News | Risk

February 2021 – Top News in the Security and Risk Industry and Grants

March 3, 2021 | 4 min read
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There’s a lot going on in the world of physical risk and vulnerability; it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest news and developments. We’ll keep you informed with the best content to keep your organization safe and secure. Check out the top news and headlines from the past month.

Texas Power Outage, Winter Storm, Leaves Many Dead

From The Texas Tribune: Across Texas, deaths related to the winter storm continued to mount this week amid freezing temperatures, widespread power outages and a scarcity of clean water. While there have been reports that dozens of deaths are tied to the storm in Texas, experts say the death toll is likely far larger. And it could be weeks or months before the true magnitude is known.

Our take: The storm in Texas and resulting power outages have shown exactly how critical our critical infrastructure is. Utilities — like the power grid and gas pipeline in Texas, which were unprepared for the cold temperatures and storm that hit the state this month — are often less prepared for unlikely events like historic winter storms. Utilities must prepare for the worst foreseeable situations, even if those scenarios don’t seem likely.

Increase in Physical Security Incidents Adds to IT Security Pressures

From Dark Reading: An increase in physical security incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic may be adding to IT security teams' workloads at many organizations. In a recent survey by Pro-Vigil, a provider of remote video-monitoring services, nearly 20% of 124 business operations leaders surveyed said their organizations had experienced more physical security incidents than the prior year. One-third said they believed they will see an increase in these incidents in 2021. Concerns over physical security has prompted 40% of the organizations in the survey to make changes to their security strategy, including an increase in their use of video cameras and security guards, since the start of the pandemic.

Our take: Criminals are opportunists, and the pandemic has created plenty of opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of empty (or mostly empty) office spaces, remote workforces, and other changes necessitated by the pandemic. Businesses must also take these changes into account when adjusting their security strategy. Adding more cameras and guards is an excellent way to start.

Hacker Tries to Poison Water Supply of Florida Town

From Threatpost: A threat actor hacked into the computer system of the water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Fla., and tried to poison the town’s water supply by raising the levels of sodium hydroxide, or lye, in the water supply. The attack happened just two days before NFL’s Super Bowl LV was held nearby in Tampa Bay, according to local authorities.

Our take: Although our infrastructure is critical, often it’s vulnerable — especially to newer forms of attack, like cyber threats and hacks. Often run by local government organizations, which can be married to “the way things have always been done” critical infrastructure security may not be up to date. This attack failed, but to head off future attacks being successful, governments must be proactive about securing their infrastructure.

Alejandro Mayorkas Sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security

From Security Today: On Feb. 2, Alejandro Mayorkas was officially sworn in as the seventh Secretary of Homeland Security. Mayorkas took the oath this afternoon after the Senate voted to confirm him. As Secretary of Homeland Security, Mayorkas now leads the third largest federal department in the United States, which includes the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States Secret Service.

Our take: With a background as DHS Deputy secretary, a position he held in 2013, and director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mayorkas is well-qualified for the job. We’d also like to recognize that he’s the first immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security; his family came to the U.S. as refugees fleeing Cuba in 1960.

February Top Security Grants

FEMA grants for Texas emergency aid: FEMA announced federal emergency aid has been made available to the state of Texas to help in recovery efforts in areas affected by last week's severe winter storm. Assistance will include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured losses, and other programs to help residents and business owners recover from the catastrophic storm. Residents can also start applying for assistance by registering online at the Disaster Assistance website, or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Rural Emergency Medical Services Training Grant: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2021 Rural Emergency Medical Services Training grants (Short Title: EMS Training). The purpose of this program is to recruit and train emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in rural areas. SAMHSA recognizes the great need for emergency services in rural areas and the critical role EMS personnel serve across the country. Grant closes: March 18, 2021

Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration: State damage prevention program grants. Grant closes: March 15.

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