Private Sector a Vulnerable Target of Future Terrorist Attacks

As government facilities have heightened security, many experts expect terrorists to direct attacks against softer private targets. New research from IOMA (New York), a division of the Bureau of National Affairs (Washington, D.C.), details how company security leaders perceive the risk of terrorism, some of the security measures they have taken to prevent or mitigate acts of terror, and where the greatest vulnerabilities remain.

Based on responses to a survey of hundreds of corporate security managers, the report examines terrorism prevention in the private sector across a spectrum of industries. Some findings:

  • Corporate security executives believe the odds are better than 50/50 that a terrorist event will have at least a moderate impact on their organization by the end of the decade. However, in six of 10 attack scenarios, organizations say they have taken less than 50% of the security measures that they need to take.
  • Companies are least prepared for a suicide bomb attack and an area-wide chemical, biological, or radiological event. Against both events, company security representatives said they’ve taken less than 35% of the anti-terrorism measures that they think are necessary.
  • Al Qaeda isn’t the only terrorist threat facing businesses. Single-issue protest groups and other sources of domestic terrorism also pose a significant risk. Overall, 16% of security executives say they have discovered that their company has been under terrorist surveillance since 9/11, and 13% have received specific terrorist threats.
  • By a wide margin, companies believe a terrorist-led cyber attack is the most likely type of terrorist event to affect their business.
  • Private organizations give local emergency officials mixed reviews. While 53% of companies say local emergency officials are well-trained and ready to help with terrorism prevention and mitigation, 30% say they found resources to be limited and training insufficient and 17% said help is unavailable.
  • How much companies spend on anti-terrorism closely correlates with whether or not terrorism-related regulations apply to their operations.

"Private companies are in a tough spot. How do they know when they’ve done enough? They could spend every cent of revenue on anti-terrorism and still not be safe from every type of attack, yet doing nothing seems irresponsible,” says Garett Seivold, one of the study’s authors and editor of IOMA’s Security Director’s Report. “The results of this study can help companies find that middle ground by allowing them to compare their anti-terrorism effort against like businesses.”

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