access to billions of dollars and the world’s most advanced surveillance and spying tools," said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. "We have to acknowledge that challenge, and the first step is to connect communities of human rights defenders and at-risk journalists with experts who can show them how to keep their communications and actions private."

In this workshop, the instructors will focus on protecting sensitive information through examining the flaws and benefits of various communication devices and attacks by various offensive entry tools, as well as how to strategically react to a security breach. Social engineering techniques will also be examined, including reading body language and establishing stranger intent to better protect participants. Participants lastly will also learn how to tell if their workspaces have been intruded upon, how to deploy tamper-evident devices to sensitive equipment and work spaces, and many more invaluable skills. For more information, and to view a complete list of this year’s speakers, visit http://www.oslofreedomforum.com.

About Rift Recon

Founded in 2013, Rift Recon is a premiere physical security agency comprised of researchers, former military and private security detail contractors, and computer and hardware hackers that equips its clients from a suite of exclusive services including specialized trainings, hardware tampering and forensics work, assessment reports, tool creation and team outfitting. Visit http://www.riftrecon.com or follow @RiftRecon on Twitter for more information.

About Human Rights Foundation (HRF)

Founded in 2006, HRF is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy. Our mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world. Visit http://www.humanrightsfoundation.org or follow @HRF on Twitter for more information.

Rift Recon Appoints Brian O’Shea As Senior Intelligence Advisor

With over 20 years of international security, risk, and intelligence experience, Brian O’Shea joins Rift Recon as Senior Intelligence Advisor and Trainer.

Rift Recon, a San Francisco-based physical security, risk and training firm, recently concluded its third public urban escape and evasion training, the “Art of Escape,” in the Downtown Bay Area. Though the prior trainings had been remarkably successful, March’s run was particularly so due to a brand new addition to the team: seasoned Intelligence and Solutions expert Brian O’Shea.  

O’Shea lends his considerable expertise in social engineering, improvised weapons, risk avoidance, and many more subjects. He is a certified and experienced instructor with credentials from the U.S. Intelligence Community and a professional license from a state private security regulating authority. As part of Rift Recon, he brings a crucial skill set to the team, rounding out Rift’s already “Best in Class” offerings.

“We teach these skills because we want all of our clients, students and friends to be safe, no matter where they are,” states O’Shea, “Hostile situations can be overcome by having the proper training and exposure.”

“Brian’s resume and experience speaks for itself. He has been an intelligence collector all over the world, has authored and executed numerous risk and security plans for some of the world’s top executives, and has established active networks all over the world for his own survival,” said Rift CEO Eric Michaud.

O’Shea complements the existing skills of the company with his own. Michaud has been featured in numerous publications on related subjects, has an active client list for those requiring unique security and risk solutions, and has recently been invited to teach workshops at the Annual Oslo Freedom Forum this May in Oslo, Norway. As an accomplished instructor, it was of paramount importance to Michaud that any addition to the company be an engaging and established educator.

“The most important thing is that Brian knows how to connect with the students and allows them to build their own solutions with a very effective, interactive and empathetic style of teaching,” Michaud adds, “I am thrilled to welcome him on board the Rift Recon Team!”

For more on Rift Recon’s Art of Escape and other training, products, and consulting offerings, please visit www.riftrecon.com.

About Rift Recon

Founded in 2013, Rift Recon is a premiere physical security agency comprised of researchers, former military and private security detail contractors, and computer and hardware hackers that equips its clients from a suite of exclusive services including specialized trainings, hardware tampering and forensics work, assessment reports, tool creation and team outfitting. Visit http://www.riftrecon.com or follow @RiftRecon on Twitter for more information.

About Brian O’Shea

Brian O’Shea is an international security, risk, and intelligence consultant to several Fortune 500 CEOs and NGO leaders.  Brian started his career as a trained Arabic linguist and led several small intelligence and collection teams while serving in 5th and 1st Special Forces.  Brian has also contracted with several government intelligence agencies and performed counter terror, counter proliferation, and special activities in South America, the Middle and Near East, South East Asia, and Europe.  Brian also is the owner of Striker Pierce LLC in Virginia, a boutique investigative and solutions firm. Brian has a Master’s in Criminology from Boston University, is a Certified Private Security Instructor, and has over 20 years of related experience.  Brian now is the Senior Intelligence and Risk Advisor for Rift Recon.  Brian instructs Rift’s Clients in Best Practices in order to avoid capture, harm, and potentially dangerous situations in domestic and overseas environments.  Brian was also featured in Janine Driver’s book “You Can’t Lie to Me” in which he teaches readers about body language reading, manipulation, and base lining. For more on Brian O’Shea please visit www.strikerpierce.com.



April 15th, 2014

March’s Art of Escape was all about new faces, strange places, and facing unexpected obstacles with exceptional results. The first major change was staff-related: Rift Recon was thrilled to welcome Brian O’Shea to the team as a Trainer and Senior Intelligence Advisor. Brian brings over twenty years of intelligence and tactical risk experience to the team and proved to be an engaging Art of Escape instructor. He put an entirely new spin on using social engineering and tactical intelligence collection to gain valuable supplies and intelligence, and had a blast doing it! You can read more about Brian in the coming days, when Rift releases a “Trainer Spotlight” piece on him.

Now, onto the good stuff. For the first time, the majority of our participants hailed from local tech companies, undoubtedly due to the steady San Francisco designer, developer, and programmer boom. Despite their overall lack of prior escape and evasion training, they were strong-willed, creative, and resourceful. This was definitely the most connective class we’ve had yet. It was clear from Day One that the students were both incredibly forthcoming and receptive. Combined with Brian and Eric’s high-energy interactive teaching style, the first two days of class flew by. The students organically formed tight bonds with one another, bonds that proved fortuitous during Saturday’s highly-anticipated Field Training Exercise (FTX).

Here’s a fun game: See if you can spot the difference(s) between the Pre-FTX class photo……


……and the Post-FTX class photo! (The winner gets a 15% discount to be used throughout our entire product catalog! Hint: Look for changes in physical characteristics.)


This month’s FTX fell on the foulest of days, in the midst of a brutal, windy downpour. Not to be deterred, the students barreled off into the city after being thoroughly searched and relentlessly interrogated. Rift had applied the suggestions of former students and increased the intensity of their interrogation scenario for March’s Art of Escape. Participants were surprised by multiple unfamiliar captors, new restraint techniques, and psychological stressors. They navigated the situation like pros, and then were off on foot to face the freezing rain.

A highlight of the day involved an elaborate manhunt in the Ferry Building, where Rift Recon staff (spies) had been planted to identify students, track their movements using audio and video equipment without being detected, and swiftly apprehend them. This resulted in tons of quality footage of acutely acquired social engineering tactics, as well as more than one frenzied chase through the crowd. March’s Art of Escape students proved to have some of the most elaborate disguises we’d ever seen, and even with numerous sets of eyes searching for them, they managed to avoid detection more often than not. They also completed all of the FTX checkpoints in record time, leading us to assume that even more must be needed! (Watch out, future participants!) At the end of the day, our students were exhausted and soaking wet with both rain and exertion, yet their smiles stretched ear-to-ear. Another job well done!

- Arianna Travaglini
Arianna Travaglini is an Executive Assistant at Rift Recon


“Rift Recon’s Art of Escape was the best urban escape, evasion, and survival course I’ve had since training with the CIA.  Improvised lock picks; caching valuables; elements of disguise; and so much more… all capped off by a full-day field exercise, thoughtfully conducted to mimic real-life conditions and inject real adrenal stress.  I’m amazed at how much was covered in just three days, and can’t wait to take the intermediate course as soon as soon as it’s ready.”

Barry Eisler, best-selling American novelist & former CIA agent (photographed on far right)

If one thing can be said about February’s Art of Escape, it’s that as soon as you felt yourself getting complacent, you were knocked completely off your feet. This past month’s training was a totally different animal than it’s predecessor - a bigger, faster, stronger animal - and it had more twists and turns than an amusement park water slide.  Get ready, get set, get tactical!

Students began preparing for their Field Training Exercise on Day One, diving headfirst into the material. The curriculum covered topics such as navigation, adaptation, constructing disguises, and social engineering (otherwise known as “getting people to do things for you when you don’t have much to bargain with”). The day wrapped with a feature lesson on getting out of restraints, and boy, did folks get creative! While shimmying, wrestling, sawing, and slicing their way out of handcuffs, duct tape, and zip ties, several students began using elements of their environment to assist in their escape, completely unprompted. Doorknobs, pipes, and the edges of brick walls were all implemented with great success - turns out we had a bunch of natural Houdinis on our hands!

On Day Two, the skills got a little more technical, featuring an emphasis on lockpicking. Like the first Art of Escape, many students found the lockpicking segment exceptionally challenging, but everyone was able to pick at least one of their provided locks. The energy picked up during the second half of the day, when the instructors covered self defense maneuvers and manufacturing weapons on the fly, using a variety of mediums (text, videos, demonstrations, and personal stories) to create a multi-dimensional approach. The air buzzed with electricity as the class let out that evening, with everyone wondering what lay in store for them on Day Three.

Day Three proved to be a grand adventure, catching most of the students off guard with its intensity, commitment to detail, and authenticity. After answering some pre-exercise questions, with adrenaline pumping through their veins, students were cordoned off from the group, interrogated, and given a narrow opportunity to break free and venture into the city. Many participants were from out of town, so the San Francisco terrain was as unfamiliar to them as a foreign country’s, and the list of “missions” to complete throughout their grueling six-hour challenge was daunting. However, they continued to surprise the Rift Recon staff with their resourceful endurance. Students particularly excelled at hiding caches of valuables in strategic vantage points around the city, donning elaborate disguises, social engineering, and teaching others the skills they’d learned only days before. Even with pursuers hot on their tails, bent on deterring them from their missions by any means necessary, all the students made it to their final checkpoint by the predetermined time, and faces glowed as they reveled in their achievements. Another weekend down, another wildly successful Art of Escape on the books! Stay tuned for March’s AOE After Action Report, chock full of even more twists, turns, and triumphs!


-Arianna Travaglini

Arianna Travaglini is an Executive Assistant at Rift Recon

(Photos by John Cooney)

Access Prohibited Now Available on Kindle!


Rift Recon is thrilled to announce that our comprehensive dossier, Access Prohibited, is now available to the public for instant download on Kindle! Previously only accessible as a PDF to staff and select customers, this fully illustrated, step-by-step guide to safety, security, and privacy can now be easily viewed and shared on any mobile device. Access Prohibited has something to offer everyone - physical security professionals and novice spy skills enthusiasts alike - and combines both basic and sophisticated techniques. Constructed with care by the cumulative efforts of a locksmith apprentice, a network and physical security penetration tester, a physical security private contractor, and of those involved with law enforcement covert entry teams, there simply is nothing else on the market like it.

You’ll learn to open most every type of door you’ll encounter in everyday urban and office settings and see examples of in-person entry tools that support social engineering, such as specialized badges and helpful office equipment with hidden compartments. You’ll find out how to select a multi-tool and headlamp for covert urban missions, learn about using LAN Taps for electronic surveillance, and figure out which endoscope is best when you want to keep a low profile. In addition, you’ll be taught step-by-step how to clone keys, how to pick and defeat both padlocks and tubular locks, and so much more, all while employing a combination of ordinary re-purposed items and specialized tools designed by (and available through) Rift Recon.

So whether you want to build a safe home, reinforce a secure business, or upgrade your personal safety as an at-risk individual, let Access Prohibited be your guide to getting there. Rift Recon understands that to know how to subvert security is to know how to strengthen it, and we’re excited to finally share our breadth of knowledge with the community at large.

-Arianna Travaglini

Arianna Travaglini is an Executive Assistant at Rift Recon

Art of Escape - Rift Recon - Official Trailer

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

-Bertrand Russell

Every day we hear from people asking about Rift’s Art of Escape class. Our most successful survival training to date seems to be getting an air of urban legend notoriety, complete with the same aura of mystery shrouding it.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy the content of our trainings being talked about like something out of Mission Impossible (spoiler alert: we do!) But we actually want to make our escape techniques something everyone can use. So, in the name of exposition, we collaborated with master editor and filmmaker Rich Hyatt (www.richhyatt.com) to produce an exciting new “movie trailer” for Art of Escape. We’re thrilled to debut our video - we feel like it really captures the heart and soul of what Rift Recon is about. We hope you enjoy it!

Training registration and video feedback:

We’d love to hear your feedback on our trailer. Tell us what you think: please leave a comment below or email us at info@riftrecon.com.

The next Art of Escape training is Thursday, March 27th - Saturday March 29th at The San Francisco Armory (1800 Mission Street, SF, CA). For more information or to register, visit http://shop.riftrecon.com/products/art-of-escape-sf.

- Arianna Travaglini,

Rift Recon Executive Assistant

Links to videos:

https://vimeo.com/88971335 - Vimeo Link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB2Z1lvps3s - Youtube link

On Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks

Above: Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks , Eric Michaud and Ryan Lackey, 30c3.

Guardian journalist Luke Harding pecked out Writing The Snowden Files, an op-ed in which he details the moments when he realized his laptop and cell phone were compromised, and his subsequent experiences with his hardware as it behaved in a compromised manner. Harding was the careless target of a successful Evil Maid Attack, an increasingly sophisticated set of methods in which a target’s hardware is compromised, and the attacker gets access to everything going in and out of the compromised device.


These attacks can be avoided and thwarted. In December 2013, Rift Recon CEO Eric Michaud and Cryptoseal’s Ryan Lackey presented Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks on the main stage at 30c3, the 30-year anniversary of the world’s largest and longest-running hacker conference. In the talk, Michaud and Lackey cover the rapidly changing, bloodthirsty landscape of hardware attacks for the purposes of IP theft and surveillance, with real and practical techniques for preventing, detecting and recovering from the attacks.

What Lackey and Michaud have to offer is invaluable. In the talk, they also show video of a tool used by attack teams specifically in hotel rooms. From Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks:

Increasingly, users and their computing hardware are exposed a range of software and hardware attacks, ranging from disk imaging to hardware keylogger installation and beyond.

The attack addressed is an entire class of hardware, firmware, and software attacks around the attacker gaining surreptitious access and modification (of hardware/firmware/software) on one or more occasions, followed by the authorized user making normal use of the device after these modifications.
The talk would have done Mr. Harding a world of good, and likely saved everyone he carelessly exposed a world of pain. Still, Harding’s lack of basic operational security practices are a glaring concern - one which deserves our attention.


Harding’s Guardian essay about walking into an Evil Maid Attack was clearly intended to paint a dramatic and exciting picture of what it was like to write his new book on Snowden, for fluffing up PR. But the picture he paints is only entertaining if being a lucid patsy for surveilling all your trusted contacts - and putting them in harm’s way - is your idea of fun times you don’t need to take very seriously.

I had been leaving my own laptop in the safe of my hotel room each day; returning from meeting Greenwald I found the safe would no longer lock.

I ventured out the next morning. My laptop was in the unlocked safe. (It didn’t contain any secrets; merely a work in progress.) A tall American immediately accosted me. He suggested we go sightseeing. (…)

I declined the beer and dinner, later texting my wife: ‘The CIA sent someone to check me out. Their techniques as clumsy as Russians.” She replied: “Really? WTF?” I added: “God knows where they learn their spycraft.’

Instead of telling us he’s done anything to remedy the situation, Harding goes on to note his experiences allegedly being surveilled as amusing, and never explains why he allowed it to continue - or if he notified all of his contacts. Further, Harding closes the essay bemusedly wondering who spied on him, vainly asking his attackers what they think of his book. Harding manages to show us simultaneously the worst way to deal with Evil Maid Attacks from start to finish, while demonstrating why most journalists who write about hacking and security really should never be trusted.

This kind of attention isn’t cool, it puts other people’s lives at stake, and if you think that being spied on and wiretapped is a sign of your impending fame, then you are most certainly someone who should not be trusted with a computer and internet access, let alone a high-risk story.

The essay, in fact, is currently getting him laughed at by every hacker with a shred of OPSEC sensibility, yet his story paints a disturbing picture of the state of security journalists’ cavalier - and dangerous - attitudes about operational security, in light of what is arguably a wholly avoidable episode of surveillance.



Guest post by Violet Blue. Full disclosure: Ms. Blue is a security journalist for Zero Day (CBS Interactive) and is in a personal relationship with Mr. Michaud.

AFTER ACTION REPORT: January’s Art of Escape

AFTER ACTION REPORT: January’s Art of Escape

By now, you’ve certainly heard about Rift Recon’s most successful mission to date: the debut of our Art of Escape training in January. We ran our participants through numerous tutorials, tests, and tribulations, and though they emerged in one piece, smiling for the camera at their “graduation,” it definitely wasn’t a cake walk!

Our students came from a diverse array of backgrounds and professions, but they expressed multiple similarities. For instance, most students excelled at learning to escape from physical bonds, while a like majority found the most challenging part of the training to be acquiring and executing various lock picking techniques. Participants also found themselves having to think outside the box when presented with field exercises that utilized over half a dozen checkpoints, all while keeping to a strict time frame. Some students were surprised to discover that they had to rely on their peers to complete lessons and obstacles, being arbitrarily paired up with one another and taught skills that relied just as much on teamwork as they did individual prowess.

We received some incredible constructive feedback from our trainees after graduation, and as a result of their insightful observations we’re considering adding a few new components to the schedule. Each participant lent unique knowledge and dimension to the training, and we’re looking forward to increasing the quality, comprehensiveness, and efficiency of each month’s Art of Escape with their continued support.

The next Art of Escape training will be held from Thursday February 27th - Saturday March 1st at The San Francisco Armory. Spots are still available! For registration information, visit: http://shop.riftrecon.com.

-Arianna Travaglini
Arianna is a Staff Administrator at Rift Recon.

The Art of Escape Infiltrates The San Francisco Armory

Face it: We live in a culture obsessed with post-apocalyptic fervor, and we’re not picky. We’ll take our death and destruction any way we can get it, be it at the decomposing hands of zombies, the manipulations of a dystopian government, or the indiscriminate reach of genetically-modified plague. Though Hollywood does an excellent job of convincing us that these crises are simply storyboards, we at Rift Recon know better, and we want to give you a fighting chance at survival should the unthinkable happen.

Ever imagined yourself as part of a dream team of outsiders, a perfect mix of brain and brawn? Not terribly unlike the eclectic crews assembled on the big screen to break into Vegas casino vaults and explore the terrains of foreign, war-torn lands? Want to learn how to survive a kidnapping? Commandeer a boat and navigate it out of the Bay? Create alternative credentials and identities? Perform emergency medical triage? Of course you do. And Rift’s trainers, some of the industry’s most sought-after physical security professionals, have you covered.

Last month was the first time that this kind of training was made available to the general public (until January, our trainings had been private and contracted or part of any number of global security conference tracks), and the training was a wild success. Each training day begins with classroom education with Rift’s experts, and concludes with real-time field training exercises to implement your new skills on the streets of San Francisco. Each Art of Escape student receives a custom Urban Kit of essential gear, and emerges confident and proficient in the use of every tool. Our last training Class space is limited, so sign up now. We can’t wait to meet you.

Date: February 27th-March 1st, 2014
Time: 9:00am-6:00pm every day
Location: The San Francisco Armory, 1800 Mission Street, SF, CA
Cost: $950
Kit: Students are equipped with all necessary gear; dress for outdoor movement.
Registration: http://shop.riftrecon.com/products/art-of-escape-sf
Press: SFist Article: http://sfist.com/2014/01/29/urban_escape_and_survival_class_wil.php#photo-1

-Arianna Travaglini
Arianna is a Staff Administrator at Rift Recon.

Introducing The Art of Escape in Partnership with Triple Aughts Design: CORE

We said at the end of 2013 that great things were afoot… This morning, together in our partnership with Tripe Aught Design, we announced the launch of TAD’s CORE classes and our flagship three-day intensive, Art of Escape - San Francisco

This is Rift Recon’s first training available to the general public (until now, our trainings have been private and contracted or part of any number of global security conference tracks). We’re finally making public the survival, escape, evasion and threat analysis skills previously only taught to security pros and contractors. 
More class dates will be announced shorty; sign up for our mailing list for up to the minute announcements. We’ll be bringing the class to cities worldwide, and like Art of Escape SF, each class will be tailored to the urban specs of your city.
We’re keeping class sizes small because we’re going one-on-one with every student, so we recommend you register now before class spaces are filled.
Class description and details:
Art of Escape SF - 660 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA , 94107
Date: 1/23-25/14
Time requirements: Three nine-hour days + Evening homework
Cost: $950
Kit: Students are equipped with all necessary gear; dress for outdoor movement
If the city you live in fell into crisis and disarray and you had to cope for 72 hours or get out, could you survive?
Over three intensive days, two of the physical security industry’s most sought-after professionals from Rift Recon will go hands-on with students in an immersive class that arms you with the basics to outsmart, outmaneuver and survive in a destabilized, peninsula-based city.
Rift’s trainers pull from their wealth of knowledge as former military contractors and professional security detail work for high net worth individuals to ensure students emerge from The Art of Escape confident in their abilities to:
  • Perform urban navigation and threat analysis
  • Execute covert movement; move through a crowd unnoticed
  • Escape a kidnapping (pick handcuffs, duct tape, rope, etc.)
  • Social engineer (solicit) help from strangers
  • Build an urban survival/bug out kit
  • Plan escape routes; build a map and data book for your city
  • Find food and water while on the go
  • Use a radio for information and communication
  • Defend yourself, if needed with weapons (improvised and proper)
  • Find shelter in the city; sleep overnight in the city safely
  • Gain access to restricted or unauthorized areas
  • Create alternative identification; find currency
  • Escape pursuit on foot and in a vehicle
  • Use commonly found materials for tools and survival purposes
  • Pick and open locks
  • Perform emergency medical triage specific to urban environments; find critical medical supplies
  • Obtain transport out of the crisis area by any means necessary, including by boat

Each training day begins with Rift’s experts at Triple Aught Design’s Dogpatch Base, and concludes with real-time field training exercises to implement your new skills on the streets of San Francisco. Each Art of Escape student receives a custom Urban Survival Kit of essential gear, and emerges confident and proficient in the use of every tool.

We hope to see you there. 

-Rift Recon Team

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