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Ports are a problem

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
In this story out of Canada, I'm fairly certain you can substitute the words "United States" for "Canada" and not change the accuracy in any way. Unfortunately, it takes an incident to draw public attention to North America's various security holes. In this case, four Algerian guys stowed away on a bus on a container ship, then "sprinted away from the commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Fairview." Those dudes must have been fast, because it took five hours to catch them. What the incident has done is get people talking, which is good: "Right now, they throw a lot of publicity at it and they say the system’s working well and they got these guys," said Bruce Brine, who headed the Halifax ports police more than a decade ago. "And I can appreciate that. They’re police executives and they have to maintain a positive public image. But basically, we’re wide open and this incident the other day just shows it. "They were just illegals trying to get in. If they were actually organized, they would have been more covert. ""What it amounts to is anybody who wants to get into the country illegally can." Brine is advocating for a dedicated ports police force. That may be a solution to the problem - there may be a number of solutions to the problem. The important thing is that people take the problem seriously, then apply whichever solutions make the most sense. Here's the scary stuff: "With that, I think they’ve accepted a tremendous liability for the taxpayers of Halifax," Mr. Brine said. "Let’s say an American cruise ship comes in and something happens, somebody gets at it because there’s no waterside security and the thing’s blown up and we have hundreds of people killed. Who is going to get sued?" It would probably take a major terrorist attack in a Canadian port to revive the ports police, said Mike Toddington, executive director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police. "Had the port police been around at the time of 9-11, there would have been absolutely no consideration of getting rid of the port police," said Mr. Toddington, who used to head the Vancouver ports police. Brine seems like a well-meaning guy, but I'm a little more worried about the "hundreds of people killed" than I am about who's liable for for the lawsuit. Doesn't that seem incredibly cynical? Security isn't about saving money, it's about saving people. Until governments (and the public that elects them) start valuing life a little more highly, security is always going to be an after-thought, something governments deal with because they don't want to look bad.

In defense of false alarms

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Next time you find yourself trying to defend the amount of false alarms in the industry (yeah, yeah we all know somebody said 97 to 99 percent of all alarms are false), cite this case to prove that SOMETIMES, false alarms can be a good thing. After all, they do get the police out there and in cases like this, cause them to hit the jackpot:PHOENIX — Officers seized 900 pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars in cash and three firearms at a Phoenix home after responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. Sgt. Andy Hill said Sunday that patrol officers responded to a west Phoenix home after a burglar alarm went off at about 2 p.m. Saturday. While investigating, Hill says officers spotted a man jump a wall by the house. Not knowing if there had been a burglary, the officers chased the man into the backyard of a nearby home. While arresting him, officers saw a storage room door open with numerous bales of marijuana inside. They found a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and about $10,000 in cash inside the house. All I have to say is 900 POUNDS of marijuana?! In bales? Really? I sure hope the police waived the fine for that guy's alarm.

Vultures swarm around USProtect carcass

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Not that I have any sympathy for them, but I wouldn't want to be the execs (former execs) at USProtect right now. You know, they're the guys who bribed a GSA employee with cash and cruises and landed $100 million+ in federal contracts? Yeah, those guys. Anyway, they're getting what's coming to them. As in: The Maryland U.S. attorney's office is seeking $6.9 million and property from a bank account owned by a Silver Spring security company whose former executive has admitted bribing a government official to secure $130 million in contracts. Federal prosecutors filed the forfeiture claim yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against USProtect, formerly called Holiday International Security, which provided guards for 18 federal agencies at 120 installations in 32 states and territories. USProtect is also now in bankruptcy filings, so if they owe you money, fat chance seeing it. As in, if you're a guard working for them, your paycheck is going to bounce. I'm kind of shocked the Baltimore Sun is the only real mainstream outlet covering this story. It seems ripe for the Dateline treatment, if you ask me - fat government contracts, bribery, everybody's fessed up.

