February 11, 2021

Is Biosecurity the New Cybersecurity?

It wasn’t that long ago that cybersecurity was adopted into the American lexicon.  Today, it has broad meaning - from national security to identity theft - and it has vital implications for businesses across industries.  In fact, today most experts consider it a must-have for even small businesses as a way to protect their financials, their identities and the information of their customers. If a company gets hacked and customer information is stolen, it can be extremely damaging to their reputation and ability to retain customer trust. 

INC recently published an article that reminded us that “most hackers are opportunists.” In 2020, there is no more dangerous or opportunistic foe for businesses than COVID-19.  It often prays on people and spaces who are simply unprepared, like the one time you forgot a mask, or a bar that didn’t abide by social distancing measures. You can’t see it coming and it can be hard to know how deep the damage might go. Will you have contract tracers calling customers? Will staff need to be quarantined? Will the business need to shut down for an amount of time to clean house?  Both hacker operations and infectious diseases like COVID-19 also have the ability to adapt and evolve, forcing the solutions to be flexible and wide-ranging. 

One of the trends we have started to see over the past 6 months, and expect to see grow into 2021 is the deployment of biosecurity measures.  Biosecurity is defined as “procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents.”  These can range from something as simple as a touchless faucet in a bathroom, which can minimize surface transmission, to more advanced air filters in your HVAC system, to the high-end, high-tech antiviral cleaning measures that use UVC lights as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are proactive measures that serve to protect spaces and patrons from exposure. Some of these measures may eliminate COVID-19 if it’s brought into a space, but most of them reduce the opportunity for people to transfer pathogens to one another. 

Some of the new standard procedures for restaurants might be seen as the most elementary of biosecurity measures. The partitions, for example, which separate spaces between customers can help keep some germs from spreading. No-touch temperature scanning kiosks and masks are also simple biosecurity measures that have become mainstream.  But these are only helpful on a case by case basis, whereas HVAC upgrades and UV light cleanings can have a bigger impact on a space as a whole. Imagine, if a person is very careful about protecting their own identity from theft, but their information is stolen through a business that they have interacted with, then all of the individual protective measures will have been much less useful than they had anticipated.

Dozens of businesses are looking at biosecurity solutions as a long term investment.  Many are finding that aside from the true health and wellness aspect of biosecurity, there is also a communication factor.  Implementing biosecurity and communicating that commitment to customers demonstrates a level of trustworthiness that most patrons appreciate.  It’s one thing to say “Come in and wear a mask!” and quite another thing to say, “Come in, and know that you are safe here.” It provides a way for small business owners to show customer appreciation and community dedication that inspires long term loyalty. 

As vaccines are distributed and COVID-19 fatigue increases, biosecurity may feel like a less urgent need.  However, in the near term it can provide a roadmap to getting small businesses back up and running, customers back out to stores and restaurants, and communities from feeling helpless to protect themselves.  For the long term, as mutations arise and new diseases come into play, business owners should ask themselves if a biosecurity investment might be a worthwhile preparation.