Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canada in Need of Terrorism Insurance?

Lloyd's of London warns of greater terrorism risk

According to the chairman of one of the world's leading Insurance firms, Canada has become of greater risk of a terror attack.

“Canada's risk profile has changed in recent years and while no stranger to terrorism, intelligence suggests that its role is shifting from a hub for fundraising and planning attacks outside the nation – for example in the U.S. – to a credible target in its own right,” said Lord Peter Levene, speaking on behalf of Lloyd's in Toronto. “We are told that, by this year, there were thought to be some 60 groups operating within Canada's borders that support an extremist jihadi ideology."

Levine notes that many Canadian companies and organizations, including the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, have bought increased terror insurance from his company.

If one accepts Levene's assertions at face value, it would seem Canadians need to be very wary regarding the risk management strategies our government has in place to protect us.

In this regard, Levene notes the government has done a pretty good job, but adds a caveat. “By all accounts, Canada's domestic security services have done a first-class job. But that should not lead to complacency,” he said.

If the examples posed by both 9/11 and the Air India bombing demonstrate anything, it's that complacency -- and its requisite carelessness -- are abolustely lethal in regards to the fight against terrorism.

Part of the necessary due diligence in this regard requires addressing the evolving face of terrorism -- both international and domestic.

Levene, for example, notes that up to 20% of terrorist attacks are directed at business. Cyberterrorism, in particular, often targets business via Distributed Denial of Service attacks, wherein the bandwidth of websites are overloaded, disabling the site's ability to function, potentially causing millions, or perhaps even billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Cyberterrorism can be a difficult issue to deal with because it's difficult to distinguish cyberterrorism from more mundane forms of cybercrime. As with more violent forms of terrorism, cyberterrorism can be international or domestic.

Guarding against threats such as cyberterrorism requires numerous initiatives, possibly including regulating software companies more stringently. The security features offered by Microsoft operating systems, in particular, have proven to be extremely lax. Given that microsoft maintains a massive market share (although open-source Linus software continues to peck away at this), the lax security of Microsoft operating systems is particularly important when one considers the looming threat posed by so-called "zombie" viruses, wherein viral code infiltrates and lays dormant in a computer until activated.

If used to plot a large-scale attack on a country's economic infrastructure, millions of poorly-protected personal computers actually pose a large-scale threat to Canadian security.

Cyberterrorism is only one breed of terrorism that Canadians need to be better aware of.

Poor security continues to loom in Canada's airports (despite predictable official claims to the contrary), and the amount of black market control over Canadian seaports makes them vulnerable as well.

If Canada's truly become a credible terrorist attack, Canadians will need to lobby the government to ensure our risk management strategies (read: anti-terror legislation) are truly up to the task of contravening that threat.

Otherwise, Lloyd's of London seemingly offers some very affordable terror insurance.

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