Throwing out the baby with the bath water when it comes to online hate and terrorism

An interesting thing happened last week. Google, that behemoth that gives us so much of our information these days, has decided not to run advertising in the lead up to this year’s Canadian federal election because it does not want to develop a registry of ads and advertisers (although it apparently did so for the US midterms and the EU, so it is technically feasible). I imagine that Google is afraid – or at least aware – of accusations that its platform is – and has been – used for fake accounts and disinformation campaigns as we have seen in other elections worldwide.

The use of social media to spread not only disinformation but also hate and violent messaging

Google’s decision fits into a larger problem: the use of social media to spread not only disinformation but also hate and violent messaging. We know, for instance, that jihadi groups and others mastered the arrival of the Internet and messaging apps to get their material to a vast audience, such that it appears possible for wannabe terrorists to learn as much as they need to make the leap towards becoming violent extremists themselves (and even learn to make bombs and related weapons).

The reaction to this phenomenon has been mixed. It took FaceBook, Twitter, Google and other providers a long time to realise just what their platforms were being exploited for, and as a result they have put in place algorithms to identify and remove objectionable content (or in some cases humans, although their experiences in reading and eliminating this garbage has had its cost – as this article in The Verge illustrates). The algorithms may be working a little too well: I think my podcasts (An intelligent look at terrorism) on YouTube may be filtered out because I use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’ and the like, and I am AGAINST terrorism!

The algorithms may be working a little too well: I think my podcasts on YouTube may be filtered out because I use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’ and the like, and I am AGAINST terrorism!

Then there is the background debate on what exactly constitutes terrorism or hate online, as this article from The Economist explains. An EU plan to impose heavy penalties on companies that allow this material to be posted may not work either, as this piece points out. The UK is considering a law that would call for up to a 15-year prison sentence for clicking on a piece of terrorist propaganda – ONE TIME!

In some countries more draconian ideas are being considered. When I was in Central Asia in January I learned that some regional governments had decided just to ban platforms like FaceBook in their entirety under the belief, I suppose, that no access means no violent or terrorist propaganda whatsoever. India is trying to force WhatsApp “to allow authorities access to any messages they request, as well as make those messages traceable to their original sender”, a big problem for a company that prides itself on its end-to-end encryption and privacy for its users.

Wow! I think it is time to step back and take a deep breath. It may very well be, in the words of The Economist, that “social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats. Ideas and insinuations that would find no place in the respectable media or political discourse can cascade all too easily from phone to phone“(referring to anti-Semitism), but are total bans and increased government snooping the answer? Is the problem that big, that dangerous and that irresolvable so that these drastic measures are required? We need to figure this out first before going there.

social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats
Social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats

In many ways this line of reasoning is flawed and could be applied in increasingly ridiculous ways. If we take down social media because terrorists, who represent an infinitesimally small proportion of humans, use, it why not go further:

  • Some terrorists have used cars and vans to run people over: ban cars and vans!
  • Some terrorists have used knives to stab people: ban knives!
  • Some terrorists have used golf clubs (see Rehab Dughmosh): ban golf!

See where this can end up?

I do not have all the answers to these challenges. I do think companies can do better at policing their platforms, both through better algorithms and having human eyes on violent material (although the latter needs to be managed better). I think that we need more knowledge on how this material affects people and how to mitigate the worst effects. I think we need to keep all this in perspective.

We cannot go back to a pre-Internet or pre-social media world, or rather we should not (if we do I am out of a job as a post-intelligence career blogger!). Humans are smart – we can figure out a better way to not give room for the jihadis and other terrorists and hatemongers without throwing out the digital baby with the online bathwater.


Averting crisis through effective communication

We are living witnesses to various crises in the country, especially triggered by ethno-religious conflicts and socio-political sentiments which could have been prevented through crisis communication strategies.

At a recent training workshop organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, it was discovered that there is no way one can talk about crisis communication without discussing crisis management. They are intertwined towards achieving positive results in managing crises.

There is no way one can talk about crisis communication without discussing crisis managementCrisis communication is a sub-specialty of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, organisation or community facing a public challenge to its reputation.

According to a communication scholar, Timothy Coombs, a crisis is the perception of an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organisation’s performance and generate a negative outcome.

Read entire post Averting crisis through effective communication | Hasiya Haruna Wakili and Agurue Anthony | The Guardian

Improving medication management through communication and collaboration

Whether it’s admission into a hospital, discharge from the hospital, or admission into a long-term care facility, patients are at risk of unintentional medication discrepancies that occur when there is a change in the medications they are taking that was not intended by the original prescriber.

These discrepancies can result in drug therapy problems or even adverse drug events (ADE).

In Canada, up to 50% of patients experience unintentional medication discrepancies upon hospital admission and at least 40%Many cases of medication error can be attributed to a lack of information pharmacists receive about a patient’s medication history. “Historically, hospital and community pharmacists have worked in silos,” says John Papastergiou, pharmacist and owner at Shoppers Drug Mart and assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy , University of Toronto.

Almost daily, community pharmacists are forced to make judgment calls on prescriptions from hospitals without a good understanding as to why the patient may be taking the medication.

Read entire article Improving medication management through communication and collaboration | Nareh Tahmasian | Hospital News

Bite size resilience – Are you ready?

We don’t want to live in fear of things going wrong, but ‘it’ happens. We live in a risky world, we take risks, we even give off risks sometimes to others. We make mistakes.

We take ‘calculated’ risks on social media platforms and sites like this one, especially when we hit the publish/post tab. We know the audience is there, or at least they are coming. But are your lines good enough to grab attention?

Will they attend, but take no
interest in what you have to say?

‘All the world’s a stage’ as the Shakespeare guy once famously proclaimed in his play. Today, the stage is set for you to say what you want, if it’s legal and not offensive.

But some take offence regardless.

Gary Vaynerchuck states “if you’re good enough, no one is holding you back”.

You have to be ready to speak up for what you believe and use your voice. Use your experience and fresh ideas to influence wider thinking. Don’t always follow, but lead. Take the lead if you are good enough and the chances are, you’re ready now.

Take the risk, be prepared to make a mistake, don’t be denied your opportunity to add to the debates and comment, rather than just like. Don’t just follow the obvious for the sake of it.

Don’t waste your vote. Don’t vote if you’d rather not.

You’re ready for anything.

But do as you like. It’s your call. Stay resilient in yourself and feel good about it. Be ready, because you are.

Unless of course you know you’re not ready yet. Then you weigh up the risks for yourself. Seek advice. Take the necessary steps to make yourself more resilient and then, when the time comes, walk on the stage and do your thing.

Good people will listen to what you have to say.

Gary Vaynerchuck states “if you’re good
enough, no one is holding you back”.

How NASA’s Mission to Pluto Was Nearly Lost

On the Saturday afternoon of July 4, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission leader Alan Stern was in his office near the project Mission Control Center, working, when his cell phone rang.

He was aware of the Independence Day holiday but was much more focused on the fact that the date was “Pluto flyby minus 10 days.” New Horizons, the spacecraft mission that had been the central focus of his career for 14 years, was now just 10 days from its targeted encounter with the most distant planet ever explored.

Immersed in work that afternoon, Alan was busy preparing for the flyby. He was used to operating on little sleep during this final approach phase of the mission, but that day he’d gotten up in the middle of the night and gone into their Mission Operations Center (MOC) for the upload of the crucial, massive set of computer instructions to guide the spacecraft through its upcoming close flyby. That “command load” represented nearly a decade of work, and that morning it had been sent by radio transmission hurtling at the speed of light to reach New Horizons, then on its approach to Pluto.

Read entire article How NASA’s Mission to Pluto Was Nearly Lost | Nautilus | Allan Stern and David Grinspoon

War with an ‘ism’ is a bad idea

This piece appeared in The Hill Times on December 18 – War with an ‘ism’ is a bad idea.

Last December, I was invited to a conference in the UK hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, a US-UK think tank that looks at a variety of issues. At this particular conference, entitled ‘A wake-up call for all: creating a trans-Atlantic network to battle radical Islam’, there were a host of speakers from both sides of the ‘pond’. The general tone was that liberal, secular democracies are at war with a phenomenon known as (political) Islamism. By this is generally meant a deliberate campaign by our adversaries to transform Western societies into Sharia-compliant states.

Those who have read my material or heard me speak publicly know that I am no fan of the analogy of war for every societal ill we struggle to contain or defeat. The war on drugs. The war on poverty. The war on terrorism. To this we need now apparently add the war on Islamism. We know from experience that seeing these challenges as war never ends well for they are what independent analyst Grenville Byford calls wars against common nouns. Common nouns never surrender: in fact they cannot as they are not agents (they are phenomena).

