G4S Secure Solutions (UK) is warning that significant numbers of businesses are underprepared to cope with potential acts of vandalism during Saturday’s mass demonstration in London. While those attending the TUC organised march are expected to be peaceful, the Met Police this week warned that there was intelligence of extremist groups hi-jacking the event.
G4S says that in a visual risk and vulnerability inspection conducted this week of the exterior of companies’ premises in central London, around half of those assessed displayed obvious points of weakness or security issues that could make them more vulnerable to criminal behaviour during protests.
The UK has seen a plethora of demonstrations over recent months over issues ranging from fuel price increases, environmental issues and the much-publicised student protests at the end of last year. G4S is warning that amongst the largely peaceful demonstrations, there has been a significant rise in incidents resulting in damage and injury to business premises, employees and operations.
The company says these incidents are on occasion maliciously targeted at businesses, and sometimes the result of a militant minority using an otherwise peaceful demonstration as cover to cause criminal damage to indiscriminate targets.
Saturday’s march has been organised by the TUC union but numbers are expected to be swelled by unofficial ‘feeder’ marches by anarchist groups, some of which reportedly plan to invade banks and Oxford Street shops linked to companies accused of tax avoidance.
G4S is warning that many companies are not fully prepared for the continual and evolving threats now posed by UK-based activist groups.
John Whitwam, Managing Director, G4S Gurkha Services said: “We appreciate that everyone holds the right to peaceful protest. However, we are experiencing an increasing trend in malicious activity taking place during protests and advise that businesses take appropriate steps to mitigate the higher level of risk brought about by the possibility of a protest getting out of hand.
“While we find that 99% of protestors are peaceful, there is sometimes a more extremist element present with the sole purpose of ‘hi-jacking’ an event to cause trouble and inciting fear. We have seen a rising number of companies and their employees targeted directly by activist groups as part of a sustained – and in some cases – aggressive campaign.”
G4S believes that advances in the resources and legislative powers given to law enforcement agencies to track anti-globalisation protestors and prosecute animal rights extremists has succeeded in weakening the leadership of certain extremist groups. However, it says that these counter-measures have led to radical splinter groups forming to carry-out more covert operations.
G4S is urging companies to ensure they have adequate and up-to-date systems and procedures in place to mitigate against the risks from activist groups. The leading security company provides comprehensive risk audits to companies in the UK and abroad.
G4S outlines some of the risk mitigation measures that companies should put in place in order to ensure business continuity if they are concerned about protests:
1 Carry out a full risk audit of your premises in advance. Companies should have an updated business continuity plan in place that is regularly rehearsed
2 Clear away any old equipment or debris from around your building that could be used to damage your premises
3 A manned security presence can provide a useful deterrent to would-be criminals and is the most flexible defence against the spectrum of threats. Strategically-placed security cameras can also influence potential vandals to show more restraint
4 Access control should be a key tenet of the business continuity plan. Large buildings have numerous entrances and any that are left unguarded are likely to become targets for protesters to gain access.
5 Organisations should identify those areas that can be attacked or occupied without serious damage to the day to day business and those that can’t, and plan accordingly
6 Softer measures such as staggering when staff arrive, making best use of alternative, less obvious entrances, and moving desks away from windows, should be considered
G4S warns that apart from becoming involved in physical demonstrations, activists are also using a range of new tactics designed to cause maximum disruption to businesses and their employees. These tactics come in two principle forms: mainstream and underground campaigns.
1) Mainstream corporate publicity campaigns against organisations through the media and internet. These can include:
* Publication of ‘alternative’ annual reports
* Setting up spoof company websites with a similar name
* Using blogs and online social forums such as Facebook and Twitter to attack a business’ reputation
* Sending high volumes of ‘spam’ email to companies
2) Underground campaigns, often directed against individuals. These can include:
* Publishing the personal details of the target organisation on the internet
* False business requests (bookings, reservations, orders etc.) to cause business interruption and loss of revenue
* Denial of service attacks causing damage to company servers
* Stalking and intimidating company officials and their families
* Damaging personal property of company personnel