The COVID-19 Challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging our lives for the last months.
It has, is and will continue to disrupt the fabric of our lives for the foreseeable future.
As community leaders and security professionals, we must not only manage our well-being day-to-day, but begin taking measures to secure our community for the challenging days ahead when the restrictions we are under are gradually lifted.
New challenges will arise from two main areas –
- Predicted economic hardship will most likely generate a higher level of criminal activity, both “traditional” and racially motivated. Anti-Semitic memes are already flourishing on the internet amidst reports of assaults, vandalism, arson and attempted bombings against synagogues, Chabads, and Jewish retirement homes.
- Changes will also occur in our social environment and way of life, social distancing, higher level of hygiene and screening for virus symptoms will remain well after restrictions will be lifted.
Let’s break these down into the security challenges:
Likely criminal activity will affect our communities in two security domains:
- The physical arena –
As always, we must be prepared to protect our facilities, clergy, staff, and community members from physical attack. These attacks may be for financial reasons (robbery, break-ins, etc.), and out of frustration, hate, or “retribution”. Financial crimes will most likely comprise economic loss and physical damage to the facility. The second kind, however, might very well escalate to life endangerment and appear not only as “active shooter” assaults but also include mail bombs, arson, vandalism and even poisoning.
Mitigating these threats entails the following recommended measures:
- First step is an assessment.
- If you have one – go over it and re-check which vulnerabilities have been addressed, and verify if you are comfortable with steps taken. Check if additional upgrades or other steps need to be taken to address the emerging threat. If you have any doubts don’t hesitate to call a security professional to assist you.
- If you do not have an assessment – it is recommended that you get one or do one in order to assess your vulnerabilities and mitigation options. Again, if you have any doubts don’t hesitate to call a security professional to assist you.
- Review your security plan to make sure that your protocols and procedures are up to date, and most importantly, that they are followed to the letter. If you don’t have a security plan, write or one or have a security professional write one for you.
- Check your surveillance system(s). Make sure your cameras are operational and are looking out toward the outside perimeter of your facility. Make sure your DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is working. Monitor your video on a daily basis and look for abnormal signs caught by your cameras. Consider implementing VA (Video Analytics) into your system’s VMS (Video Management System). VA systems today can be acquired in a wide pricing ranges – from basic, effective and affordable solutions, to high end super expensive ones.
- Check your access control systems. Review who has been granted keys or fob cards and disactivate old, expired accounts. Check to see that your physical system is operating as required, and that your security protocols for granting access to your facility are current and are being followed.
- Contact your local law enforcement agency to verify that they have all the information they need about your community and facility and that your contacts and channels of communication (beside 911) are up to date. Invite them to come out to review your facility assessment, security plan, response plans, and to refamiliarize themselves with your facility, personnel, and operations.
If you have any concerns, DO NOT hesitate to communicate them to your law enforcement contacts.
2. The Cyber arena –
Social distancing and Stay-at-Home orders have changed dramatically the way we interact both socially and in business interactions. Physical contacts have migrated to the digital space via the internet. As such we conduct today most of our meeting, schooling, and religious activity remotely via video sharing platforms with “Zoom” taking a prominent position. Experts predict that much of this new “virtual” contact will remain prevalent even after physical restrictions are lifted – partly out of necessity but largely out of convenience. Our embrace of virtual communication widens the scope and heightens the threat of cybercrime, already evidenced by an increased incidence of ransomware, cyber theft, identity theft, website vandalism and defacement, and phishing attacks, to new threats like “zoom bombing”. We must also be alert to our use of cyberspace opening us up to new ways that adversaries can collect intelligence necessary for either physical or virtual attacks. If, for instance, an unauthorized party “piggybacks” on an unsecure remote lecture, class session, or religious service, and screen shoots the participants – he can, then, use facial recognition tools to identify participants, and search social media for their profiles and evolve to multiple unwanted courses of action. And this is just one of the myriad threats to which cyberspace exposes us, in addition to
“traditional” cyber threats mentioned above.
To mitigate these threats and minimize exposure, a few measures are recommended –
- When conducting a video gathering protect the meeting with a password. Never send the password with the invitation, instead use another platform to send it for example – if you send the invitation via email send the password only to the participants via text message or better – WhatsApp. Telegram, Signal etc. Lock the meeting so only the meeting organizer can accept participants after verifying their identity. There are more measures that can be taken, but these are the basic ones.
- Do a cyber vulnerability assessment. Use a cyber professional for this.
- Contact a cyber professional to mitigate any vulnerabilities you discover.
- Make sure you have cybersecurity protocols and procedures that they are up to date, and most importantly, that they are followed to the letter.
How will the Changes in our environment and way of life – social distancing, higher levels of hygiene and symptom screening affect security and safety?
The main effect will be on access control. The challenge will be:
- Facial cover (masks etc.) will challenge us to recognize the visitors to our facility
- Biometric verification through fingerprint etc. may be challenged as well as people increasingly wear gloves to avoid physical contact with possibly contaminated surfaces like fingerprint scanners and access control keypads.
- Physical search, even of bags, will be a challenge
- Safety measures like temperature measurement will, probably, become a standard screening protocol to every facility.
- All of the above (and more that will unveil with time) will challenge every point of entry and create a public concentration that is itself another security challenge.
We need to be fully prepared before re opening our facilities to the public. Our protocols, procedures and methods of operation will more than ever, be paramount to our maintaining security and community wellbeing in the “new normal”.