What to Pack in a Grab-Bag

One of the ways that you can prepare yourself for an emergency is to stock a grab-bag. That is, a bag containing a handful of supplies that could make all the difference in recovering after an emergency, whether it’s a natural disaster or hostile threat.  The idea is that you need only to take this single bag with you as you respond to a crisis, ensuring that you have what you need for immediate survival following the contingency.

The exact necessities that you pack will be impacted by your geographical location and the regional-specific risks therein, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Information & Documentation

This should include your passport and/or visa, and any other important documents related to your identity. This is especially important if you are travelling abroad, particularly if the contingency requires you to leave the country. Even if it is for a home-emergency, being able to have at least a couple identifying documents will assist you in the recovery of other important documents after the fact.

Food & Water

A stock of high energy, non-perishable food items and as much water as you can feasibly carry.

Communications

A spare mobile phone with a charger.

Health & Safety

Basic first aid kit and any essential medications that you may require day-to-day.

Other

Some other items to include in your grab bag are money, a change of clothing, candles, matches, a flashlight/torch, and spare batteries.

Keep in mind that the general advised contents of this grab bag address the needs of the average individual whether they are at home or traveling. Family and/or group kits will vary, especially if there are pets involved. 

If you have any questions or would like expanded detail of this, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@centry.global! Remember to subscribe for weekly updates on Centry Blog, and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD for more content like this.

Social Networks & Data Protection Policies

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In preparation for GDPR, a comprehensive EU data protection law, a few big-name social media companies have taken the time to review their privacy policies, making it easier for users to know where and how their information is being used.

Facebook has made some changes to its privacy settings in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mr. Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings. While it is not changing the information that the company collects from its users, it is making strides toward greater transparency on what that information is and how that is shared. It created a central hub with a more user-friendly interface to enable people to more easily see what data they are sharing and who can see it.

Additionally, the social network will make it easier for users to see all the data that the company has on them – previously, this could be accessed by a massive data dump download, however the new Access Your Information tool allows individuals to explore the information by category.

Twitter updated their privacy policy, sending out emails to their users with information on some of their key revisions. These include more focus on the controls that they offer users over their personal data, more focus on how Twitter shares public data, more transparency and control over how the data is shared with business partners. Furthermore, there is more clarity about how data may be shared to prevent harm, comply with the law, or serve public interest.

LinkedIn has adapted its policy to enable members to download their personal data, and it has followed up on GDPR’s right to erasure, by clarifying that personal data such as audience email addresses will be automatically deleted within a 90 day time frame if it is not edited or being used in active campaigns.

If you are active on any social media networks, be sure to take a proactive approach and review your privacy settings, as well as the availability of your personal data.

This article was written by Kristina Weber at Centry Ltd. For more content like this, subscribe to Centry Blog and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD!

A Quick Look: South China Sea Disputes

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The South China Sea is a critically important trade route of the world, with an estimated $5-trillion worth of goods passing through yearly, which amounts to about 30% of global maritime trade. In addition to that, there are vast oil and natural gas reserves under the sea, and it is the site of lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for the densely populated southeast Asia.

For all of its resources and strategic value, the South China Sea is highly contentious. Several sovereign states all have varying claims over different sectors of the waterway and the islands therein, whereas non-claimant states advocate for the South China Sea to remain international waters.

These maritime and territorial disputes are complex and sprawling in their nature. To better grasp the greater picture of the situation, we’ve broken it down into a few sections.

The Claimants

The prime areas of contention in the South China Sea include the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. Each claimant nation wants something specific, and they all have their individual justifications for what they want. The main players in the territorial disputes have been China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

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Image 1. South China Sea Claims

China depicts its claims to the South China Sea using the map of the nine-dash line, a vague demarcation line that was inspired by a December 1947 then-Republic of China (1912-1949) map with eleven segments. After the Communist Party of China formed the PRC, the claim was amended to the “nine-dash line” that we know today. The U-shape of it can be observed in Image 1 above.

Taiwan (ROC) also uses the 1947 map it as a basis for their own claim to the contested waters, because it was published before the PRC was established. Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island, is the largest isle of the Spratly group and it remains steadfastly in Taiwan’s control. As one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, Taiwan’s interests in the region are connected to fishing and oil.

