Heavily-used technology is frighteningly easy to disrupt
EVERY day for up to ten minutes near the London Stock Exchange, someone blocks signals from the global positioning system (GPS) network of satellites. Navigation systems in cars stop working and timestamps on trades made in financial institutions can be affected. The incidents are not a cyber-attack by a foreign power, though. The most likely culprit, according to Charles Curry, whose firm Chronos Technology covertly monitors such events, is a delivery driver dodging his bosses’ attempts to track him.
Consider the implications of what this quote, from an Economist article, describes. Many organizations are reliant on GPS to the point that daily operations would be severely hindered, if not completely halted, by a loss of service. Here are just a couple of examples:
- Law enforcement: GPS tracking is used in everything from directing emergency responders to the right address, to coordinating patrol car’s movements, to categorizing reports. Without GPS tracking, the load placed on radio operators in major cities during a crisis would almost undoubtedly be increased to the point where department’s ability to respond would be affected.
- Utility companies/Delivery services: Many businesses whose employees travel over large territories are placing GPS trackers in company vehicles to reduce time lost due to bad traffic or poor directions, as well as making sure everyone is staying honest. Not only could a loss of GPS service leave people being paid for time spent searching out the right address, but any bad seeds could be collecting cash for spending time at the local watering hole.
- Transit services: Nearly every transit system, public and private, relies on GPS to help keep them on route and on schedule. In the case of planes and trains, GPS may also be part of safety systems built to prevent them from moving too close to each other or even colliding, making their importance easy to see.
What can you do to protect your organization? Plan, of course!
If GPS is involved in any part of your daily operations, it’s only smart to assume that, at some point, the system will fail for a number of days. The difference between a company that has to work a bit harder until it’s back up, and one that grinds to a halt, is the advance crisis management work that you put in.
It wasn’t that all long ago that things like GPS weren’t even an option, so you know it can be done. Consider what would be required to keep you in action, whether it’s creating a crisis volunteer force, establishing a special arrangement with your local temp agency, or installing backup navigation kits for every delivery truck, and get it done. If at all possible, boost your crisis preparedness level by doing a few dry runs with everyone involved. If not, you need to at least run simulations with your in-house team, working the scenario out at fully as you can.
Is there a possibility that you will never make use of the fruits of your labor? Well, as with any crisis prevention efforts, the answer is yes.
Will you be thankful you did when those systems do crash and you’re not left at a standstill, burning money by the hour, simply because you didn’t prepare? You better believe it.
The BCM Blogging Team