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Global Risk News

RSS By: Joe Gleason

As our world becomes more globally connected, businesses of all sizes are experiencing a rise in international risk exposures. Here, we will examine the increased risks of doing business internationally, including regulatory challenges, vague or changing laws, political instability, security concerns, differences in contract and intellectual property laws and much more.

Laptop in your checked luggage? Avoid it if possible

Global Risk
Mar 21, 2017

Risk_Ahead

Beginning Saturday March 25, in response to increased security concerns, laptops and other “large electronics” will be banned from carry-on luggage for travelers coming to the US and UK directly from various airports in the Middle East. Checking a laptop or other device will not only make a flight seem even longer, but will also violate a cardinal rule of IT security: never check your laptop. Doing so risks loss of the device and all data it contains. Travelers should avoid checking laptops to the maximum extent possible, even where this extends travel time or cost.

Background

According to media reports, the US and British restrictions on electronics involve direct flights to the US and UK from airports in the Middle East. The US action includes flights from Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The UK ban includes Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

For travelers to the US, these new measures impact travel on non-US carriers since no US airlines operate direct flights to the US from the affected airports. For those traveling to the UK, however, the restrictions include British Airways and other UK airlines.

Potential impact

The impact of these new measures will be mixed. Many US government funded contractors and NGOs must comply with Fly America regulations which compel them to use a US carrier, generally from the "furthest point possible" – most often an interchange point in Europe which will not be directly impacted (other than the UK, of course). That may limit the impact on this group of travelers. Commercial businesses, personal travelers and nonprofits using private/non-USG funds may be the hardest hit since they're the most likely to use these direct flights by non-US carriers. Travelers from these destinations to the UK may be more universally impacted.

Mitigation

The principle risk for travelers is the potential for data and property loss by checking a laptop or other device. Mitigation is largely about altering travel patterns. For travelers to the US, this means avoiding direct, non-US carrier flights and, instead, traveling through foreign interchange points (other than the UK) and into the US on US/European carriers. This will boost cost and may extend travel time but will considerably mitigate the risk of checking a laptop. Travelers from the impacted airports to the UK can follow a similar workaround by traveling through interchange points in other European countries. Of course, this guidance will have to be re-evaluated if other countries join the US and UK in these restrictions.

If avoiding one of the impacted flights is not possible, consider travel with a "clean" laptop – i.e. one with the minimum amount of data necessary. "Loaner" laptops work well for this since they don't contain years of accumulated work product or personal documents that may be irreplaceable.  Before departing a location where it's necessary to check a device, back up and remove data so the device is virtually empty. Better yet, if the infrastructure allows, store work in the cloud so there is minimal data on the device anyway – making pre-flight cleaning even easier.

As with so many risks impacting today’s global travelers, this situation will continue to evolve and mitigation may need to evolve as well. Travelers should monitor events and seek guidance from IT, travel and security teams, or an external travel risk management assistance provider, to keep current about risks and mitigation measures.

 
 
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Abuja's airport closure: Time to update medical evacuation plans

Global Risk
Mar 01, 2017

Operatinwater_rippleg in Nigeria can present more than a few challenges.  Starting March 8, add the closure of Abuja’s international airport to that list. Projected to last six weeks, the airport closure is a hassle for travelers to Nigeria’s federal capital and it’s a potentially significant challenge for those needing medical evacuation for the city. 

Some background:  The second busiest airport in Nigeria (after Lagos), Abuja’s one runway is in need of repairs necessitating closure of the entire airport. Nigeria’s aviation minister Hadi Sirika is quoted as saying that given the disrepair the airport was “on it’s way to shutting itself.” During the closure, flights will be diverted to Kaduna airport 200 kilometers north of the capital. Given concerns about security along the road that links the two cities, some airlines -- including Lufthansa -- that normally service Abuja will not fly into Kaduna.  The kidnapping of two Germans from a village approximately 30kms from the Abuja - Kaduna road on February 22 will only heighten those security concerns.

