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Covid-19 is not an excuse to drop our guard on security

During the lockdown many of us have kicked back and engaged in gardening, decorating and serious box set watching, but are the terrorists kicking back and relaxing?  Are any of them furloughed?

Some research suggests that the longer lockdown persists, so the terrorist engagement with online extremist material increases.  The Terrorist planning cycle will not stop, but perhaps merely slow with more online planning and preparation.  The terrorist threat is still prevailing, and we should not become complacent and take our eye off the ball.

Whilst we need to get information out to contractors and the public etc we also need to be wary of not giving the terrorist more information with which to plan and mount a successful attack.  Consider that the messages you are sending are being sent to two audiences. 

  • Firstly, the public/customer. You want to reassure and inform them regarding your bio security arrangements. 
  • The second audience is the terrorist themselves, who may be conducting online reconnaissance of your event or venue. A clear indication that security is taken seriously may deter any would be attacker to proceed with attacking your site.

As businesses emerge from their lockdown caves there are several things to consider:

  • Have you reviewed you risk register, risk appetite and security policy in light of the ‘new normal’ given that the risk landscape has now changed?
  • The new normal may change your security posture:
    • what does it look like?
    • are there future phases to go through?
    • is it effectively communicated to staff and those that are enforcing it?
  • The new operating environment and procedures will undoubtedly change over time, so operating procedures should be version controlled and appropriately communicated.
  • By changing operating procedures businesses need to be mindful of creating new vulnerabilities and apply mitigation appropriately. Review the new plans holistically to identify security gaps.
  • That keeping all staff “up to speed” is essential.

Previous articles have mentioned checking that building systems are functioning correctly and safely, and this applies to security infrastructure.  Consider a thorough search and checking the site before reopening, which gives the manager that level of confidence that all is in order and nothing is broken or tampered with.

As a manager, if a bomb threat is made to your site, how confident could you be that it is just a hoax if the physical presence of staff and security on the site has undergone significant changes?

Management of queues remains important, especially since potential “social distancing” and search procedures may extend queue size.  The change in queuing practice is one of those areas, where a change in operating procedure inadvertently creates a vulnerability, since now the queue becomes a target rich area for the terrorist.

The new normal will no doubt increase a level of security/queue management etc. requiring staffing, stewarding and security.  Businesses should consider:

  • What is the process for regular health screening of the security and stewarding staff? (Do not neglect this line of defence since security guards have been shown to have a higher than average vulnerability to Covid-19.)
  • What measures are in place to protect older and the more vulnerable stewards/security?
  • Any new security regime may involve new individuals. Have these been effectively trained and screened?
  • Will there be enough personnel to staff the critical roles? – Do you need to review the roles with a new normal risk appetite?

Remember that security is everyone’s role within a business or event site.  A very easy win to increase the security awareness is to ensure staff have undertaken the ACT Elearning from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office. It’s free and requesting evidence and the certificates from this course, may form part of a due diligence enquiry.  Explore the  ACT Elearning.

The next 12 months will certainly be a challenge as we move through the current Covid-19 crisis, but the terrorist threat to sites and staff remains and should not be ignored.  Significant and excellent protective security advice is available via the CPNI website and Covid-19 advice specifically via Protective Security Throughout Covid-19.

Gary Jones is the security advisor to the IOSH Sports Grounds and Events Group.