The Security Week That Was: A Recap - July 30-Aug. 5, 2005

A week ago, we put a column up on the site and promoted it in this very newsletter that dealt with the issues of CCTV & civil liberties. Jack Gin presented the argument that in order to maintain security, as citizens we have to recognize that we're going to lose a bit of privacy.

As calls for increased surveillance came from around the world, and as random bag searches were implemented in NYC's subways, we expected we'd soon hear charges that civil liberties were being broken down. Finally, this morning, a story about a lawyer of the New York Civil Liberties Union who finds fault with the bag searches came across our newswire. The NYCLU lawyer claimed that the searches not only were ineffective, but they invaded civil liberties. As far as the effectiveness of randomized bag searches, I can't argue one way or the other whether it's effective -- time will simply have to tell. But as far as the invasion of civil liberties, do we not do essentially the same thing at airports, except that we have the resources to make it not random, but required of all? When people walk into concert halls, our security staff members search purses and pockets for hidden contraband. Random and selective searches also are part of any border crossing, and in our educational facilities, many security directors are taking the time to pass students through metal detection equipment. So, why, I ask, does a similar act (and one which is less intrusive because it only affects a limited number of random persons) become a breakdown of civil liberties when conducted in a subway system? I don't have the answer to that one, and I suspect you also are scratching your heads wondering why searches in subways are an invasion of civil liberties, but searches at airports aren't?

Okay, let's put that behind us, since there's the business of security to attend. The big news this week was our story that the Police Chief in Dallas was getting fed up with dealing with false alarms and tentatively proposed a verified response program for the city. The alarm industry immediately established contact with Chief Kunkle and city council members to attempt to diffuse the situation, but this brings up the issue of how we can really expect the police to verify every alarm when so many are false? We posed this question in our forums earlier this year, and many respondents from within our industry seemed to be agreeing with the police that it's the responsibility of the alarm industry to either 1) keep false alarms to a minimum, or 2) accept the fact that verified response policies will be the natural response to this problem. If you want to comment on this continuing issue of false alarms, jump into our forums and pick up the thread where it left off.

While we're on the topic of alarm monitoring and response, we ought to mention a couple pieces of growth and acquisitions news from the week. Honeywell Security Monitoring (HSM) has continued to grow by acquisition; this week it was the accounts from National Alarm Pro. Also in the news: Westec Interactive is jumping aboard the wave of high-end monitoring with a cash infusion and a new monitoring facility to be opened in Iowa.

You want "convergence"? Then pay attention to DefCon, a show that's basically a hacker's paradise. DefCon concluded this week, and reports out of the show included some interesting presentation topics, including "attacking biometric systems" and a two-part course on beginning and advanced lock picking. While most of the information was more about denial of service hacks and wireless network security, these two classes made us sit up straight and pay attention because they're not the kind of typical IT hack presentations you'd expect. This is what you're up against, folks! Fortunately there are good people on our side. Look for an upcoming piece to appear on SIW from a top biometrics company that will break the myths of biometric attacks and detail how secure biometrics is today. As far as the lock picking, you're already using electronic access control plus motion sensors accompanying those doors, right?

Finally, here's what your peers are reading this week on