Vietnam’s claim over the Paracel and Spratly islands was first established in a White Paper issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974, with historical evidence as a basis for the claims. It has been a vocal opponent of China’s historical claim over the South China Sea, asserting that China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s, whereas Vietnam had actively ruled over both the Paracel and the Spratly Islands since the 17th Century.

However, tensions between China and Vietnam have been de-escalating ahead of agreements to resolve their disputes. In April 2018, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an announcement that China and Vietnam are moving toward a settlement agreement on the status of their claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has historically cited its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands as the main basis of its claim to the Scarborough Shoal, however its President Rodrigo Duterte has avoided aggressive rhetoric on the issue, saying that he “will not impose anything on China.”

This came after the July 2016 international arbitration that ruled China could not legally claim most of the South China Sea – including a rebuke of the nation’s manmade islands. Although China is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it refused to accept the court’s authority on this case.

Malaysia has claimed seven islands in the Spratly group, of which two are also claimed by Vietnam and one by the Philippines. Thus, it has occupied the remaining four and constructed mini-naval stations to reinforce its claim.

Brunei by contrast is sometimes referred to as a “silent claimant” of the South China Sea, however it first asserted rights shortly after gaining independence from Britain in 1984. Its principal interests revolve around the development of offshore oil and natural gas fields – both within its EEZ and outside of its territorial waters. Its claim is on Louisa Reef, which is on its continental shelf, however the Louisa Reef is also part of the Spratly islands, a feature claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Recently, Indonesia ramped up the territorial disputes by renaming the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea to the North Natuna Sea, despite China’s claims to the area.  Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, suggested that the renaming of the waterway helped to make it “sound more Indonesian.” It has increasingly conducted aggressive posturing in the area, including a military buildup on nearby Natuna Islands and deployment of naval warships.

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has maintained that it is not party to any territorial disputes with China on the South China Sea, yet in 2016, the two countries had three maritime skirmishes, including warning shots and a situation where Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

China’s Manmade Islands

In recent years, China has been building various ports, runways, and radar facilities on manmade islands throughout the South China Sea. CSIS Satellite images from 2016 depict large anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems as well.

These man-made islands have been constructed by dredging sand on to reefs in an effort to boost China’s claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China had previously committed to not militarizing the islands, however the CSIS imagery suggests otherwise. Nonetheless, the PRC government maintains that the islands are for maritime safety and civilian purposes.

The Situation at Present

On April 11th, 2018, the Chinese navy began a 3-day drill near its main submarine base in what analysts described as a message to other nations in the area that it was capable of defending its territorial and maritime interests. This display came right as an American strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, conducted its own exercises in the South China Sea. The United States maintains that the South China Sea is international water, and therefore the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea should determine sovereignty in the area.

These exercises additionally overlapped with a week-long series of live-fire drills involving the aircraft carrier Liaoning, near the venue for the BOAO Forum for Asia. On the sidelines of the forum, senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said that all the surrounding countries were concerned by the military exercises in the region. This area is significant because it has several underwater channels and straits that could allow China’s submarine fleet to break through the United States’ first and second island chain blockades. Although the location for these specific demonstrations was in a less sensitive area than the South China Sea, it nonetheless served as a means for China to illustrate its military might to the other claimants involved in the disputes.

PRC President Xi Jinping presided over the Chinese navy’s largest military display on April 12th, 2018. The state broadcaster, China Central Television, showed footage of Xi boarding the destroyer Changsha before sailing to an unspecified location in the South China Sea to watch the procession. China’s armed forces are in the middle of a modernization program, and the subsequent military buildup has seemingly unnerved its neighbors, particularly due to the increasing assertiveness on the territorial disputes of the South China Sea.

China intended on holding live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Straits on April 18th, however, it was reported that the drill scaled down in an effort to reduce tensions. The Taiwanese military similarly cancelled a scheduled cannon drill.

The probability of South China Sea disputes leading to an outbreak of hostilities is unlikely, however since China has continued to pursue its territorial and maritime claims, the potential for escalating small-scale skirmishes cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, any escalations in the trade corridor may have an impact on the global economy, particularly if sanctions become involved.