”Common nouns never surrender: in fact they cannot as they are not agents (they are phenomena).”

Several speakers presented Islamism as a scourge that is only getting worse and that we seem to be blindly blundering into a world we will soon not recognise. Muslim populations in our countries will gain majorities through immigration and will irrevocably change the way we are governed and how we are allowed to live our lives. Several horror stories were brought forward, such as the infamous Tower Hamlets ‘Trojan Horse’ affair in London where there were allegations that Muslim activists, including perhaps some extremists, were trying to take over a local council and impose unacceptable practices such as gender segregation in schools.
Many speakers made the comparison with the fight (and victory) against two other ‘isms’: communism and fascism. Just as we defeated these two systems during WWII so will we defeat the newest threat, they said. Except that we did not vanquish either communism or fascism- we defeated two states for which these were the dominant political and government systems. Communism and fascism were both shown to be the brutal, illiberal ideas they were but neither was eliminated from the world. If we treat Islamism in the same way we will likely get the same result although victory will be harder this time around since unlike communism (the Soviet Union) or fascism (Italy and Germany), Islamism has no one sponsoring state, no polity that can surrender.

”We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already?”

Putting the challenge this way is both ill-advised and counterproductive. If there are legitimate concerns over having our democratic system undermined from within by forces we think are anything but democratic (i.e. the ‘Islamists’) then the answer is to be found from within our system, not by going to ‘war’. We already have all the tools we need – elections, consultation, debates, the marketplace of ideas – to engage with those who think differently. And we have laws and constitutions and charters that lay the framework for what is acceptable and what is not (hint: sharia law as a general legal system is not). We cannot and must not treat Islamists as fifth columnists through a security/military lens.

This approach is also counterproductive in that it displaces our attention from where a true threat (albeit not an existential one) lies: Islamist extremism (i.e. terrorism). We need to identify and neutralise those who intend to use violence and try to destroy our way of life. And we need to use all our resources- security intelligence, law enforcement, government, communities – to do so as these individuals do pose a real menace.Allowing our focus to stray to a much ballyhooed but significantly over exaggerated threat helps no one. Yes there are some who hew to a very conservative and intolerant form of Islam and who would love to see that interpretation imposed on the rest of us but they are a tiny, yet noisy, minority within Western Muslim communities. Telling them we are ‘at war’ gives them credit they do not deserve.

We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already?

We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Phil Gurski

President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. Phil worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism.

We need to ignore most jihadi propaganda

This piece appeared in The Hill Times on January 3, 2018

In the lead up to New Year’s a lot of people were very nervous that festivities would be interrupted by a terrorist attack. To be fair, the fear was not completely unfounded as at last year’s celebration in Turkey a gunmen opened fire in an Istanbul nightclub killing 39 and wounding more than 70. Some states this past new year’s banned certain parties or, in the case of Singapore, increased security measures by putting up concrete blocks and ‘mobile crash barriers’ to prevent the kind of attack we saw in 2017 in Barcelona, Manhattan and Edmonton.

A police officer checks a man entering a cordoned off area
on New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York
The jihadis were busy as well, putting out threat after threat after threat. Here are some of the things they posted in late 2017 to strike fear into New Year’s (and Christmas) revelers:

  1. IS suggested that an operative ‘infiltrate’ the site where fireworks were being set up and move them so that they would be aimed at New Year’s crowds instead of the sky
  2. IS also said it would be a good idea to poison drinks at student parties since alcohol is usually left unattended on table
  3. Or you could hide IEDs in trashcans or ‘the snow’
  4. One particularly gruesome posting showed Santa Claus with his severed head on his knee
  5. Jihadis were encouraged to attack non-Muslims when they were ‘intoxicated and celebrating’
  6. An IS video showed an image of a wrapped package with the slogan “our gifts are ready”

I think you get the point. There is no end to this material online – some of which strikes me as silly to be honest – despite government programmes, including pressure on tech companies like YouTube and Twitter, to take it down. It appears with alarming regularity, not just during holiday periods.

And yet what did we see on New Year’s Eve this year?

How many attacks were carried out in the West targeting those welcoming in 2018? Precisely zero. All this encouragement to wreak havoc was for nought, and this should tell us something.

