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The risks of a temporary closure – what to do to protect yourself during this COVID-19 Crisis

Australian Travel Companies have been at the forefront of this global crisis – knowing months in advance of other Australians this was an unfolding disaster, the likes we have never seen in our lifetime.

We are all in absolute awe of the complex (and exhausting) work Travel Companies all the way down to you, the individual agents, have been doing around the clock through the travel plans of their customers one by one to obtain the best outcomes form them during a time of such incredible stress.

The amazing stories of Travel Agents rescuing people stranded overseas, sometimes when not even their clients, have been so inspiring – you are all in the frontline and you are all superheroes not only to those travellers, but those of us on the sidelines forced to watch on. You have made such a difference.

As the dust begins to settle over the coming weeks and months things will slow and day by day all of you are having to make tough decisions. With this in mind, we wanted to focus on two main topics for you to keep in mind:

  1. THE RISKS OF WORKING REMOTELY – HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELVES FROM CYBER CRIMINALS
  2. TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF YOUR SHOP – WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR INSURANCE

Working Remotely – Cyber Risks and emerging new scams

Emergence, a leading Cyber Insurer in the Australian Market has reminded us that instructing staff to work remotely may be one way of minimising the spread of the virus. However, remote work arrangements can have security implications and cybercriminals may attempt to take advantage of that. We are already seeing COVID-19 scams being transmitted via text messages.

The cyber risks of flexible work arrangements could include malware infection, unauthorised access, data security, and insecure devices used by staff.

How do I stay safe?
Ensuring good cyber security measures now is the best way to address the cyber threat.
Consider implementing these proactive strategies:

  • Review your business continuity plans and procedures
  • Ensure your systems, including virtual private networks and firewalls, are up to date with the most recent security patches
  • Implement multi-factor authentication for remote access systems and resources (including cloud services)
  • Ensure your staff and stakeholders are informed and educated in safe cyber security practices, such as identifying socially engineered emails and messages
  • Ensure your data is backed up daily and automatically
  • Increase your cyber security measures in anticipation of the higher demand on remote access technologies by your staff, and test them ahead of time
  • If you use a remote desktop solution, ensure it is secure
  • Ensure staff working from home have physical security measures in place. That minimises the risk of information being accessed, used, modified or removed from the premises without authorisation
  • Ensure your work devices, such as laptops and mobile phones, are secure
  • Ensure you are protected against Denial of Service threats.

It’s important that businesses and their staff ensure remote access to business networks is secure, so they aren’t vulnerable and business information isn’t exposed.

Remind all your staff of the risks with clear communication
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is aware of a significant increase in Australians being targeted with COVID-19 related scams and phishing emails.

In the last three months, the ACSC and the Australian Competition and the Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch has received over 140 reports from individuals and businesses across Australia.

These phishing emails are often sophisticated, preying on people’s desire for information and imitating trusted and well-known organisations or government agencies.

Clicking on these malicious links or visiting fake websites may automatically install computer viruses or malware and ransomware onto your device, giving cyber criminals the ability to steal your financial and personal information.
These scams are likely to increase over the coming weeks and months and the ACSC strongly encourages organisations and individuals to remain alert.

Need more help?
The Australian Signals Directorate’s Australian Cyber Security Centre has produced some excellent advice to help businesses stay secure from cyber threats while managing remote workforces. Click here for more information.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch website has a dedicated section for threats against small business and there are many valuable resources on this site - Click here.


Temporary Closure of your Premises: Guidance

International Insurer Zurich has provided general advice around the difficult decisions being made by Travel Agencies on a daily basis – what to do when temporarily closing your PHYSICAL doors.

Due to the coronavirus restrictions, many businesses are having to temporarily close, and allow staff to help sustain operations via home working. We wanted to give you some general advice about how to protect your premises during any temporary closures. If the Government restrictions continue for a significant period, further action may be required. This guidance is from a risk management perspective. Any queries relating to insurance cover should be made with your insurance advisor or broker.

Risk Control Measures:

  • Waste: Remove all external waste and empty skips ahead of closing.
  • Waste bins: Empty all waste bins and relocate to a secure area, ideally at least 10 metres from the
  • building. If this is not possible and bins and skips are within 10m, these should have lockable lids.
  • Fire Systems: Ensure that any fire and/or sprinkler systems are fully operational
  • Fire Doors: Carry out a check to ensure that internal fire doors are closed
  • Building Utilities: Shutdown any non-essential electrical devices and building utilities. Isolate nonessential services, gas valves etc.
  • Inspections: Where at all possible (and subject to Government restrictions) try to implement periodic inspections of the building (internally and externally). Please ensure that you comply with existing government guidance regarding vulnerable people and lone worker risk assessments.
  • Consider the provisioning for alternative skilled personnel, such as security guarding/patrollingcompanies.
  • Physical Security: Carry out a check to ensure physical security measures are in place e.g. fences are in good repair, windows are locked, shutters are in place, gates are locked.
  • Intruder Alarm: Make sure your intruder alarm is set and that the remote signalling is in place.
  • Ensure sufficient numbers of keyholders are available to respond to an alarm activation within 20 minutes.
  • Maintenance: so far as is reasonably practical, there is an expectation that essential maintenance continues with any remedial measures completed. Premises that have Building Management Systems (BMS) with remote alerts should continue to be responded to. If possible, ensure gutters and drains are clear of debris, ahead of winter setting in.


If you would like further information or an obligation free Insurance quote, please contact Rebecca Fleming, Manager of our Travel Division at Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers on (02) 8267 9919 or rfleming@gowgates.com.au to discuss your circumstances or to obtain a quotation.

General Advice Warning – the information in the above article is intended as a guide only and should not be relied upon without consulting your relevant insurance policy wording and conditions or conversely seeking professional advice from either your insurance broker or insurer regarding a claim or potential loss. Failure to adhere to this warning could result in a denial of a claim or potential loss or a reduction in settlement of a claim or potential loss.