The Security Week That Was: 10/12/07

Security and Questioning

I did a bit of travelling this week, and each time I stand in airport security queue line, I get to think a lot about security. As it was, I was checking in for a flight and an airline security representative came through the line to see documents and do a little bit of pre-screening. Notably, the questions the woman asked were rather open-ended, going with the tact of "Who packed these suitcases?" rather than "Did you pack these suitcases?"

The line of questioning, I must say, was rather good, because they didn't lead you to yes/no answers, but rather open, descriptive answers that they could use to learn more about you, your luggage and possibly hidden intentions. It seemed she was also interested in the mental demeanor of the person as they answered these questions, so there was probably an element of psychological profiling occurring.

So when I returned to computer's inbox, I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from a firm called Chameleon Associates that discussed the role of questioning in security operations. They stressed the same value that I had seen at the check-in line, but recognized that more of the emphasis is often put upon reactive measures and technologies.

"So why don't we in security invest more in questioning?" asked the email from Chameleon Associates.

And to answer, they responded to their own question. "There's the risk of appearing invasive. Not trusting personnel to ask these types of questions effectively. Feeling comfortable staying with a traditional, defensive approach. All of these reasons are valid. However, in the context of a security objective that aims to prevent we would do well to recognize the power of questioning."

Certainly, it can appear invasive -- I was a bit off guard when I started to describe all the varieties of technology in my carry-on (I'm always loaded with cameras, digital voice recorders, laptop, power adapters, and more) -- but I agree with Chameleon Associates that good questioning can be a great deterrent to crime and/or terror.

Responding to Verified Response
Inland Empire association's president says opposition is not self-serving, but designed to serve customers

A couple of weeks ago, we noted that Fontana, Calif. -- a town facing a budget crunch that needed to cut expenses -- had activated its verified response policy on Oct. 1. It was, as we noted, an issue of great debate for the city. Apparently, the public discourse is not over yet. Inland Empire Alarm Association's President Richard Jimenez responded to the community again after the ordinance took affect with an overall critique of the town's verified response policy. If you're in the business of alarms or monitoring, it's worth a read.

A Week of School Violence
Maybe it's still one-in-a-million, but perception says otherwise

These incidents of school shootings happen all too often. A few years ago, we'd have said, yes, but they're statistically pretty rare, but lately I think that trend just might be changing. Even with an incident in Cleveland, Ohio, this week , and another possible Columbine-style event narrowly averted in the Philadelphia suburbs (where it turns out that the mother was suspected of aiding the child in purchasing weapons!), these incidents may still be statistically pretty rare. However, sometimes the numbers and statistics and one-in-a-million ratios don't matter, and instead it is the perception of safety and security that matters. The perception right now, of course, is that schools are unsafe, and that's a perception we have a duty to change.

Finally, we close with a look at the most read articles of the week: