The security week that was: 04/25/08

Are we numb to the Homeland Security Advisory System?

Do you know what color the Homeland Security National Threat Advisory is today? It’s yellow, which translates to “Elevated” and which indicates “significant risk of terrorist attacks”. In the airline industry, the level is orange, which means a high risk. What does this tell us? For one, the DHS says this means that at that level, Americans need to build emergency preparedness kits for their families (make sure yours has a can opener and pliers, recommends the DHS).

Do you check the color levels every day, or maybe after another terrorist leader leaks an MP3 with a new diatribe onto the Internet? If you’re like most of us, it doesn’t really shake you much. Sure, for security directors, DHS alerts about potential threats to certain industries will get your attention if that’s the kind of business you’re working to secure, but all in all, the general color-coded warnings don’t raise much alarm anymore. I've even heard of some electronic security management systems allowing rules and settings to be adjusted based on these color codes, but the overall reaction has been "ho-hum".

And apparently, this system for an "elevated" risk doesn't faze our nation's law enforcement officers either. A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey says the alert system isn't stressing police responders.

During the time of the study, the national alert level went from yellow (Elevated) to orange (High risk) five times, a move which apparently didn't stress the New Jersey law enforcement officers according to the study's results. Are we that easy going, or are we not paying attention, or is the DHS-assigned threat level irrelevant without specific threat information? Unfortunately the study didn’t look into these issues.

Reviewing growth for network video
Strong growth, but is it strong enough to release analog CCTV's grip on the market? and our sister site (for IP video and IP access control coverage) reported on new numbers from MultiMedia Intelligence that put unit growth of IP camera sales up 48 year over year from 2006 to 2007. But author Mark Kirstein says even those kind of strong growth numbers doesn't mean network video will surpass standard analog surveillance anytime in the next 5 years. Read the Q&A with researcher Mark Kirstein about network video growth.

Even more news shaping the industry
Viking sells off panel business, New York funded to protect its water

Viking, which makes fire sprinkler and fire suppression systems as well as electronic fire alarm panels, announced this week that it was divesting itself of its fire alarm panel business. It is selling that business unit to UK firm Kentec.

The Department of Defense reported that it would cost the department $17 billion in the first five years it's required to comply with a new withholding tax law that applies to contractors. The Security Industry Association is fighting this tax rule.

New York City will be getting a $12 million, state-of-the-art system to protect its drinking water. The system could include alarms, surveillance and water testing for contamination.

It's not news, but if you're looking for a curious look at how one firm made airport security screening a computer game, you can find a quick write-up and the actual link on my blog.

On SIW Radio this week
Using the malicious mindset for security assessments

As host of our SIW Radio podcast series, I caught up this week with Kevin Beaver, CISSP, to talk about the recent IDC Security Conference in Milan, Italy, and to discuss “the malicious mindset” that can be used to analyze your organization's security. Far from the “checklist” style of security assessments that some security directors and consultants do, the malicious mindset approach seeks to find those hard-to-spot flaws in your security, whether that’s IT security of physical security. The "Malicious Mindset" is Episode 26 on SIW Radio.

You can now find SIW Radio on iTunes. Go to the iTunes store and type in “SIW Radio” in the search box and we’ll come up. This allows you to subscribe directly from within iTunes (you can always subscribe via iTunes or any podcast RSS feed program by using our RSS – email us at with any questions about subscribing on content on the program).

Also, be on the lookout for our forthcoming Security Dealer & Integrator/ podcast roundtable on school security. From video to access control, from mass notification to school budgets, we’ll be covering a wide array of topics affecting school security in Episode 27.

Finally, we close as always with a look at our most read stories of the week: