As we enter the third quarter of 2020 and see some countries starting to experience a second wave of COVID-19 infections, security and business continuity professionals face challenges that would never have been considered possible less than a year ago. Over the past few months, the entire world has been trying to find ways of fighting this virus with drugs, vaccines and epidemiological research, whilst at the same time identifying and treating cases with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus and stopping the chain of infection. Many measures are in the process of development and testing, and while some drugs have shown partial success and several vaccines are entering clinical stages of research, nothing is likely to end the pandemic this year. So as trusted members of the security and functional continuity team in our organisations, we must analyse the existing situation, understand the implications and prepare practical tools to deal with the threats we face. If we do this job professionally and effectively, it will allow organizations to manage the COVID-19 situation rather than let it manage us.
As the world is beginning to understand the magnitude of the damage caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and accepts the fact that it will be with us for some time, we must learn how to coexist with it as we enter the next wave of infections.
The second wave of the pandemic impacts various spheres of life, and the effects can interact with each other, intensifying and exacerbating the situation:
Since our responsibilities are to act as security personnel and to ensure functional continuity, we will focus on analyzing the second-wave effects on crime, highlighting the increased pressure from the threat and possible ways to deal with it.
Petty theft is usually perpetrated by desperate people, is unsophisticated and often opportunistic. The COVID-19 crisis is pushing many people below the poverty line and will continue to push them, even more forcefully. This trend is likely to increase as states put the brakes on handouts and subsidies to encourage people to get back to work – a prospect that may be impossible or unviable. As a result, the rate of petty theft is expected to increase significantly, mainly in consumer and food products, but also in consumer electronics and entertainment.
Classic anti-burglary safeguards such as CCTV, alarm systems, entry detectors and security personnel will certainly help with the phenomenon by providing a deterrent and a defense. We also strongly recommend that other more creative solutions are considered such as social measures that relate to the leading cause of crime. This could include, for example, sponsoring or supporting second-hand / donated product distribution points, “mobilizing” buyers to help identify or prevent theft while directing those who are caught to donation points rather than the police. It is not certain that monitoring and detection measures will continue to be effective as a deterrent if the phenomenon significantly increases.
Sophisticated Physical or Cyber Theft
In our estimation, sophisticated theft attempts will be enabled primarily through the cooperation of inside parties who are getting increasingly desperate. They will reach a realization that there are no adequate jobs or social security, that everyone has to take care of themselves, and that justice is not universal, possibly amplifying a pre-existing sense of discrimination. A small minority deciding to go one step further and taking criminal actions could be enough to start a wave. The chance of this happening will increase as the social and economic crisis intensifies.
The safeguards put in place today by organizations and companies include of course, monitoring and controlling of a concentration of resources, but systems and procedures may not be designed to detect therapid and dynamic changes we are currently witnessing. For example, a person who was screened and approved for sensitive business critical activity in January 2020 may today very well be in a completely different, even vulnerable, social or economic situation. In addition, the rapid manner in which some companies sent their employees home on paid or unpaid vacation at the start of the pandemic potentially left back doors open whereby normal procedures for dismissals and protecting assets were not followed.
RECOMMENDATION: Review procedures and systems urgently to ensure they meet the requirements of this dynamic new reality and, in particular, physical and cyber access to facilities and systems for personnel who may be suspended or dismissed.
The Effect of Malicious Intent on Functional Continuity
Functional continuity is the existential basis of every economic business, so in most organizations this area will be closely connected to security issues. What we see today is that on top of typical threats to functional continuity, we must add the deliberate (or accidental) threat of critical workers who could cause the closure ofproduction lines or otherwise disrupt business as well as the possibility of injury due to social or other unrest.
Measures that were put in place to deal with continuity failures before 2020 may no no longer be relevant to today’s situation, and the entire system needs to be reviewed. For example, companies now have to learn how to deal with personnel infected with SARS-CoV-2 and also those workers exposed to such personnel and so needing to be quarantined. Both the likelihood of this scenario and how it should be treated must be analyzed taking into account current scientific knowledge about COVID-19. It is also possible that the new reality has changed the target market, the importance or relevance of the product / service on offer or its economic viability. All of these may need to be re-examined taking into account the dynamic nature of the global pandemic as well as human nature and reactions and expectations as a function of business continuity.
RECOMMENDATION: We recommend building a circular review mechanism that will allow for the continuous and dynamic examination of the core issues of the company / organization’s business continuity program toenable it to respond on a monthly basis to the developing and ever-changing threats. In today’s situation, it is not possible to rely on a program that was built a year ago, even if it was found to be reliable and effective at that time. Furthermore, this becomes even more significant for a global company which will have to deal with the fact that different countries have responded to the crisis in different ways, resulting in the need for a resilient plan of action for an organization.
Racist activities and activists have always existed and all the more so in the modern age, but until recently they were generally considered illegitimate and even outlawed. However in recent years, the level of racistactivity has risen significantly worldwide and especially in the United States. We have also witnessed real terrorist acts that have ended in a large number of casualties and usually also blatantly racist publicity on social networks – such as the church attack in Christchurch New Zealand. With the rise of COVID-19pandemic, we are witnessing a rapid increase in racist activity around the world which attracts counter-demonstrations that often become more violent than the original racist activity. In some US cities, the situation has come to the fore, so that city centers have been “occupied” by protesters who have destroyed and looted while ignoring or deflecting police attempts to arrest them. The racist aspects are also reflected in accusations that specific people, such as the Chinese or the Jews, are spreading the disease.
The usual ways of dealing with the phenomenon of racism and its associated activities are education, advocacy and tactical police activities to prevent violence, but these days this combination does not seem to be making much of an impact. The explanation for the ineffectiveness is basically political as citizens do not accept elected leadership, but there is also a sociological aspect in that people feel they cannot live in dignityor that they have inadequate health insurance to cover treatment for COVID-19 therefore they seek a scapegoat. There is no textbook solution or generic advice that can help deal with this unique situation. The solution must be multi-systemic and sustained over a period of time to reduce social pressure and stress as well as prevent the dissemination of social media incitement. However, in the current state of racial tensions combined with dealing with a global pandemic, every responsible business owner is also required to take into account extensive public disorder events and protect his or her property through physical means such asprotected windows and doors, reliable and efficient fencing and solid walls, as well as effective tactical measures, such as public address systems, or active non-lethal defense systems, such as smoke and powerful alarm sirens.
Anti-semitic activity is a subset of the racist movements in the world, but has slightly different characteristics and is therefore analyzed separately. Anti-semitic incitement and anti-semitic activity in the world, especially in the US, have increased greatly in recent years, and we have seen shootings and killings in synagogues. Recently, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in anti-semitic activity accompanied by an expansion of the movement to new areas using old slogans such as Jews as “plague spreaders” or claims that they introduced the virus for personal gain. As the pandemic continues to spread throughout 2020 and beyond, we anticipate the continued expansion of anti-semitic phenomena, including their harnessing to the political needs of international terrorist organizations as well as the conflict inthe State of Israel. This is expected to harm not only Jewish communities but also the social fabric in which they are intertwined. Commercial companies recognized as “Jewish” will be affected as well as their Jewish and non-Jewish employees and any ordinary citizens in the vicinity.
The routine means of dealing with such events are no different from those dealing with other racist events,only they are more focused. Jewish communities around the world – with the exception of North America – are well protected as a result of widespread terrorism and anti-semitism in recent decades. In the US, Jewish communities have only been exposed to serious anti-semitic and terrorist threats in recent years, and so have only recently begun physical and tactical defensive efforts.
RECOMMENDATION: We recommend treating the threat of anti-semitic terror as permanent, and Jewish communities around the world who have not taken significant steps to address this threat should do so now. The economic and social impact of COVID-19 will only exasperate and amplify latent anti-Semitism. This is reminiscent of dark periods in Jewish history and the defense must be based on actual physical protection, combined with tactical measures, as recommended against general racial activity, but with a clear reference to Jewish institutions and symbols.
Violent Activities in the Name of Religion
This phenomenon is characterized by the most radical terrorist organizations in the early 21st century, Al-Qaeda, ISIL, and the like. Their activities have greatly diminished in recent years as a result of combined U.S. and allied warfare with Middle Eastern and European officials who have joined forces to curb global terrorist activities which were launched to promote the radical Islamist movement they support. Since the end of 2019, after declaring victory against ISIL, Western coalition forces have withdrawn from fighting in the Middle East while local forces have found other targets to fight, all of which leaves the remains of ISIL and Al-Qaeda a comfortable and permissive atmosphere in which to work and expand, taking into account that global attention is currently focused on the Corona pandemic and that the West have no spare resources to deploy. The atmosphere of economic and global racism gives ISIL and Al-Qaeda ideology a very convenient background to enable their actions and recruitment, and it is only to be expected that in the very near future we will begin to see a resurgence of extremist religious movements mobilizing supporters and resources to return to their global aim of spreading radical Islam.
The means of dealing with this activity are difficult and complex and certainly beyond the powers of local non-state organizations. However, individual organizations also have the ability to defend against extremist religious organizations through physical shielding such as preventing force entry, by tactical means with the aim of preventing local gains and limiting their impact on individuals, but most importantly, through procedures,awareness of threats and honing their ability to respond.
Summary and recommendations for action
The COVID-19 crisis, and especially the second wave as discussed by us in this article, poses a challenge to security and functional continuity executives. M.I.P. Security as a veteran consulting firm operating for over 20 years in this field has the tools to analyze, evaluate and tackle this challenge as we have successfully tackled many other challenges that we have faced over the years.
As a company that specializes in threat and risk analysis as well as examining readiness and writing programs for a changing and threatened functional world, including biological threats such as SARS-CoV-2, we are confident that understanding the threat and being prepared for it is 50% of the work to ensure functional continuity and the remaining 50% is achieved in systematic work that includes protection and security measures that can be applied in a friendly and tailored manner to any organization.
We will be happy to discuss any of the above topics with you with further including specific solutions to business continuity challenges you may face.