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Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning: 2021 COVID-19 Editorial

April 12, 2021 Leave a comment DRI Admin

By Lyndon Bird
Chief Knowledge Officer, DRI
Editor
Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning
January 2021

This is the first edition of the Journal published in 2021, so I wish all our readers and contributors a belated welcome to what is likely to be another strange and stressful year. Given the delay between writing and publication, it is always risky to make predictions that might well be overtaken by events before anyone has the opportunity to read them. This is especially true this year as the COVID-19 epidemic constantly surprises even the medical experts.

Last year, I penned my equivalent editorial when we had just heard that there was an emerging respiratory disease in China. That editorial started with ‘I can see that 2020 might be a very challenging year for our readers with levels of political, social and environmental uncertainly higher than for some time. I am also certain that the next decade will be just as surprising as the previous one.’ I certainly got that prediction correct – but not in any way that I or anyone else could have thought remotely possible.

As I write today all Western countries have approved one or more vaccines and have started mass vaccination of their citizens. The UK has also seen a large upturn in infections and deaths as a new variant has taken hold. This new variant is almost certainly not going to be contained within the UK and will add another challenge to the speed and efficacy of the global vaccination arrangements. The hope is still that by mid 2021, we will see a return to some form of normality even if it is not the 2019 variety.

Although COVID-19 has been the dominant worry of the year, there are many other resilience issues still facing business continuity and emergency planning professionals. A year ago, I suggested that we needed to pay particular attention to natural disasters given the overwhelming evidence that climate change was accelerating. Pictures of icecaps melting in the Antarctic have shown everyone the stark reality of the rise in global temperatures. COVID-19 took much of the media attention away last year, but it did not stop natural events occurring such as:

  • Exceptional levels of floods across Australia, UK, France, Italy, Latin America, East Asia and southern parts of the US;
  • Record breaking wildfires in Australia;
  • Mudslides in Myanmar, Brazil, France and Nicaragua;
  • Wildfires across vast areas of Indonesia, including Sumatra and Borneo
  • Most active Atlantic hurricane season on record;
  • Highest temperature on earth (54.4 degrees centigrade) reported in Death Valley, California;
  • Wildfires across California, Oregon and Washington State.

We started 2021 with an unprecedented landslide in Norway so the natural disaster pattern seems set to continue, adding further challenges to our resilience community.

I also warned of the risks from uncontrolled new technologies and from cyber criminals and terrorists. In fact, the number of cyberattacks increased significantly in 2020 over previous years. It is now generally accepted by cyber experts that a successful state sponsored large-scale attack on critical Western infrastructure is almost inevitable. Examples of what happened in 2020 are numerous but only a few were reported in the media. Some examples are:

  • Ransomware attack on Travelex – an international currency exchange provider;
  • Jeff Bezos, Head of Amazon, had private data hacked by the Saudi Arabian state;
  • Social media giant hacked in Bitcoin scam;
  • Ghislaine Maxwell’s private e-mail hacked and given to media;
  • Nine million e-mail details and flight bookings hacked at major airline;
  • American GPS and fitness tracking company suffer ransomware attack;
  • New Zealand’s Stock Exchange closed by cyberattacks for four days in a row.

Many of the high-profile news stories feature ransomware attacks. However, analysis by the EU cyber authority which monitors cyber risk concluded that ransomware was only number 13 in the top 15 most frequent cyberattacks. There is a danger that in 2020, the economic imperative of homeworking has taken some focus away from the constant need to monitor and improve all aspects of cyber security. Hopefully this will not prove too fatal in the years to come.

So, as we try to move away from the murky waters of the past year, the virus is still with us and so are all the natural disasters, deliberate attacks, human errors and unexpected failures that we always face. I hope that when I write my next editorial, things will be clearer. COVID-19 has presented us with a challenge none of us had ever expected to happen, but it will end as all epidemics eventually do. At that point the lessons we have learned – some of which are presented in this special issue – will be invaluable in helping us deal with the new challenges that will surely follow. 

 

 

Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning is the world’s leading journal on disaster recovery and emergency planning – publishing peer-reviewed articles and case studies written by and for heads of emergency, risk and resilience management. DRI International Certified Professionals in good standing receive a special 15% discount on subscriptions which includes both print and online versions. To subscribe now, simply click the link below.

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