How many attacks were carried out in the West targeting those welcoming in 2018? Precisely zero.
Jihadi propaganda is a cost-free tool for terrorists. It is all too easy to post stuff online that promises death and destruction and there is no downside for extremists. Web sites carry their material around the world where it can be read by billions and if one or two people are inspired by the rhetoric and actually carry out a simple, low-tech attack (can it get any simpler than driving a vehicle into a crowd?) then terrorists can issue a post-mortem paean to their ‘hero’ and chalk his act up as a victory over the kuffar. It is a very good strategy on their part.All this works for terrorists in large part due to our reaction to their posts. Many agencies and individuals troll the Web in search for this material and some states take direct action to ward off the very attacks they see promoted online. All of this costs money and jihadis have long boasted that their threats will eventually bleed us dry economically as we are forced to thwart what they plan to do.

Except that there is nothing behind the vast majority of these threats. They are empty intimidation with the sole purpose of scaring us, which seems to be exactly what they are doing judging by our reaction to their taunts. We are handing relevance and legitimacy to the terrorist groups we should be ignoring.

A) we can realize that while terrorism is real it is still a rare phenomenon, especially in a country like Canada

B) we can encourage media outlets not to give jihadi threats prominence (I am not suggesting censorship), just as many newspapers and Web sites refuse to publish the names of mass shooters to deny them fame

C) we can allow our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies to monitor real threats and rely on them to tell us when something is real and we should take action.

None of this offers a 100% guarantee of safety: some attacks will take place irrespective of what we do or do not do. Still, not reacting in a panic at every terrorist tweet or YouTube video would be a good start. We may never get back to ‘normal’ but that does not mean we can’t try. Let us use this as our starting point in 2018.

Not reacting in a panic at every terrorist tweet or YouTube video would be a good start. We may never get back to ‘normal’ but that does not mean we can’t try.

Phil Gurski

President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. Phil worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism.

Hawaii panics after incoming missile alert is sent in error

The unspeakable nearly happened for the people of Hawaii. At least, they were confronted with the “what do I do” portion.

Posted on Huntington News | By Tony E. Rutherford

At 8:07 a.m. (Hawaiian Time) an emergency message went out that “this is not a drill… take shelter” due to an incoming missile.

Since the North Korean tests have put the island and other countries such as Guam, Japan, and South Korea on notice, the now described ‘mistake’ jolted the populace. One video shows a presumed father placing his young daughter down inside a storm drain.

Officially, during a shift change, the warning button was accidentally pressed that activated alerts to cell phones, TV and radio. For the short term, the question is fixing the system so such an ‘accident’ by apparently one person cannot occur again.

Incredibly, officials said the employee who made the mistake wasn’t aware of it until mobile phones in the command center began displaying the alert. ‘This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose – it was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,‘ said EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi in a press conference Saturday afternoon.

Civil Defense employee who sparked terror in Hawaii accidentally triggered ballistic missile warning and thousands fled to bomb shelters!

Read complete article FALSE ALARM: Hawaii Prepared for incoming ICBM | Huntington News

5 takeaways from hurricane season for crisis communications

Communicating before, during and after a crisis is critical – whether that means the survival of your business or the survival of lives, or both.

The recent forces of nature with hurricanes Harvey and Irma remind us what good communication can and should look like, especially when it’s a matter of life and death.

Here are five key communications tactics to take away from our recent extreme weather events.

1. BE PREPARED In both Texas and Florida, local and state officials were ready in advance. Perhaps because of their states’ unique permanent relevance to hurricanes, or perhaps because of early warnings by meteorologists, government and civil service officials were far out in front and ready to address challenges including preparedness, evacuation, safety and recovery.

2. BE PROACTIVE Although it may have felt pre-emptive in some areas, the reality is weather (and any other crisis) is unpredictable. Leaders were communicating to their citizens days and weeks prior to landfall. Their proactive efforts helped most people evacuate safely even as the storm paths shifted.

Why ICT systems implode

Remember the recent British Airways IT meltdown? Problems with power supply are believed to have caused the problem. Note the word “believed”. According to the mentioned source, when the system came back online, it did so in an uncontrolled manner, damaging the IT system and initiating a sequence of events that plunged the system into a state of chaos.

Others say that the cause of the meltdown is outsourcing. By the way, why would one outsource – to another continent – a really critical part of one’s business?British Airways blames an engineer who supposedly didn’t follow the right procedures for restarting the system after a power failure.

The data culture behind contemporary ICT systems belongs to the Stone Age

Finding the single cause, or a set of unfortunate circumstances, may not be possible and we may never know why this happened in the first place. But even if they do identify the trigger event what will happen is that they will put a fix in place, so that particular trigger event will never happen again. Until another glitch appears and grounds tens of thousands of passengers, causing losses of hundreds of millions.


