Thursday, 28 February 2008 18:39

Point-of-ingress Security - Pretty-well Pointless says DHS

A recent Department of Homeland Security Report strongly suggests that point-of-impact security, for example checkpoints at airports, is far too late in the sequence of events to properly detect and deal with terrorism threats.

A recently published DHS report paints a pretty gloomy picture for the future of airport security checkpoints.

DHS analysed eight separate successful terrorist incidents around the world, four rail and four airline events with some interesting conclusions.  The overriding, very clear conclusion is that the only effective deterrent is the one that occurs before the plan is set in action.  The report outlines five critical modes of plot failure. 

Firstly, poor operational security.  In essence, the terrorists give themselves away through their communications and other aspects of plot planning. 

Secondly, public vigilance.  In the immortal words of John Howard, “Be alert, not alarmed.”  It seems this might actually be useful, if you call the toll-free number of course!  And they believe you.

Thirdly, what the report refers to as “terrorist profile indicators.”  The public and security organisations being attuned to typical (read as – abnormal for the most of us) behaviour.  This is the most concerning attribute – it sure looks like ethnic and religious profiling.

The fourth is law enforcement and intelligence information sharing.  This is relatively obvious, allowing various groups to pool isolated information into a more coherent story.  The primary issue is obviously a weakened signal-to-noise ratio.

Finally, the report identifies international cooperation.  Essentially, this is an outgrowth of the fourth point, but is still a serious concern amongst highly parochial governments and their security organisations.

None of these suggests the value of close-to-the-event security.  The only useful security methods in this arena are based on passenger analysis - well developed by Israeli security experts.  If you’re waiting for a flight within or out of Israel, expect to be approached on a number of occasions by security personnel, interested in your travel plans and expectations.  El Al, in contrast to most other airlines will happily provide you with a metal knife on your flight!

To quote from the study: “It is our hope that the analysis presented in this report is useful to these communities [referring to a previously stated list of interested parties to the report] and others interested in protecting the U.S. and its allies from terrorist attack. We further hope that our research leads to discussion among the many stakeholders in this important area and serves as a catalyst for continued research.”

We can only hope that the communities in question actually pay attention and allow passengers to once again actually enjoy the flying experience.

Unfortunately, Fat Chance!

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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