Crisis Management – not just for huge corporations (Part 1)

Since time immemorial we have seen the devastating effects of major disasters and other uncontrolled events, coupled with eye-watering estimations of the financial costs of their remediation. Union Carbide’s tragic accident in Bhopal resulted in 1,000s of deaths and a loss of over $500 million. More recently, UBS’s “Rogue Trader” cost them over $2 billion, and the total bill for BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe will be at least an order of magnitude more, estimated at a whopping $35 billion. Accordingly, the term ‘crisis management’ will be a stranger to very few people, and it would be remiss of any large organisation not to have a crisis management plan of some sorts (though I would question if they are all (1) fit-for-purpose, and (2) practiced).

That’s all very well for the large conglomerates with access to buckets of resources, but where does that leave the likes of me as a lone trader or running a small family business, I hear you cry? Well, my answer is simple … if you do the same it’s madness, it would be a massive waste of resources which you just don’t have. However, in my opinion by applying the same principles, picking out a few elements of a good crisis management plan and doing a bit of light-touch preparation you can develop and implement a half-decent plan with minimal effort that might just tip the balance in your favour when things start to turn south without warning.

So what constitutes a crisis management plan? Well, ask 20 professionals and you’ll get at least 30 opinions, and I’m not going to pretend that what I’ll cover is the textbook answer, but given that our principle at SLB is simplicity what I’ll briefly demonstrate here is good enough for this article.

In essence, an effective crisis management plan contains the following core components:

  • Principles – the purpose of the plan (e.g. minimise risks to life, limit damage to the environment, preserve the company’s reputation…), recognition of the types of crises it may cover, perhaps guidance on when to trigger the plan (i.e. when an incident or event becomes a crisis)
  • Structure – composition of the crisis management organisation (e.g. a crisis management team with designated leader, communicator, coordinator, log keeper, functional experts, etc.)
  • Process – the steps to be taken in a crisis (or preferably before a crisis materialises)
  • Practice – exercise the plan and the crisis management organisation

The challenge then is how can this be applied to small businesses or individuals? Let’s keep this simple (that’s what we do, right?!), so in Part 2 of this article we’ll start very small and only build on it if we need to.

Online counterfeiting – Part 1

Most of my work is in the cybersecurity field but I have been recently brought into more and more projects involving online counterfeiting

What is online counterfeiting?

Almost anything can be counterfeited and the internet provides a great way for the counterfeiters to get a global market. Online selling has been incredibly successful for a number of legitimate companies so it will come as no surprise this is the same for counterfeiters

Mostly you hear about the high end luxury brands having the biggest problems, but there are in fact there are many more lucrative markets such as medicines and chemical products which could potentially harm human health.

How big a problem is it ?

It will come as no great surprise that counterfeiting is a vast, successful and global business which increasingly operates online.

An April 2016 report issued by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the EU Intellectual Property Office estimates in 2013 the value of counterfeited goods rose to $461 billion, or 2.5% of the value of global trade.

How do online counterfeiters operate ?

The main online counterfeiting industry business model is to set up fake sites usually on free hosting platforms (see for a list https://www.techradar.com/news/best-free-web-hosting-sites-of-2018)

If a brand owner asks for a takedown then it is very easy (and cost effective !) to set up a brand new fake site again.

I have noticed a number of counterfeiters use Ecommerce platforms such as ebay and Amazon to sell fake branded chemical products to consumers (e.g rodent, insect killer ) and in fact Apple claimed that 90 percent of genuine Apple products sold on e-commerce giant Amazon are counterfeit – leading them to sue Amazon supplier Mobile Star in October 2016

in a couple of projects the counterfeiters had compromised the online adverts delivery system to drive traffic away from the legitimate branded sites to the fake site and had quickly picked up expiring brand domains which the company had let expire

 A big change I have seen however is the move away from the sites concept above and to facilitate sales through social media, instant messaging tools (Telegram, Whatsapp and WeChat). In fact this blog receives a number of comments advertising suspected counterfetiting sites ( all blocked thanks to the antispam tools !! )

 

Next post will look at what can a company do about monitoring for counterfeiting of their products