Medical evacuations are complicated in general and the closure of the airport in Abuja adds to the complexity. Some considerations for organizations operating in the Nigerian capital:

  • Review procedures for responding to a medical emergency -- i.e. the immediate steps staff and travelers should take including first aid, incident reporting/alerting, etc.  Important in Abuja is understanding how a patient would be transported to a medical facility; some clinics offer ambulances & some don’t.
  • Identify in advance your options for emergency medical care and stabilization in Abuja.  As with any medical evacuation, a patient will need to be “fit to fly” before an evacuation. While the airport is closed, patients in Abuja will also need to be fit for the road journey to Kaduna, too.
  • Know when and how to engage a medical assistance/evacuation provider.  Earlier is better to help assess the condition of the patient, provide guidance on medical treatment and begin the coordination of an evacuation if necessary.
  • Armed escorts are recommended for the ground transport to Kaduna airport. Medical assistance providers should coordinate escorts as part of the evacuation process but organizations need to understand how this works and especially how long it may take to mobilize. This overland travel piece reinforces the need to contact the medical assistance service early.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of advance planning – in general, but especially in this case. Organizations with operations in Abuja should consult their medical assistance/evacuation provider prior to any emergency to understand plans for coordinating a medical evacuation during the closure of the Abuja airport and adjust local procedures as necessary.

Inevitably current contingency plans will be further developed as evacuations occur and lessons learned are (hopefully) incorporated into the process. For organizations operating in Abuja that means keeping aware of the situation and periodically checking in with assistance providers and peers to see how these plans are playing out in “real life.”  As with most challenges in Nigeria, being prepared for medical evacuations during the closure of Abuja’s airport will require prior planning and the ability to adapt plans as the situation develops.

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Abundance of Caution: Mitigating Risks Associated with US travel ban

Global Risk
Jan 30, 2017

As ibusiness_travels being widely reported in the media, implementation of the US Executive Order restricting travel from seven majority Muslim countries is causing a range of travel disruptions and issues.  Multiple sources report that travelers have been refused entry to the US at airports or were prevented from boarding flights to the US, including those holding valid US visas and Green Cards. Nationals of seven countries are impacted: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Given the uncertainty around implementation of this Executive Order, organizations with exposure should exercise an abundance of caution.  Recommendations include:

  • Account for the location and status of all staff/travelers from any of the impacted countries who may be traveling to/working in the US now or in the near future.
  • Consider suspending travel by impacted personnel working in the US on H1B or other visas to avoid the risk of not being allowed re-entry. A number of US companies including Google have reportedly adopted this stance. 
  • Impacted staff/travelers currently outside the US should be prepared to be denied boarding of flights to the US or be refused entry to the US, even if they possess a valid US visa or Green Card. Contingency plans should be developed for providing short term accommodation in third countries for these travelers who may not be able to return to their home country and barred from re-entry to the US.  These travelers may also require assistance in obtaining or extending visas in third countries.

The US Department of Homeland has clarified somewhat the impact on Legal Permanent Residents from the impacted countries. According to the DHS statement, Green Card holders should be allowed entry to the US unless they are deemed a "serious threat to public safety" following a "case by case" evaluation. 

This situation continues to develop. Over the weekend, administration officials suggested that additional countries could be added to the list of those facing travel restrictions -- potentially with no notice as in the case of the initial Executive Order.  And countries impacted may implement reciprocal travel restrictions; the Iranian government has already signalled they may enact such measures and other countries may follow suit.

Given how quickly this situation is evolving, awareness is critical. Organizations with impacted staff/travelers should monitor the situation closely through media, travel assistance providers and other sources, and consider consulting immigration legal counsel to help resolve specific issues.

The original post was updated January 30th to reflect the DHS statement on entry of US Legal Permanent Residents from impacted countries.

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"Virtual" kidnapping....what does that mean?

Global Risk
Dec 19, 2016

Risk_Ahead

Many of us have probably heard of virtual kidnapping, but how many people can really describe the risk?  Recent articles in the Washington Post and Santa Barbara Independent tell the stories of two different families’ experiences dealing with this threat and are worth a read. Both here in the US and internationally this tactic is growing and awareness is the key to mitigating the risk. 

Specific virtual kidnap tactics vary, but as the articles make clear most attempts rely on isolating a person to make them believe a family member or someone else close to them has been abducted. Many times the caller making the ransom demand will tell the person to stay on the phone through the course of the "kidnap" to limit the person's ability to reach the loved one and confirm their status. Only after the "ransom" is paid and the caller hangs up, does the person discover that the supposed target of the abduction was never being held.