The BA IT meltdown is a delicious example of what linear three-dimensional thinking is all about. People insist on putting in place super complex systems – generally these are ICT infrastructures – without focusing on two keywords:



How can you possibly neglect the two key attributes of something that is critical to one’s business and, most importantly, reputation?

By neglecting complexity – that is measuring it from day one and using it as a design attribute and objective – one risks putting in place solutions that are in close proximity of what is known as critical complexity. Critical complexity is basically being on the edge of chaos – one small glitch and all hell breaks lose.

Oh, incidentally, we know how to measure complexity, critical complexity of any kind of system. That is not the issue. The issue is that of culture and this brings us to another embarrassing point, which is:


One would imagine that in our digital age corporations and businesses would be drowning in data. There is even talk of Big Data! Well, big or not, most of today’s business are incapable of putting together a small table of numbers that are critical to its business and that are monitored with a reasonable frequency.

Also by Jacek Marczyk!

Why is Resilience (in economics) such a difficult concept to grasp? – Jacek Marczyk explains why high resilience capacity doesn’t necessarily mean high performance.

When will AI become less artificial and more intelligent? – What can we do to take AI to another level, to provoke a quantum leap?

Systemic Resilience Analysis: Supercomputers provide new tools for regulators, investors and governments – Discover Quantitative Complexity Theory, a different approach and a new set of analytical tools to address modern day challenges.

Ontonix deals mainly with very large corporations and helps them solve the so-called Extreme Problems, providing pre-alarms or early warnings of systemic failure. However, in order to do that, we need data. Often it is a small amount of data, a few tens of kilobytes. Imagine this dialog:

Q: Do you have a list of business critical KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you monitor on, say, a weekly or monthly basis?

A: What do you mean? What kind of KPIs are you referring to?

Q: Data which reflects the functioning of your business, data that your CEO has on his desk every Monday morning. You know, strategic kind of data.

A: Could you provide us with examples?

Q: Sure we can do that. But are you saying that you actually don’t know what YOUR critical KPIs are?

A: Well, no, not really.

Q: So you don’t even know how these KPIs are correlated, do you?

A: We’ve never thought of it like that.

The list of KPIs is submitted to the (large) corporation, that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on ICT every year. This is how the dialog continues.

Q: Have you received our list of KPIs?

A: Yes, and we’ve shown it to our IT governance, IT architecture guys, the accounting department, the HR department….

Q: And?

A: There are problems to retrieve this kind of data. We would need to interrogate different databases, approach different individuals. In some cases we wouldn’t even know who to ask.

Q: So you don’t know your critical KPIs, you don’t monitor them, you don’t know if they are independent or not and you’re not concerned. And you call this risk management?

The point is simple

It is not sufficient to purchase plenty of hardware and software and go to Big Data conferences or get excited about the Internet of Things if your data culture belongs to the Stone Age. If you a managing a complex system, then think in systemic terms. And monitor its complexity. If you think that compliance is more important than innovation, if you think that the world is linear and Gaussian, then you’d better brace yourself for your very own IT meltdown. Coming soon in a corporation near you.

Next week: Ryanair, a fragile complex giant

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Jacek Marczyk, author of nine books on uncertainty and complexity management, has developed in 2003 the Quantitative Complexity Theory (QCT), Quantitative Complexity Management (QCM) methodologies and a new complexity-based theory of risk and rating. In 2005 he founded Ontonix, a company delivering complexity-based early-warning solutions with particular emphasis on systemic aspects and turbulent economic regimes. He introduced the Global Financial Complexity and Resilience Indices in 2013. Since 2015 he is Executive Chairman of Singapore-based Universal Ratings. Read more publications by Jacek Marczyk

How to set up a community response network for the next hurricanes

The word ‘Disaster’ comes from French (désastre) and Italian (disastro), which combined the Greek prefix dis- (“bad” or “ill”) with the noun astro (“star”) and gave us a new way to describe calamity on a cosmic scale — disasters, in other words, resulted from the lining up of our unlucky stars.
In 2017 we’ve been counting a lot of unlucky stars, and based on most of the world’s agreement that our climate is changing, we should all be expecting more successive extreme weather events like we saw with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Factor in rising sea levels and the dangerous storm surge that all hurricanes cause, and communities that used to be safe are now highly vulnerable.

