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How Do Pandemics End? Plus Iranian Cyberattack Responses, Insurance Pressures, and Militarized Security in Mexico

The Security Management team spent this week in Atlanta covering GSX 2022, but that doesn’t mean that the news cycle slowed down. We compiled some of the biggest news to affect the security industry to keep you caught up.

Is the End of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Sight?

It’s the most upbeat message from the World Health Organization (WHO) in years—the world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The virus has killed nearly 6.5 million people since it first emerged in late 2019, and 606 million have been infected with the virus. But vaccines and new therapies helped stem deaths and hospitalizations, Reuters reported, and the latest variants have less severe effects. Deaths from COVID-19 last week hit their lowest level since March 2020, the WHO said.

The WHO found that deaths fell 22 percent last week, with 11,000 deaths worldwide. New infections decreased by 28 percent (3.1 million new cases reported), TODAY reported.

While the news is positive, Ghebreyesus emphasized that the pandemic is not over. Countries need to continue to strengthen policies against future COVID waves and other viruses, while vaccinating high-risk groups and testing for the virus, he said, likening the pandemic to a marathon—while we’re in sight of the finish line, we shouldn’t stop running now.

“If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty,” Ghebreyesus added.

U.S. Announces Punishments for Iranian Cyber Actors

Ten people and two companies affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were hit with wide-ranging sanctions and indictments on 14 September related to a spate of cyber breaches and ransomware attacks in the United States. The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program also announced rewards of up to $10 million each for information on the suspects’ locations, CyberScoop reported.

From around October 2020 to the present day, some of the individuals were “engaged in a scheme to gain unauthorized access to the computer systems of hundreds of victims in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, Russia, and elsewhere, causing damage and loss to those victims,” according to the 20-page Department of Justice indictment.

Multiple international agencies also released a joint cybersecurity advisory about the IRGC-related hackers and technical details about their attacks and activities.

Insurers Push for Police Department Policy Changes

Where activists, use-of-force victims, and city officials have failed, insurers are succeeding. Driven by increasingly large jury awards and settlements—including the $12 million settlement over the death of Breonna Taylor and the $27 million settlement over the death of George Floyd—insurance companies are passing some of their potential future costs onto law enforcement clients, influencing policy changes.

“Departments with a long history of large civil rights settlements have seen their insurance rates shoot up by 200 to 400 percent over the past three years, according to insurance industry and police experts,” The Washington Post reported. “Even departments with few problems are experiencing rate increases of 30 to 100 percent. Now, insurers also are telling departments that they must change the way they police.”

This can include reducing the number of high-speed police chases, changing policies on chokeholds, or investing in body cameras and other technology.

Military Security in Mexico to Continue Until 2028

The lower house of Mexico’s Congress voted 14 September to keep the army patrolling the country’s streets in 2028 in the face of increased violence and concerns of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s efforts to militarize public safety. Last week, the upper house approved giving the army control over the National Guard following an outbreak of cartel violence across Mexico.