As we enter 2019 proudly fulfilling our roles to the best of our abilities, we have to hope that the corporate giants we work for, meet the legislative requirements to keep us safe, from a traditional Health and Safety perspective. If you have ever had to fill in a risk register, to lead on company policy regarding the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) with its associated paperwork, you know that whoever designed these processes wasn’t responsible for welfare!
However, health and safety is all about quantifying and minimising risk – the same for security and for employers of security staff, understanding that risk is important. So, what is 2019 likely to bring us? Philip Ingram MBE gives his thoughts on the security trends we are likely to see through this year…….
Keeping Security Safe in 2019
The ‘traditional’ threats from criminal behaviour will likely continue the downward trend Joe Traynor from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) described in the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, when he wrote:
“Over recent decades, we’ve seen continued falls in overall levels of crime but in the last year the trend has been more stable. The latest figures show no change in the total level of crime but variation by crime types.”
Theft is on the increase whereas computer crime is decreasing and some of the other important headlines include a continued rise in the number of police recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments, the number of homicides increased following a long-term decline and good news, a decrease in the number of police recorded offences involving firearms.
Then we get the more complex threats including cyber and terrorism. There is an inevitability that these will continue to evolve in the way we have seen them do so over the past few years. Several factors will influence this through 2019.
The first factor is the dreaded BREXIT and the effect this may have on the ability for security organisations to share and get information and intelligence to and from the rest of Europe. However, the UK is more of a net contributor to the overall European threat picture as opposed to net user, so there is a real urgency for European agencies to maintain their access to UK criminal and terror related intelligence feeds.
Slightly more worrying is the impact BREXIT may have on Irish Republican terrorism. In 2016/17 Northern Ireland saw 8 murders, 55 bombs, 113 shootings, 80 guns recovered, 53kg of explosives recovered and 244 terror related arrests.
The trend over the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed is similar and averages out as approximately one terror related event every four days. This is almost wholly Northern Ireland focused with the threat level to Great Britain set as Moderate. However, any increase in terror activity in Northern Ireland because of post BREXIT border issues carries the potential for that to spill across the Irish Sea.
Islamist extremist terror will remain the highest priority for the Security Services and CT Policing with the Director General of MI5 saying, “Europe faces an intense, unrelenting and multidimensional international terrorist threat. Daesh continues to pose the most acute threat, but Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups haven’t gone away.”
However, growing in intensity is the threat from extreme right-wing terror and this is reflected in the growth of individuals referred to the PREVENT programme. In 2016/17, of the 6,093 individuals referred, 3,704 (61%) were referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism and 968 (16%) were referred for concerns related to right wing extremism and this trend is likely to continue.
2018 has highlighted three ‘new’ risk areas that are likely to continue through 2019. These are information and data as a weapon, the ‘return’ of hostile intelligence agencies as a recognised threat and the potential for further use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
Andrew Parker described these threats in a speech to his German counterparts when he said, “The Russian state’s now well-practised doctrine of blending media manipulation, social media disinformation and distortion with new and old forms of espionage, high levels of cyber attacks, military force and criminal thuggery is what is meant these days by the label ‘hybrid threats’”
In early November we saw reports of Russia, China and Nigeria ‘hijacking Google’ in what was assessed as testing a capability. One thing is clear, that we probably haven’t even imagined some of the new threats that are developing, and we have to be aware of complete reliance on an interconnected world. Ensuring the are good old fashioned analogue reversionary measures in place to ensure safety, security and business continuity can only be seen as sound planning. They don’t have to be smart, they just need to work.
What is clear is the threat landscape is diversifying and traditional boundaries between what would be state on state actions, or organised crime or just good old traditional criminal behaviour are blurring.
Police resources will never be enough to meet the threats and novel ways of increasing their capability will be sought. This is where the only realistic way forward is through greater public – private cooperation and the police are going to have to rely on cooperation with the private sector and private sector security staff more and more.
Being on the front line is no longer a phrase that should be used, as no matter where you are in the security eco system, everyone has a role to play and one weak cog could cause the whole thing to collapse. Greater cooperation, greater integration, greater working together between organisations, agencies, the police and across different disciplines, will be a theme that will continue through 2019. It is simple, greater cooperation and understanding needs to be embraced or our systems are likely to become less secure.
Philip Ingram MBE, is an internationally respected defence and security journalist and consultant. Building on a long and distinguished military career, retiring as a full Colonel, after performing intelligence, counter-intelligence, security and planning roles, whilst on active service.
He is also the man behind the rapidly expanding, and highly regarded, organisation, Grey Hare Media.
Philip is a strategic thinker and recognised subject matter expert on issues of international security, defence and geo political events.