Solace Cyber Recognised as Assured Service Provider by National Cyber Security Centre.

Solace Cyber, a leading Cyber Security organisation with headquarters in Dorset, has achieved recognition as an Assured Service Provider under the prestigious Cyber Incident Response (Level 2) scheme by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). This accolade positions Solace Cyber among the first in the UK to attain Incident Response accreditation through the scheme, highlighting their commitment to providing high-quality incident response services.

The NCSC’s Cyber Incident Response project aims to offer support to UK organisations that have fallen victim to cyber-attacks, by raising awareness of high-quality incident response providers who can offer external support and advice on how to manage and recover from cyber incidents.

The initiative builds on the Level 1 scheme, which was developed to assure companies that have the capability to provide incident response services to nationally significant organisations such as regulated industries, central government, and critical national infrastructure.

With an impressive track record, Solace Cyber has been instrumental in helping companies across the UK recover from ransomware attacks and data breaches. Serving as representatives for International Loss Adjusters and Cyber Insurance companies, Solace covers more than 30,000 commercial businesses nationwide, through our channels, providing hundreds of successful response recoveries.

Rowland Johnson, President of CREST said, “Congratulations to Solace for gaining NCSC Cyber Incident Response (Level 2) scheme Assured Service Provider status for its incident response services. This means Solace has been assessed as capable of supporting most organisations with common cyberattacks, such as ransomware. It provides valuable assurance to buyers of the high quality of Solace’s incident response services.”

This prestigious accreditation reaffirms Solace Cyber’s dedication to meeting the NCSC’s stringent standards for both technical and organisational capability. By achieving the Cyber Incident Response (Level 2) status, Solace Cyber continues to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to enhancing the cybersecurity landscape and providing unparalleled support to organisations facing the challenges of cyber threats.

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Incident Response Services

Alert Plus: Multiple Large Earthquakes Strike Southern Turkey

Situation Summary: Large Earthquakes in Southern Turkey

At 01:17 (UTC) on 6 February, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake was detected 30km west-northwest of Gaziantep, Turkey (37°10’26.4″N 37°01’55.2″E). The earthquake struck at a depth of 24.1km and it quickly became apparent that a significant amount of casualties and damage had occurred in Turkey and northern Syria. There have been several substantial aftershocks, eight of which recorded a magnitude of at least 5. Tremors have also been felt in Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon.​

As of 10:00, at least 1200 fatalities had been confirmed across Turkey and Syria. Images and videos posted to social media and local news outlets indicate considerable damage to infrastructure. In Turkey alone, at least 2818 buildings have collapsed. At 10:24, the region was then struck again by a separate 7.5 magnitude earthquake 4km south-southeast of Ekinozu (37°10’26.4″N 37°01’55.2″E) – roughly 128km north of the earlier epicentre. At the time of writing, it has been reported that the region has experienced at least 100 aftershocks. ​

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the area in which the quakes have hit is populated predominately by non-earthquake-resistant residential structures. They are often made of masonry, brick, and non-reinforced concrete frames. As a result, many buildings will have been badly damaged or will have collapsed completely. This means that there will be few places in which survivors can shelter safely.​

Turkey declared a ‘Level 4 Alarm’ after the initial tremor, which reportedly includes a call for international assistance and support. The European Union has agreed to send rescue teams and is preparing further help for Turkey. US officials are also monitoring the situation and have noted their willingness to help. Rescue teams from India, Russia and Taiwan have also deployed. ​

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described events so far as the nation’s worst disaster since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed over 32,000.  ​

Intelligence Analysis by Solace Global

The earthquakes have struck as Turkey prepares for its May elections, which were already seen as some of the country’s most consequential in decades. These earthquakes further add electoral weight, since previous large earthquakes have led to major political changes in the country. In the wake of Turkey’s last major earthquakes, in 1999, voters turned away the incumbent parties in the 2002 elections. These parties were punished as a result of the poor relief and reconstruction efforts, and for the large-scale corruption the earthquake exposed. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his newly formed Justice and Development Party (AKP) party were the major beneficiaries of this political shift. As a result, he became Prime Minster in 2003 and ascended to the Presidency in 2014, a post he currently still holds.​

The province of Gaziantep, where the epicentre of the earlier earthquake is located, has long been a cradle of support for the AKP and Erdogan. Indeed, support for the AKP and Erdogan has remained high in the province despite the recent economic volatility and uncertainty in the country, and the persistent accusations of corruption levied against the AKP and President Erdogan. Consequently, comprehensive aid and reconstruction efforts are likely to be implemented swiftly. Despite this, contemporary Turkish political history suggests that the AKP, having been the beneficiaries of the 1999 earthquake, may be victims of these ones. This becomes increasingly possible if victims feel that aid is too slow, not sufficient, or that reconstruction efforts are corrupt. ​

Northern Syria has also been badly affected by the disaster. This part of the country has seen several recent Turkish military incursions; it is also home to some of the last anti-government areas of control. The tremors are almost certain to mean that Turkish offensive military operations in the region are temporarily halted, as the military is redeployed to support disaster relief and search and rescue operations in Turkey. The Syrian government may also seek to fast-track search and rescue and reconstruction efforts in areas in the region it controls in a bid to try and win support across an area which was long a stronghold of anti-Assad movements.​

Those with interests in the region are advised to note that there remains considerable potential for large-magnitude aftershocks or follow-on tremors.​

Advice if Affected by Earthquakes in Turkey

Risk Management for NGO’s in Turkey and Syria

Alert Plus: Istanbul Explosion

Situation Summary

On 13 November, at around 16:20 local time, an explosion occurred on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul. The street is mostly pedestrianised and is frequented by large numbers of both residents and tourists.

