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Does Technology Make Travel More or Less Safe for your Staff?
By Sam Davies, Security Manager, Australasia, International SOS
Technology and travel are inherently intertwined, from online bookings to onboard Wi-Fi. But it’s not just the transit process that impacts your employees when they travel abroad for work. Technology, evolving at a rate consistent with Moore’s Law, creates new risks to your business and your people. Thankfully, it also offers opportunities to manage risks more effectively, old and new.
Technology creates new risks
When your staff goes abroad, they take with them access to your entire dataset –your intellectual property, sensitive business information, and sometimes internal financial information as well. Cybercriminals can take advantage of insecure Wi-Fi networks, such as public networks or in hotels, to steal that information.
Technology also creates physical security risks to individual travelers. Depending on the location and social or legal norms, travelers could be targeted based on their digital footprint. For example, LGBT travelers have been identified via apps and then targeted. Travellers oblivious to their surroundings due to their single-minded focus on their device are more susceptible to petty crime and more likely to be involved in an accident.
Cyber threats are real and driven entirely by technology, but the behavior of your team can greatly reduce these risks. Ensuring your team knows to not connect to insecure networks, to not download new software or updates while abroad, to use VPNs, and to take as little data and as few devices as possible are relatively simple and exponentially less costly than having to respond to a malware attack or similar incident. Technology enables faster incident detection and analysis Having timely access to reliable and actionable information is critical to making good decisions about your own safety or responding to an incident as an organization. Quickly confirming what has happened, and most importantly, the impact of an incident on your people can be a challenge. There is either information overload or, conversely, not enough reliable information.
Technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), is a powerful tool to address this problem. AI is now capable of monitoring and forecasting emerging events and trends.
Prevention Is Always Better Than A Cure, But Sometimes Things Go Wrong
At International SOS, our people are central to the quality of our alerts and advice. Our five 24/7 Regional Security Centres are staffed by people from those regions who have local language skills and cultural understanding, as well as expertise in crisis management. Technology cannot replace their expertise and judgment, but we do support them with digital tools, including Artificial Intelligence. We have recently partnered with GeoSpark to develop even more powerful Artificial Intelligence tools for our teams to use, which will enable them to spend less time gathering data and more time conducting analysis. It also accelerates the speed at which we can publish reliable, actionable alerts directly to travelers to keep them safe.
These high-tech methods of information collection, analysis, and dissemination will only grow increasingly more important in the risk management and HR worlds.
Technology provides tools for effective crisis management and response
Prevention is always better than a cure, but sometimes things go wrong. Most expect this in medium or high-risk countries, but the recent events in Hong Kong are a jarring reminder that ‘low risk’ does not mean ‘no risk.’ Therefore, having an efficient and effective system in place to respond to an incident is critical, no matter where your people are travelling.
Last year, an earthquake in Lombok (Indonesia) triggered the evacuation of thousands and caused extensive damage. Organizations suddenly needed to know if their people were there and ok. If that was you, would you have gone through your records to identify who was on leave and call them, one by one? Would you have contacted your travel management company? What about deferring the trips of those scheduled to travel to Lombok?
This cumbersome and ineffective manual process has been replaced with technology and automation. Modern Travel Tracking tools can show you where all of your staff are, in real-time, and enable you to rapidly communicate with them via multi-modal two-way messages. And this can be automated, so that if an incident occurs on the other side of the world while you are asleep, your team is still informed, accounted for, and supported.
Humans still matterSometimes technology will fail us. When communications systems are down, nothing can replace boots on the ground. And when someone needs help, there is no substitute for a real person, in person. When the earthquake hit Lombok I was deployed as part of an incident management team, and informing a woman who was in a makeshift hospital bed in a carpark that we had arranged for her medical evacuation was an incredibly human experience, even though it was made possible by a great deal of technology. People are the most important asset an organization has, which is why it is so important to protect them.