This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter!

6 Travel Safety Tips

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies and a gentle, warm breeze. The sand is soft between your toes, and rippling turquoise waters stretch out endlessly toward the horizon. For the first time in who-knows-how-long, your thoughts are free of the mental load they ordinarily bear, and just for this moment, you are centered in the here and now.

Until you go to take a picture, and realize that your camera is missing.

Theft is just one of the most common threats faced while traveling, and the consequences can range from a minor inconvenience to something severe. Any number of things could go wrong during your travels, but if you take the appropriate cautionary steps, you can minimize the impact of these risks.

So, whether you are planning a peaceful island vacation, venturing to a far corner of the world, or traveling for work, be sure to review the following travel safety tips:

Before you leave…

Research your destination accordingly

In between planning hotel stays and tourist stops, take some time to look up safety information for your destination. The U.S. Department of State website provides specific information for every country in the world, where it informs the public of any conditions that might impact their safety abroad. The risks are calculated on the travel advisory scale below.

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Picture 1. Travel Advisory Levels, U.S. Department of State (Extracted April 2018)

 

Familiarize yourself with transportation options in your destination, and research hotels thoroughly. Look up the best hospital in the area. Basically, you want to address these points preemptively, so that you don’t have to flounder for information in the moment if things start to take a turn for the worse.

Secure your valuables

Before departing on your trip, make sure that you leave any non-essential valuables at home and contact your local post office to put a hold on mail delivery. Make copies of your travel documents (front and back) in the event that they are lost or stolen while you’re abroad. If you save these copies in secure cloud storage, it can assist you in recovery.

Plan for your health

Take the time to research the health and hygiene conditions of the region you plan to visit. Is the water potable? Do you need any vaccinations or prescriptions?

When you arrive…

Don’t use public WiFi

While it may be tempting to connect to public WiFi, it’s something that should be avoided, especially if you are traveling for work. Open networks lack security, and as a result they open a simple path for malicious entities to gain access to a device. Sometimes, even, hackers will set up unsecured wifi hotspots to tempt people into connecting to them, giving the thief access to the information on your phone or computer.

You can address this by using password-protected wifi networks or connecting to a personal hotspot via Bluetooth.  Additionally, you can use a VPN to provide another layer of protection.

Learn common travel scams

Often, tourists are singled out for theft or scams because of their vulnerability and potential for affluence. Wherever you travel, you will always find people who devise creative ways to trick you out of your cash, and often these vary country by country. You can find an infographic of some common scams here.

Keep a low profile

The more that you stand out in any place, the more you brand yourself as someone who is unfamiliar with the location, and thus vulnerable. Whether it is through your clothes or manner, try to keep a low-profile to avoid any unwanted attention.

Bottom line

You don’t have to catastrophize every possible disaster, but it is important to at least practice basic safety. In that, you can mitigate the impact of these threats, and be on your way to enjoying your travels abroad.

This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For any questions or comments, feel free to contact us on any of our social media platforms.

 

A Closer Look: Revived Corruption Charges Against Zuma

In a televised address, Mr. Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa, announced that he would be reviving 16 charges against the former South African President, Mr. Jacob Zuma. These include 12 charges of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption, and one for money laundering.

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The charges are related to an incident in the late 1990s, when Mr. Zuma allegedly accepted bribes during a $2.5 billion arms deal between the government and a French weapons supplier. He was indicted at the end of 2007 on a range of charges associated with the deal, but the NPA dropped them in 2009, thus clearing Mr. Zuma’s path to the presidency. Then, in Autumn 2017, while Mr. Zuma was still in office, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling to reinstate the charges, and condemned the 2009 decision to drop them.

In 2014, Mr. Zuma was accused of using tax payer money to pay for upgrades to his rural residence, including a swimming pool, amphitheatre, and cattle pen.

Mr. Zuma resigned from his post in February under considerable pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. The ANC has since affirmed its confidence in the country’s criminal justice system, and cautioned that Mr. Zuma has the right to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.