Available footage from the attack indicates that an explosive device was placed in a bag and then left on a bench in proximity to a Mango clothing store. Authorities believe the bag was left by a female suspect, who sat on the bench for around 40 minutes before walking away immediately prior to the explosion. Local authorities have also suggested that a nail bomb was used in the attack, which was designed to inflict mass-casualties.

As of 14 November, six deaths have been confirmed with a further 81 injured in the attack. Of those injured, 50 have been discharged from hospital, whilst the remainder are still being treated. Although Istiklal Caddesi has now reopened, having been closed in the immediate aftermath of the attack, there is an extensive police and security force presence in the area.

Turkish authorities announced on 14 November that a Syrian female suspect and a further 46 other individuals had been arrested following security raids at 21 different locations. Authorities have announced their belief that the perpetrator was a Syrian national, Ahlam Albahsir, who was trained as an intelligence officer by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People Defence Units (YPG). Despite this announcement, the PKK’s military umbrella organization, the People’s Defense Center (HSM) has denied being involved in this attack. Syria’s Kurdish-led and US- backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have also denied involvement.

Whilst no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claims that the attack was planned in Ayn al-Arab, a Kurdish- majority city in northern Syria. Soylu also stated that the attack was planned by the PKK/YPG, without offering evidence to support his claims. Despite the suspect’s alleged links to the PKK, Turkish officials have not ruled out an attack by the Islamic State (IS).

Solace Global Comment

The PKK is classed as a terror group by Turkey, the United States, the European Union, and since 1984 has been engaged in conflict with the Turkish State. Between 2015 and 2017, Turkey witnessed a string of attacks perpetrated by various Kurdish militia groups and IS. The attack on 13 November was the most recent terrorist incident in Istanbul since the January 2017 attack at the Reina nightclub in Ortakoy, which killed 39 people and was claimed by IS.

Istiklal street has also been attacked previously, with a suicide bombing in March 2016 killing five and wounding a further 36. In that instance, authorities initially blamed the PKK for the attack although subsequently confirmed that IS had been responsible.

The accusation by the Turkish authorities that the attack was planned by the PKK/YPG in northern Syria will very likely provide the justification for Turkey to launch a new cross-border operation into northern Syria. Since 2016, Turkish armed forces have been involved in northern Syria, targeting PKK/YPG forces. In May 2022 it was announced that Turkey’s planned fifth offensive in the region had been postponed, with some sources indicating this was due to pressure from other NATO allies. It therefore remains likely that Turkish authorities will seek to leverage anti-Kurdish sentiment in order to conduct limited offensive operations across the Syrian border in the short term.

In June 2023 Turkey will also hold general elections, which will include the election of the President of Turkey and elections to the country’s Grand National Assembly. Previous terror attacks between 2015 and 2017 are widely credited to have brought security issues to the forefront for the elections of 2018. It is highly likely that this attack will result in an increased focus on security in domestic political narratives in the short to medium term.

In the immediate short term, Istanbul and other major Turkish cities are likely to see an increase in the visible presence of police and security officials. Taksim square and Gezi park are the primary locations in Istanbul for civil unrest, protests and demonstrations, with an elevated security force posture in these areas very likely to remain advantageous to the Turkish authorities in the build up to the general elections next year.

Solace Global Advice

  • In the event of a terrorist attack those in the area are reminded to RUN – HIDE – TELL – FIGHT
  • Turkey has a notable risk of terrorism. Further attacks remain realistically possible, although the presence of additional security force personnel will likely mitigate the risk in the immediate term
  • Individuals with planned travel to Istanbul are advised to reconfirm itineraries and expect localised travel disruption, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the incident
  • Travellers are advised to avoid Istiklal Caddesi as emergency services remain on the scene to conduct their investigations
  • Further terror attacks in Istanbul are likely to be indiscriminate, targeting crowded areas, government or security force installations and personnel, civilians, transportation networks such as metro stations and ferry terminals, and other high-profile locations including sporting infrastructure
  • Locations where large groups of residents or tourists are known to gather are at higher risk of attack. You should be particularly vigilant in these areas and follow any specific advice or guidance from the local authorities or security personnel
  • Exercise increased caution, remain vigilant, be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity or items to security personnel as soon as possible
  • If caught in the vicinity of a security incident, seek immediate hard cover from any incoming gunfire or explosions and leave the area if safe to do so. Continue to adhere to all instructions issued by authorities and obey any security cordons in place