business, video

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
So this morning I found an interesting video monitoring application being used in meat processing plants. I realize it's not exactly the market for the average security installer or integrator, but I thought it was a good example of how security technology is moving beyond traditional applications and is actually being used to improve business operations (and, in this case, the health of consumers). Arrowsight is a company that provides remote video auditing (RVA) technology (a new acronym for me), and installs these systems in meat processing and animal handling factories so managers can constantly monitor "the line" to ensure that employees are following food safety standards. In the wake of this massive meat recall with video surfacing showing unimaginable violations of meat handling compliance, knowing that somebody is keeping an eye on how the nation's meat is being handled is slightly comforting (although the company's who are progressive enough to install video monitoring systems probably aren't the ones using fork lifts to move sick cattle into the slaughter house). For the security integrators out there, this is just another example of how security systems are moving beyond traditional applications and truly becoming a tool to improve business.

Who's looking out for the industry on Capitol Hill?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
To support member of Congress who are looking out for the interests of the security industry on Capital Hill, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association has formed a new Political Action Committee. NBFAA's government relations guru John Chwat said in a statement that PACS are a great way to facilitate contributions to U.S. Congressional candidates in House and Senate races. "The legal minefield one must navigate to give directly to a candidate is confusing at best, and PACs avoid the possible problems inherent in companies trying to manage individual contributions," he said. The NBFAA will soon begin soliciting PAC contributions from member companies.

RMR that will make you fit

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I've been meaning to write about these 24-hour gyms for a while. What a great RMR opportunity for a central station with some extra capacity. If you don't have a business partnership with one of these franchises now, it's time to find one. Basically, the gyms never close, and don't need staffing at night because everyone just wears a panic alarm while they work out, and have access cards to get in the building. Just look at all the tasty business outlined here: Snap Fitness uses a slightly different panic system, said Sternitzky. Buttons are still on necklaces and walls, but a security company is called instead of police. The security officer converses with people through an intercom. If a patron collapses or is too weak to speak, rescue crews are dispatched. ... Keycards help protect members, too, said Collien. People swipe their card to gain access at Anytime, Snap and Club Fitness. At his business, patrons sign a policy not to let anyone in, even if they think the person is a member, Collien said. The measure prevents people from entering with stolen cards. Sorry, not to interrupt, but how exactly does a policy not to let people in prevent people from entering with stolen cards? If they have a card, they don't need people to let them in, right? Customers who lose their cards receive new ones, he added. The old code is canceled so others can't use it. Even when they aren't working, operators can still watch their establishments. All local 24-hour centers have surveillance, and many owners can control the cameras from off-site. Collien said his cameras are connected to his home computer so he can monitor the business anytime, even when he's home with the flu. So, that's a monthly contract for the monitoring, plus a monthly contract for the managed access control (you don't think the gyms want to deal with issuing cards and changing PINs, do you?), which needs an access control system, preferably IP so you can manage it better at the central, plus an IP surveillance system (or a networked DVR, anyway), plus some analytics (you can't allow tailgating, can you?), plus the panic buttons. That sounds like a nice little system sale, plus a substantial chunk of RMR, no? I think it's time to promote fitness in your hometown.

Surveillance is for the dogs

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Monday, March 17, 2008
Sorry, just couldn't pass this story by. Have you thought about marketing your integration firm as an animal-cruelty prevention service? Maybe you should. Anderson hired a security company to install surveillance cameras that allegedly caught the neighbor on tape, tossing two small objects [rat poison, it turns out] in the direction of Anderson's yard. A couple of years ago, the same neighbor had filed enough noise complaints about Pete that the dog's owner had to defend himself in a DeKalb County court. Last week, DeKalb County police arrested the neighbor, 46-year-old John Groover, and charged him with felony cruelty to animals. "It's like that show, 'To Catch a Predator,' [but] doggy-style," Anderson said. There seem to be a number of jokes I could make here, but none of them seems appropriate. One question: When will we stop using the phrase "caught on tape," when, in fact, nobody actually uses VCRs for surveillance anymore (at least not in new systems. I mean, right?)?