Mr. Abrahams said that there are “reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment.”

This is but the latest in a series of reckonings against corruption in South Africa. Other avenues have included an impending judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Implications in a 2016 watchdog report alleged that the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Mr. Zuma, used connections to him to win state contracts and influence cabinet appointments. State capture refers to a type of systemic political corruption, in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes.

Additionally, there are at least three separate parliamentary inquiries into corruption at state-owned enterprises ongoing in Parliament. A spokesperson for the NPA said there are hundreds of files related to state capture across state-owned enterprises and provincial governments– asset forfeiture will be primarily used as the first step toward addressing corruption across the public sector.

Further reading on red flags associated with state-owned enterprises may be found here on Centry Blog.  

For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach us on any of our social media platforms.

4 Social Media Risks to Businesses

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Over the years, social media has evolved into a critical marketing and customer relations tool for businesses. Between audience-targeted ads and personal engagement, social media can be unparalleled in bringing organizations closer to their customers and clients. 

What about the Risks?

In this post, we’ll address some of the most common risks that businesses can encounter with their social media profiles.

1. Human Error

Whether it’s an accidental tweet, falling for a phishing link, or coming off rude to a customer, employee conduct on these social platforms can pose a significant risk to an organization’s reputation.

This also extends to situations concerning the individual, especially as it relates to personal accounts of an organization’s employees, where they may talk about work-related information that could lead to things like reputation damage or privacy violations.

2. Inattention & Neglect

Loosely covered under the umbrella of human error is neglect or inattention to a social media profile. If there is nobody in charge of managing your organization’s social  profiles, the accounts may be at risk of being infected by a virus – especially if that virus is one that sends spam. It could cost you followers, and otherwise lead into an adverse perception of your company’s brand.

3. Phishing Attempts

Whether it’s a fake Facebook friend or a bot on Twitter, there is always the ever-present risk of falling for phishing scams across different platforms. In this context, ‘phishing’ refers to any kind of fraudulent communication or links intended to trick people into giving up sensitive information.

Related Reading: For some examples of the unique ways phishing attempts shape around the platforms that they use as vehicles, check out our article Hook, Line, and Sinker: Phishing on Social Media.

4. Brand Impersonators

Following on the heels of phishing scams, another risk that businesses may run into on social media is that of impersonators. Seeking to capitalize on vulnerable clients and customers, some malicious entities may impersonate a well known brand to trick people into clicking bad links or handing over their passwords. Additionally, attackers may purchase website domain names that are either similar to your company’s or negative in context to it. 

Related Reading: For a case study on an example of this type of impersonation, feel free to check out our article on the Netflix Phishing Scam.  

For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to reach out to us @CentryLTD on Twitter!

 

Centry Supports the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union!

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What is the Council of the European Union?

The Council of the European Union is one of the primary institutions of the community; together with the European Parliament, it discusses laws based on proposal from the European Commission. The Council coordinates the policies of the member states, specifically foreign policy, and security policy of the EU, and it also concludes agreements on behalf of the EU with international organizations and other countries.

The Council is comprised of one representative from each member state at the ministerial level. Each minister for a given policy area is thus a representative of their country, and they speak for it in the council. The council has ten configurations that covers all of the categories of policies of the EU.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a position that functions on a rotation basis. Each member state holds the presidency for a period of six months, with the exception of the foreign affairs configuration, which is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.

Bulgaria’s Presidency of the Council of the EU

To ensure continuity in the Council’s work, the presidency is held by a group of three member-states for a period of 18 months, wherein they must prepare and implement a common agenda. Bulgaria is part of the Estonia-Bulgaria-Austria trio, and it has just recently assumed the presidency as of January 2018.

Our Support

Centry has an established presence in Bulgaria, with a handful of employees and an office in Sofia.

We support Finnish and other Nordic companies in expanding their business to Bulgarian markets, and vice versa. One of our areas of expertise is to facilitate companies entering new business areas, and this is just the opportunity for it!

We are honored to be able to have a close partnership with the Bulgarian Embassy to Finland, and it has been our privilege to give our support to the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU!

For any questions or comments, feel free to contact us on any of our social media platforms!