The security week that was: 03/05/10

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


Questioning the value of cameras

The industry topic of the week that we latched onto was a column from security expert Bruce Schneier called "Do spy cameras make us safer?" It was originally published on CNN.com, and if you haven't read this or any of Schneier's other works, I highly recommend doing so. He has an excellent book out called Schneier on Security (the same title as his blog). That book is a collection of his essays over the years. It's one of very few security books that remains atop my desk at all times, and I've come to respect Schneier's opinion, even when I disagree with him.

Schneier's point in this latest essay is that cameras provide a false sense of security, and that the money spent on cameras would be better spent on policing. It's a reasonable point, and he is very logical in his approach, but he does miss the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is that while a camera will never slap a pair of cuffs on a criminal, you can put cameras where it's otherwise unrealistic to keep an officer (private or sworn) on post. The result is that you often get evidence where you couldn't otherwise. We asked a few industry experts to give us a response to Schneier's essay, and the result is a very popular article on our site right now with some differing opinions on the subject.

UTC closes on GE
Historic news for one of the biggest brands in security

I suppose there was a slim chance it wasn't going to happen for regulatory reasons, but GE Security has now sold. UTC closed the acquisition this week and now GE is part of a family of companies that spreads from the security and fire industry (Lenel, Kidde, Chubb, RedHawk and others) to HVAC, elevators, aircraft engines, space technology, helicopters and even fuel cells. It's a high-tech company that touts an aggressive growth strategy, and the purchase of the GE Security division comes after a tough run for GE that saw difficulties in the GE Capital division and the sale of its stake in NBC to cable and internet access provider Comcast. (To hear more about what's going on in GE and to get a perspective on GE's CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt, I recommend this article from the UK's Guardian newspaper.)

Insiders in the industry have questioned the value of GE's security offering, and some even think there would be a number of GE products that would be defunct in the short term. While I'd venture to guess that there may be small units of GE Security that will be shuttered over the coming years (much as the access division of Pelco was sold off after Pelco was acquired by TAC), the indication from UTC Fire & Security (UTCFS) is that they have no near-term plans for doing this kind of chop work on the product lines. They publically have stated the value they see for the GE people and technologies that are coming aboard (so much so that they are licensing the GE brand for 3 years!), and UTCFS has publically declared that it will not immediately end-of-life products and leave customers hanging out to dry. UTCFS President William Brown also reiterated a commitment to GE's channel partners, noting that UTCFS already has a strong channel relationship, and intends to preserve the GE channel relationship.

All in all, it's what they should be saying to make this kind of transition as smooth as possible. This is a major milestone in the industry; the kind of acquisition that is guaranteed to be remembered for a long time, and at least on the surface, UTCFS recognizes the historical significance of this move and is trying to make it a positive part of our industry's history.

In other news
Scrapping nukes detection at ports, O'Hare security called out, Nasal biometrics, and more

A gunman was killed at the Pentagon. ... DHS considers scrapping bio/nuclear detection at ports. ... Former security chief says O'Hare could be the least secure airport. ... Intel was attacked during same time as Google was being hacked. ... If you think fingerprint biometrics are invasive, what do you think about nasal biometrics, where they measure your nose? ... And from Washington, SIA lobbyists have security and safety systems exempted from an energy efficiency bill.