From September 10, 2017 to the present, Russia has been plagued by rampant bomb threats and emergency evacuations spanning nearly 100 cities. I’m guessing you haven’t heard about the crisis. And aside from this article, you probably won’t be hearing about it anytime soon.
The entire U.S. news cycle has been dominated by other things. Hurricanes, the Mexico earthquake, the continuing North Korean nuclear debacle, the ongoing investigation of alleged Russian influence into the 2016 presidential election, and of course, Donald Trump’s twitter feed.
There’s simply no room for the Russian predicament. So I’ll recap. According to Tass, the official Russian news agency, since mid-September, about 400,000 people have been forced to evacuate. Over 1,000 buildings have been targeted with robo-call bomb threats — shopping malls, airports, schools, universities, museums, night clubs, theaters, corporate headquarters, government agencies, hotels and train stations.
Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense Committee, has termed it a “full-scale cyberwar,” referring to it as “telephone terrorism.” Economic fallout from the first week was estimated in the range of 5 million dollars.
But did you notice anything interesting about the list of buildings? It included just about everything except the high value targets that would offer the biggest bang for your buck… arenas, amphitheaters, stadiums and hospitals. That’s one helluva coincidence, eh?
Maybe these wireless robo-terrorists deliberately left them off the list. Maybe they have a conscience after all. Yeah, right!
So why aren’t hospitals and large sports and entertainment venues being targeted? Well guess what? There’s a pretty good chance they are. These venues just have a different threshold for what constitutes a bomb threat emergency. This is challenging to explain as the standards differ from culture to culture, country to country, and even person to person.
The rationale for not evacuating these types of venues is grounded in PRECEDENT. If a command decision was ordered to evacuate a massive soccer stadium based on a flimsy robo-threat, it would establish an atrocious precedent. As it would likely encourage and embolden future copycat behavior.
It’s also a matter of established procedural accountability within their incident command structures. Simply put, just because someone in the facility receives an anonymous, voice-modulated bomb threat doesn’t mean you engage in a full scale evacuation. Because in actuality, it would do far more harm than good. It’s all about the perceived risk-reward return ratio. The cost of inaction vs. the cost of action.
Keep in mind, every single one of the 1,000+ bomb threats shared a commonality. They all turned out to be hoaxes.
Emergency evacuation protocol is an admittedly sensitive topic. Because there’s always the lingering prospect of a potential panic, resulting in a deadly stampede.
The Russian bomb threat scourge echoes my concerns about the probability of an artificially generated stampede. Much of the same underlying rationale and complex social mores are used to justify deliberately concealing the fact that… an official stadium evacuation order would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.
Yet, the general public is denied situational awareness regarding this specific aspect of public safety. It remains, for the most part, an “undiscussable” issue in the realm of cyber-security and human rights.
With all the new found emphasis on what President Trump has termed “cyber”, we need to do something more than simply vowing to do “better.” The time has come to address the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater (Hint: 50,000 – 100,000 cell phones in every NFL stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information). There’s a discernible inevitability that one day this dynamic will be put to the test. We need a comprehensive strategy and concrete contingency plans.
It’s my contention that society must be willing to alter, or at the very least, acknowledge and challenge the current existing state of vulnerability. Either that, or be willing to cope with the hypothetical fallout. The ramifications of which, could be irreparably severe.