Worldview Security Update – October 29, 2020
29-Oct-20

 

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level – 2): As of the morning of 29 October 2020, more than 1.9 million homes and businesses in the southeastern U.S. are without electricity after Hurricane Zeta made landfall the previous day as a Category 2 storm, with wind speeds of 110 mph (175 kph), near Cocodrie, Louisiana — located approximately 85 mi (135 km) from the city of New Orleans. Approximately 1.4 million of those homes and businesses without electricity are in Georgia and Louisiana. The hurricane downed hundreds of trees and utility poles in southeastern Louisiana, blocking major thoroughfares in the New Orleans metropolitan area and elsewhere in the region. More than 1,500 members of the Louisiana National Guard have deployed for search and recovery efforts. There have been reports of damage to buildings and other infrastructure in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi; additional reports of damage continue to emerge. Thus far, three storm-related fatalities have been reported.

Zeta has weakened to tropical storm status and was located approximately 50 miles west of Ashville, North Carolina, as of 0800 local time (1200 UTC). At that point, Zeta was tracking in a northeasterly direction at 39 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, with higher gusts. On its current forecast path, the storm will pass over parts of the southeastern U.S. during the morning hours, reach the Mid-Atlantic states in the afternoon and emerge over the western Atlantic by the nighttime hours. Rainfall of 1 to 3 in (25-75 mm) is expected in areas from the central Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and lower to middle Ohio Valley regions through 29 October. Flash floods could occur in the aforementioned areas. All coastal watches and warnings have been canceled.

United States (Security threat level – 2): On the evening of 28 October 2020, police officers discovered an abandoned vehicle on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Logan Circle in central Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that contained propane tanks, torches and possible dynamite sticks. An investigation remains underway. The discovery occurred amid heightened tensions in the city due to ongoing unrest over the police shooting of a Black man in western Philadelphia on 26 October.

The mayor of Philadelphia imposed a citywide curfew from 2100 local time on 28 October until 0600 local time on 29 October (0100-1000 UTC on 29 October) in response to two consecutive nights of unrest. Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard have been called to assist with security. Despite the curfew, there were reports of looting and vandalism across the city overnight on 28-29 October, although no notable protests occurred.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 29 October 2020, countries throughout Europe continue to impose coronavirus-related restrictions in response to rising case numbers. In France and Germany, authorities imposed nationwide lockdown measures, while authorities in Slovakia extended a nationwide partial lockdown. In Switzerland, authorities imposed new restrictions due to a wave of COVID-19 cases.

On 28 October French President Emmanuel Macron announced that a new nationwide lockdown will remain in effect from 30 October to 1 December. Under the new measures, residents are required to remain at home except to commute to work, buy essential goods, seek medical attention, care for family members, or engage in physical exercise. Travel between regions will also be banned, and international borders will be largely closed. Additionally, bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses will be closed as part of the lockdown. According to Macron, authorities will review the restrictions every 14 days.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on 28 October that a partial nationwide lockdown will go into effect as of 2 November. The lockdown measures will remain active until 30 November. Under the new restrictions, bars, cinemas, concert halls, gyms, pools, restaurants and theaters are required to close. Private gatherings are limited to 10 people. Additionally, overnight stays at hotels will be banned, except for essential trips.

In Slovakia, the government extended the nationwide partial lockdown until 8 November. Residents are required to remain at home except to travel to or from work, to buy essential goods, seek medical services, or to care for family members. Authorities will conduct two nationwide COVID-19 testing drives — from 30 October to 1 November and from 6 to 8 November. Those who test negative will be allowed to avoid some of the lockdown restrictions.

In Switzerland, authorities on 29 October imposed new nationwide restrictions to contain a wave of COVID-19 cases. The new restrictions require bars and restaurants to close nightly by 2300 local time (2200 UTC), while nightclubs and discos are required to remain closed throughout the lockdown period. Private gatherings are limited to 10 people, while public events are limited to 50 people. Additionally, face masks are now mandatory in outdoor areas of bars, cinemas, open-air markets, restaurants, shops and theaters, as well as in crowded pedestrian zones where social distancing is not possible.

France (Security threat level – 3): On 29 October 2020, an unidentified assailant carried out a knife attack near the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice. Authorities are investigating the attack as an act of terrorism. Three people were killed and several more were injured, but additional details are unknown. Police officers shot and wounded the attacker before arresting him. The individual’s condition remains unknown. Officials stated that they believe the man acted alone and are not searching for any additional suspects.

Shortly after the attack in Nice, police officers shot and killed a man who was wielding a knife and reportedly threatening pedestrians in a separate event in the city of Avignon. There were no reports of other injuries. The man’s motive as well as any possible connection to the Nice attack remains unknown.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia (Security threat level – 3): On 29 October 2020, French authorities advised French nationals to exercise increased caution when traveling to Saudi Arabia, following a stabbing attack at the French Consulate General in Jeddah. An individual stabbed and injured a guard at the consulate, before fleeing. Saudi authorities subsequently arrested the suspect in Mecca. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

United Arab Emirates (Security threat level – 2): On 28 October 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, in conjunction with the U.S. Consulate in Dubai, issued a U.S. Citizen Alert, which reads in part as follows: “The U.S. Mission wishes to remind U.S. citizens in the United Arab Emirates of the need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to keep up their security awareness, even though local law enforcement units have effectively demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism in the UAE.

“The Department of State remains concerned about the global threat of terrorism, including the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Terrorist organizations continue to plan attacks against Western targets; these attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, including suicide operations, assassination, kidnapping, hijacking, and bombing.

“U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile, be aware of surroundings, and stay alert in locations frequented by tourists.”

United States (Security threat level – 2): On 28 October 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint Alert, which reads in part as follows: “CISA, FBI, and HHS have credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers. CISA, FBI, and HHS are sharing this information to provide warning to healthcare providers to ensure that they take timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.

“CISA, FBI, and HHS assess malicious cyber actors are targeting the HPH Sector with Trickbot malware, often leading to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of healthcare services. These issues will be particularly challenging for organizations within the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, administrators will need to balance this risk when determining their cybersecurity investments.”

The full text of the alert is available here .