Getting ready for ISC West

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Monday, March 17, 2008
ISC West is fast approaching and all of us here at SSN and Security Director News have been booking meetings and getting ready for this annual Vegas extravaganza. I have to admit, I don't dislike Las Vegas as much as I used to. The smoke, the crowds, the faux-everything used to leave me thinking the red-eye home was a pleasant experience. After a few trips, however, I'm kind of getting used to Sin City. It's nice to see all the people I talk to all year in person at the show, and if there's no natural beauty in Vegas, there are some great places to eat and shop. Coincidentally, at my house, my husband and kids and I have been watching, and enjoying the Ocean's series of movies, having missed their first runs in the theater. Last weekend we watched the original Ocean's 11, filmed in pre-high rise Vegas, before ISC West even existed. There are a lot of dated references, but lots of cool as well: Cesar Romero's mid-century modern home; a Nelson Riddle score; a very young Angie Dickinson; Dean Martin singing 'Ain't it Kick in the Head' ; Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, and how wicked cool is Sammy Davis Jr. here singing Ee O Eleven...

Can I get an analytics salesman on the phone?

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Friday, March 14, 2008
I'm sure everybody's heard about the most recent troubles at Heathrow airport, including yesterday's event, where a man scaled a fence and waltzed onto the runway before being challenged and then arrested. Where, oh where, is the security industry in all of this? The mainstream media and government officials are being allowed to spout all manner of wrongness and no one in the security industry is being interviewed or offering their two cents. This is the perfect time, whether you're in Europe or in Kansas, to offer up guest editorials or offer yourselves as technology and systems experts. Just look at this bit: Gordon Brown, the prime minister, said he was satisfied everything was being done to ensure security at Heathrow. Speaking after arriving at an EU summit in Brussels, he said: "I think the important thing about the Heathrow incident is that the person was detained, that all the security precautions went quickly into action ... and that all possible steps were taken so that when this incident happened the arrest took place. And I'm satisfied everything is now being done to ensure security at Heathrow is intact. We are determined to protect all passengers and all staff who go through Heathrow and every other airport in the country." What? Is this guy on crack? A man was allowed to walk right under a passenger airplane carrying a backpack! Hey, England, you got lucky. All possible steps were not taken in any way, shape, or form. There are some very inexpensive (relatively) solutions that would have alerted you the moment somebody started climbing the fence. Remember when I wrote about Optellios at ASIS? Heathrow just opened a $8.6 billion terminal. They couldn't pony up a bit more for some fiberoptic cable and some software to make sure their perimeter was secure? Or how about some off-the-shelf perimeter analytics? Anybody can do fenceline nowadays. There would have been buzzers going off like no tomorrow in the central command center at Heathrow as soon as that guy got within 10 feet of the fence and he never would have made the tarmac. I have major reservations about the people in charge of aviation security in England after reading the following: The former head of security at BAA, Norman Shanks, said a higher fence would not prevent further incursions and a serious clampdown on intruders would require sophisticated motion-sensor technology. A number of systems are available or under development, including CCTV technology that detects irregular movement. However, such a move would increase the cost of a Heathrow security bill that has risen by tens of millions of pounds since the liquid bombs scare in 2006. The perimeter at Heathrow is jointly patrolled by BAA security staff and the Metropolitan police. One aviation expert said it had not changed since the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States which showed al-Qaida's continued fascination with attacking aviation. A BAA spokesman said: "If there are lessons to be learned, they will be learned." A higher fence? Seriously? "Sophisticated motion-sensor technology"? What's wrong with that? You just spent $8.6 billion! There's wasn't $1,000,000 (and that's just an arbitrary large number - no way it would have cost that much) for some perimeter security? "CCTV technology that detects irregular movement"? Seriously, the security industry needs to be out there educating the general population about what's available. If the mainstream public knew about the technologies, and their relative affordability, they would not stand for a perimeter system at the largest airport in England going un-upgraded since 2001. That's borderline criminal.

Israeli security hits the mainstream

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Thursday, March 13, 2008
Looks like I'm not the only one taking tours of Israel's security infrastructure. Here's a mainstream take from Slate. Of course, I've got some problems with it, but on the whole it's not bad. If anything, it makes me feel a little less special, obviously, if dentists and such can go on these sorts of tours. Anyway, I'd encourage you to read the Slate pieces if you enjoyed my dispatches. They confirm much of my conclusions, but their mainstream (and, I'd argue, borderline sensationalist) take is definitely a different angle.

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