Lessons learned from many hurricanes in many countries

Of course, in every storm cloud there’s supposed to be a silver lining and we’ve already seen firsthand in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean how this has been true: an unprecedented deployment of formal and informal disaster responders and resources gave us a very public view of how communities can help other communities in meaningful ways. Despite the widespread destruction, the hurricanes have claimed just over 200 lives, and a lot of that, we believe, has to do with the effectiveness of emergency response carried out at the community level.

The purpose of this post is to share a few of the biggest and most basic lessons we’ve learned about designing, deploying and managing community-based response networks before, during and after a hurricane strikes. As you can imagine, everything depends on good communications.


1. Act Like The Hurricane’s Going To Hit Your Community Head On

We’re not saying panic — just be prepared for the worst case scenario. No matter how many warnings or mandatory evacuations are issued, people are going to play their chances and not leave when they probably should, so understanding a little about your community’s vulnerabilities and resources will go a long way in making sure you’re best prepared to give help when and where it’s needed. A few things to consider:


Check your local community’s risk assessment maps (hopefully accessible from the municipal/county/state website)


Are there skilled nursing facilities? Special needs communities? Populations living near high-risk industrial areas?


This is the best way to prepare for whatever’s coming, so make a call to your local historian and ask them about the last time the 50- or 100-year storm hit town


Making basic preparations to be able to leave rapidly or stay on your own for several days or more will be the difference between being a victim and being part of the solution. Have a plan, have a kit, have a go-bag, and if you are really into this, take a first aid course, build relationships with your neighbors and run some drills


2. Familiarize Yourself With Available Emergency Resources

If you live in a highly populated area, it’s very possible you have a range of emergency responders and resources available, including emergency medical services (EMS) providers, fire and police departments, a department of public health, hospitals and community-based organizations, like the community emergency response team (CERT) or civil protection.

If any or all of these responders exist, they will have plans and protocols to follow so it’ll be helpful to know what they are as best you can ahead of time. But things can change, too, and all resources eventually meet their limit: As the flooding from Harvey spread, Houston and Harris County’s 9-1-1 call centers became overwhelmed by calls requesting assistance, many of which were for non-life-threatening situations which had the potential to keep true life-threatening calls from getting through. Knowing the limits of formal resources is good info to have, so here’s a list of questions to help you figure this out:


Help isn’t help unless it’s seen as help. Included here is a list of roles and responsibilities we’ve seen where community groups have successfully supplemented formal first responders in the event of a major hurricane:

  1. Evacuations
  2. Traffic control
  3. Pet retrieval
  4. Wellness checks
  5. Mobility assistance
  6. Search and rescue, when resources are overwhelmed

Information Security in the Harry Potter World

As I read through the Harry Potter series, I am bothered by the apparent dearth of secure ways to transmit information. I would like to review various methods of magic communication, look at the drawbacks, and suggest methods that the magic-using world could employ to achieve higher security.

In Mundane society, we have developed various means of encryption and obfuscation to ensure that information can be passed between users without external interference (either obtaining the information, or changing it before it reaches its destination). In the magic-using world, however, it appears that this has not been widely achieved.

Magic-users communicate in various ways: direct person-to-person contact; letters sent by owl; Floo network head-only travel; Patronus charm; two-way mirror; Protean charm; a Secret Keeper. Each of these has various advantages and disadvantages, which I will discuss before providing some suggestions for additional security.

Direct Contact

There are several instances in the Harry Potter series of direct contact being overheard, such as the Weasley twins’ Extendable Ears, and Rita Skeeter transforming into a bug so she can listen unnoticed. The Imperturbable Charm was used with great success by Mrs. Weasley to prevent the use of the Extendable Ears, as it creates an invisible barrier around its target.

I’m not sure that the full extent of this barrier is detailed in the books, but we’re shown that it prevents eavesdropping as well as physical access to the protected space. In my opinion, this is a very useful charm and I’m not sure why it wasn’t used more extensively to protect the secrecy of direct communication.

Owl Post


The question of information security in the magic world first came to mind specifically because magic-users apparently have few methods available for use with the letters they send by owl. The owl can be intercepted, the letter read, and then sent on its way; both the owl and the letter itself are vulnerable.

The parchment can be sealed, but it cannot be prevented from being opened and re-sealed by a powerful Witch or Wizard. They message can be vague or obscure, but this reduces the usefulness of the information being transmitted.

Source: Archive of our Own

Read entire post grey  Related Training grey