Coronavirus Load balancing – Understand it can’t be stopped. We’re just smoothing the peaks in demand.

Coronavirus Load balancing – Understand it can’t be stopped. We’re just smoothing the peaks in demand.
14/03/2020 Comments Off on Coronavirus Load balancing – Understand it can’t be stopped. We’re just smoothing the peaks in demand. CISO Blog, Operational Resilience Blog, Security Advisory Blog EditoratLarge

In any crisis management, it’s very important to stay calm and avoid making rash ill-informed decisions. Not only that but in a pandemic situation where we are relying on a strong immune system calmness is perhaps, according to medical research. even more important. There is no doubt that there is a lot of media attention going into the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s very hard for the average person, who wants to do the right thing, to separate fact from fiction. Take the claims that Coronavirus is really 5G exposure for example (spoiler it isn’t). The 5G one was particularly interesting given it would suggest northern Italy is trailblazing in their rollout. One of the things, however, that may not be being explained as well as it could is that governments are effectively going through a load balancing exercise. Similar to the way your IT teams will be trying very hard to load balance the impact of all your extra remote working VPN connections, the government is trying to load balance the impact on the health service and the economy…keep calm and read on!

Panic will make things worse!

The first thing we need to do is take a step back and look at what is happening. When it comes to Coronavirus:


That’s not to say do nothing, it’s saying consider the impact of your actions on those you don’t immediately see around you. You are quite possibly and inadvertently making the situation worse for others. You are quite possibly increasing the workload of others. You are quite possibly making people less safe! When people start panicking they do irrational things. They make things a lot worse than they need to be. There is strong research in the field of psychology that shows how most people are minded to “follow the crowd“. In day-to-day life, our brains take mental shortcuts to help us quickly make decisions. Normally this is fine but in a panic, this can lead to disaster as we follow the crowd over a cliff. Scarcity makes us panic too. Even if we don’t need particular items, that they are now in short supply compels people to hoard – how much loo roll and hand-sanitiser have you personally stockpiled? Governments are taking action the actions they are taking not because it’s the best way to stop a pandemic but because we humans are our own worst enemies!

The 24-hour media cycle!

I personally don’t think the media helps. At the moment it’s all the media are talking about. article after article (I do appreciate the irony yes!) and hour after hour of coverage. All this does is perpetuate the panic and prolong the panic that people feel. The anxiety that is being felt is wholly unnecessary. The panic that is being felt is not doing anyone any favours. I would call on the media to find something else to talk about. I know that Brexit has finished but seriously!

Speaking of Brexit

I know, I know! We’re all supposed to have moved on now. What I would say is that, just like the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, membership of the EU did not protect its citizens from the contagion of sub-prime debt coming out of the US and it’s not protected its citizens from the contagion of Coronavirus coming out of China. We are living in an ever globalised world were things spread VERY quickly. There is a lot to be said for the autonomy of governments to act in different ways. The UK was able to devalue its currency in a way that countries such as Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain could not because of their membership of the Euro. This meant the UK was able to better weather the storm of the GFC whereas Greece, for example, is still feeling significant impacts even today. There has been much criticism that the UK is keeping schools open but, whilst it may be counter-intuitive to some, it’s probably the best thing to do, for now at least.

Impacts of closing schools

The UK government has taken the decision to keep schools open for the time being. This may be counter-intuitive to some (kids are often seen as a common vector for disease proliferation) but is quite possibly the best course of action to take at the stage the UK is currently dealing. Perhaps a general lesson here is we need to make sure our kids are much better at personal hygiene. In any case, closing schools may potentially have unintended consequences. Parents will still have to work, some may be able to work remotely but a lot will not. If they lose their jobs, the economic impacts may far outweigh the personal impact of a disease like Coronavirus. This then leads to a situation where the people most likely to take up the slack in terms of childcare whilst schools are closed will be grandparents. As we know, this demographic is considerably more at risk. Keeping the schools open puts the load in a place where it can be handled. Teachers can keep the kids occupied and safe. If a load of kids have already passed the virus on to each other do we really want them to be put in continued close proximity with the grandparents whilst their parents have no choice but to go to work to ensure there is food on the table and a roof over their head?