While no victim is actually abducted during a virtual kidnap, "ransoms" are paid by distraught family members or others, typically through wire transfer. Dollar figures demanded in many cases are relatively low -- especially when compared to traditional kidnap -- and are arguably a clue that no one has actually been kidnapped.

How do you mitigate this risk? Awareness of the threat -- and that it's really an extortion scam -- is critical.  In addition to describing various tactics used by criminals in these case, this press release from the FBI offers practical guidance for responding to these threats. 

Organizations should understand their exposure to this risk and prepare accordingly. Given the various tactics used by virtual kidnappers globally, it’s important for organizations to seek guidance from the response consultants imbedded in kidnap, ransom and extortion insurance coverage to understand specific risk in the areas they work and travel.   Educating staff and travelers on the issue and response is essential -- and especially important for travelers to Latin America where this risk is prevalent.

Risk awareness is always important -- and probably more so when it comes to virtually kidnapping where knowledge of these scams may significantly reduce exposure. 

 

 

 

 
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Managing travel health risks: It's more than vaccines

Global Risk
Nov 28, 2016

first_aid_kit_low_resZika. Cholera. Bird flu. Malaria. Good old travelers diarrhea.  There’s no shortage of illnesses facing global travelers. And then there are injuries -- vehicle accidents, trip and fall and an assortment of other ways to get hurt. Beyond endemic illnesses, traveling itself can exacerbate medical issues:  long flights, jet lag, altitude, unfamiliar or limited medical infrastructure in many locations, etc. All of these factors can hamper medical treatment and recovery, even from what might start as relatively minor conditions.

 

Like most global risks, health and medical challenges can be managed -- but not eliminated. The core risk management principles of awareness, mitigation and response are just as important for health risks as they are for the headline grabbing terrorism, conflict, civil unrest, and natural disasters. By some estimates 50% of global travelers to the developing world experience some sort of medical issue or illness away from home, so you’re far more likely to experience illness than a terrorist attack.  Be prepared:

 
  • Understand the risks -- and not just the required vaccinations. Medical assistance companies like ISOS, UHC Global, AIG Travel Guard & others offer destination specific health risk info on their websites and via smartphone apps.  The US Centers for Disease Control  has traveler specific info on their website, too. For travel to more austere environments or for travelers with medical conditions, visit a travel healthcare professional to help understand how medical risks in your destination may impact you and your underlying health. ??

  • Review insurance to understand limits of coverage and how bills are paid.  Direct billing of insurance may be an option in some locations, while in others travelers will need to pay bills and seek reimbursement from the responsible insurance company. Hopefully not something that needs to be said here, but I’ll say it anyway:  make sure medical evacuation is included.

  • Bring a first aid kit tailored to the risk environment including over the counter meds and a sufficient supply of prescription medication.

  • Practice healthy eating and travel hygiene. Washing hands before eating, staying hydrated with bottled water, etc are all basic but effective ways to help stave off illness while traveling.

  • Identify medical resources at destination(s) in advance to help speed treatment in the event of an urgent issue or emergency. Medical assistance/evacuation providers are a key source of this info. US Embassy websites may have some info as well.

  • Treat conditions early -- seeking care is easier at 2pm on a Thursday vs 2AM on a Saturday. Being honest about how you feel is critical; if you’re ill, don’t “tough it out” or convince yourself that your condition will “get better on it’s own.” Invariably some medical issues have a sudden onset, but many deteriorate over time. Waiting until condition becomes an emergency is likely to only complicate and delay treatment and recovery.

  • Understand how medical assistance services work and get them involved early in any medical issue to give time for effective analysis and guidance.

 

The role of a medical assistance provider is crucial, from pre-trip information on risk and medical facilities to guidance on minor illness to coordination of emergency response and evacuation. All too often, organizations and travelers alike focus on the evacuation part of the service offered by these firms. Doing so risks missing the trove of information available to help identify risks and local resources before illness strikes or an accident occurs.

 

And remember that cool souvenirs may not be the only thing you bring home from your trip. Zika, malaria and a host of other travel-related illnesses can take days and even weeks to develop, so watch your health after a trip as well as when you’re traveling.

 

Being ill or injured while traveling isn’t something anyone wants to experience. And while advance planning can’t prevent you from experiencing a bout of GI distress in Abuja, it can help you more effectively manage the situation -- get treatment to stabilize the condition and speed recovery.  Travel safe and travel well.

 
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