The security week that was: 12/09/11 (Virginia Tech four years later)

Virginia Tech: Four Years Later

Our hearts and prayers are with the Va. Tech community again today after a violent incident on campus yesterday left a police officer dead (the gunman died also, from a self-inflicted shot). For a campus that suffered just four years ago from the worst mass homicide ever on a university campus, the occurrence of yesterday’s shooting was a painful reminder of the past. I do, however, think it’s worth looking at the difference between the two responses. What a difference four years has made.

Just before Virginia Tech’s campus went on lockdown this Thursday, the Associated Press reported on an Education Department vs. Va. Tech lawsuit in which Virginia Tech was trying to get out from under a $55,000 fine for failing to take protective measures for the campus in the 2007 incident. If four years has dulled your memory of that day, the situation is that the campus police discovered on that morning that a couple was found murdered in a university dormitory. Believing (mistakenly) that it was a simple domestic violence incident, the police didn’t react with a campus notification or lock-down. What happened is forever part of the campus’ history: Seung-Hui Cho returned to campus in a rage, locked victims inside a campus classroom building and killed another 30 persons before turning his gun on himself. In between that early morning shooting and the mid-morning massacre, the Va. Tech police didn’t issue a warning that the gunman was on the loose; it’s the part of the Education Departments’ challenge and fine against the school.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum had testified that the campus police had no reason to believe that the early morning shooting was anything more than domestic violence, and because of that, the police department decided not to warn the campus. But the Education Department challenged back that in 2007 on that morning when the first bodies were discovered in the dorm, there was reason to believe that a gunman was still on the loose.

Contrast that with yesterday’s shootings. A police officer was killed, and even though police had found a body (with a gun) in a nearby parking lot, they proceeded with caution just in case the gunman was still active on campus. Armed officers raced to buildings and instructed students to lock-down, text message alerts and notifications were sent out. Precautions were taken just in case there was still a threat on campus.

The lesson in four years (even as Va. Tech tries to escape fines for its response to the 2007 massacre) is that until you know a threat is no longer active and is fully mitigated, continue to respond to that threat. It’s a good lesson for corporate security and law enforcement everywhere. Our initial instincts and quick-guess investigations can be wrong, as Va. Tech realized when Cho’s violence proved to be more than the initially believed domestic incident. Don’t let your initial guesses about an incident put you in the hot seat, waiting to be cross-examined by a lawyer.


Infinova to buy March Networks
All cash deal merges two public companies, cornerstones of video surveillance industry

In a stunning announcement on Friday, March Networks said that it has reached an agreement to be acquired by Infinova for CA$90.1 million in cash. The deal, which still has to be approved by shareholders from each company and regulatory authorities in Canada, would greatly increase Infinova’s standing in the IP video market. The two companies issued a joint press release this morning announcing the forthcoming acquisition. Per the released statement, March Networks will still be operated independently and will retain its branding. Infinova, although based in New Jersey, is traded publicly on the Chinese Stock Exchange; March Networks, another public company (from Canada) is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The deal is thought to create a number of product cross-overs (chiefly in the camera lines of each firm) as much as it creates product synergies.

In other news
Scott Harkins takes over Honeywell Security Group, mailroom X-ray keeps bomb away from bank CEO, more

There has been a change of leadership at Honeywell Security Group as Scott Harkins, who has been in charge of the company’s video surveillance and access control divisions for the past three years, will now take over its intrusion business following the departure of JoAnna Sohovich. ... Despite the current state of the global economy, demand is expected to remain high for video surveillance equipment, according to analysts at IMS Research. ... A letter bomb addressed to the CEO of Deutsche Bank was intercepted in the bank’s mailroom after being discovered in an X-ray machine. ... Eighty-nine people were killed this week when fire ripped through a seven-story hospital in Kolkata, India.