Impacts on health & social care services

Whilst the majority of the people who become infected with Coronavirus will have mild to no symptoms and will fully recover, it doesn’t stop people assuming the worse. As a result, they overload the health service. NHS Phone lines, GP appointments, A&E visits are already at a peak during the winter months. When something like Coronavirus hits, people who wouldn’t normally use the health service then add to the demand. When a person with a mild cold can’t get a GP appointment, they then go to A&E instead, fearing the worst. In the majority of cases, these people will not require any treatment but will significantly add to the workload of the already over-worked nurses and doctors. That is why calm is required. Before ringing 111 go to the NHS Website for Coronavirus and read the advice there. Keep the phone lines open for those in the most need. Keep A&E open for those who need it most. Keep those hospital beds available for the elderly who will need them. Most importantly keep those doctors and nurses available to treat those who can actually be treated when you don’t need to.

We must also consider the unintended consequences of Coronavirus on those most at risk – the elderly. Many of the elderly are not at risk but they are still vulnerable to all the other things they were previously vulnerable. Fuel poverty, loneliness, physical injuries from frailty. We need to make sure we are looking after our elderly. If families inadvertently isolate gran and grandad who will be checking in to make sure they haven’t had a fall? Who is getting them their shopping? For those more at risk, are you making sure they are being checked upon more regularly?

It would also be remiss not to mention the increase in phishing related events that are now surfacing because of Coronavirus panic. Are you making sure you’re vulnerable relatives are not being taken in by scams whilst they are isolated?

Impact on the economy

Governments and Central Banks around the world know that if we’re not careful we could end up in a global recession. There is a phrase used in the Clinton campaign we should all keep in mind:

“It’s the economy stupid!”

People seem to be significantly underplaying the impact that Coronavirus is having on the economy and kneejerk reaction will cause more damage than is necessary. For organisations like Fox Red Risk, we are fine. We can do most of what we do remotely – we are predominantly virtual after all. A lot of companies however simply can’t operate completely virtually. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, theatres, stadia et al. These companies will go out of business and many jobs will be lost. Based on what has happened to the world’s stockmarkets many companies may be forced to let significant amounts of their workforces redundant because they won’t be able to service their debt. Decisions to cancel conferences and expos will stop vendors being able to meet with customers. The travel ban announced by the US caused markets to go into freefall when US President Donald Trump suggested that goods would also be affected (something he later retracted in a tweet).

The recent financial meltdown also shows just how sensitive comments by a world leader are to the market. What people may not know is that trading is now significantly controlled by computer algorithms. These algorithms are analysing the sentiment of speeches in real-time and then make trades based on the content. They analyse social media for reaction. They read more news stories in a minute than the average person reads in their entire lifetime. More dangerously, when one algorithm starts reacting, all the other algorithms start reacting too! An algorithm can work out that a 30-day travel ban between the US and EU equates to 1.4million airfares. It can work out the impact of that financial loss to the airlines in milliseconds and put in trades equally as fast with no human involvement – after all, humans are slow! What they can also do is look at historical data and apply machine learning algorithms. When was there last a global lockdown on travel – 9/11. They can then use that information to predict the impact on other industries and make calculated trades on those industries too. Next thing you know algorithms have turned the situation into a financial crisis with impacts that will far outweigh the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic for many years to come!

Humans, therefore, must start to take action to calm the markets down. Consideration must be taken as to how these algorithms are allowed to take unilateral action without supervision. People may think the markets are nothing to do with them but think about those who are about to retire who have just had their pension pots wiped out. They may have to take a significant hit to their pensions or have to work longer until the markets recover.

The trouble is that, as governments are mitigating the effects of human nature, on already struggling health and social care systems, they are potentially setting us all up for a major financial crisis. If we could all stop panicking and get on with life in a sensible and pragmatic manner, the government wouldn’t have to put in place such measures to prevent the inevitable spread of this disease. We need to be very careful about limiting economic activity at a time where that could already be dampened. People still need to pay their mortgages, put fuel in their cars and feed their kids. How many are now considering not going on holiday in the summer? Putting off moving house? Delaying a purchasing decision? The uncertainty of how long this may last is affecting all these types of decision and so governments should be putting in place clear timelines where they can so people know when this is likely to end.

Infections will increase before they go down

A final thought…

We all need to get used to is the fact that a lot of people will get infected by this disease. Millions around the world will get the virus, be ill for a few days and then be fine. The measures taken by governments around the world will differ depending on their specific situations and the point in which the pandemic is affecting their specific country.

“We must stay calm”

We must make sure that we don’t let the poor management of one crisis cause countless unintended impacts that will have far wider consequences for families around the world. Look after each other. Take sensible measures…and remember to wash your hands!

About Fox Red Risk

Fox Red Risk is a boutique data protection and cybersecurity consultancy and Managed Security Service Provider which, amongst other things, helps client organisations with implementing controls frameworks for resilience, data protection and information security risk management. Call us on 020 8242 6047 or contact us via the website to discuss your needs.

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