Schneier on Security
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May 11, 2007
The Most Secure Car Park in the World
Posted on May 11, 2007 at 6:18 AM
• 30 Comments
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Upon reading the article, it seems to me that the security is more about preventing people from leaving without paying than it is about security for the customer. I think that the security from thieves is a side affect from the desire to prevent people from leaving without paying. The title of "The Most Secure Car Park in the World" is a bit misleading in the fact that it implies that the security is for the customer. In this case, it is security for the car park owners not the customers.
Wouldn't the ultimate test for this security system would be to ask insurance companies if their lower your premium if you park there?
So what happens when someone loses their bar-coded ticket? Is there a way they can still get their car.
And one operator watching 190 cameras? How likely is that operator going to notice something illegal going on? I can only imagine that one would need to have ADD and too much caffeine to be able to watch that many cameras.
I think the sheer weight of "visible" security measures such as the need for a bar-coded ticket, the 190 CCTV cameras and the emergency buttons probably play a very large part in the "success" of this place.
Thieves will see the cameras, know about the potential lockdowns and think that it'd be easier to go and steal a car from some street corner.
As such, your car is 'safe' (ie. safer) in this carpark than on the street because the majority of thieves will choose to go elsewhere.
The whole thing about an alarm going off if the car is moved without the ticket being presented is just a way to make sure that the carpark operator gets their money, I think.
One potential weak spot I can see is the reliance on the barcoded ticket. You need one to gain entry to the carpark. OK, that's safe. What happens if a roll of unused tickets goes missing? Or someone drops their ticket as they leave the carpark? Or someone finds a way to bamboozle the ticket reader into opening? Also there is the issue of public health and safety. This carpark would not be allowed to lockdown in the event of a fire alarm as that would endanger life. A quick moving gang of car thieves could possibly use that to their advantage.
The other weak point I can see is that there are 190 CCTV cameras being monitored by "an operator". If it is a single person monitoring 190 screens then that could cause a problem if there were multiple events occuring simultaneously.
On the other hand, how can you have a car park that is secure for the customers, but not for the owner? A car park that is insecure for the owner, will attract bad people. Bad people make places unsafe for normal people (customers). So, by making your car park safe for the owner (scaring away the real bad people), you also make it safer for the customers.
It's not that I disagree with you, just playing advocate of the devil.
> So what happens when someone loses their bar-coded ticket?
> Is there a way they can still get their car.
Hell no. Obviously not. Even a court order will not allow you to get it back. The car is gone and will forever remain in that building.
Some videos and animations of these things in action. There are some different approaches to solving the same problem. One of these reminds me of RoboRally...
@Steve BarbedWireKiss: "This carpark would not be allowed to lockdown in the event of a fire alarm as that would endanger life. A quick moving gang of car thieves could possibly use that to their advantage."
Even in case of fire there's no need to let *vehicles* out of the building. One could integrate fire doors into the main gates so that people could get out while vehicles cannot.
One might be able to exploit this to steal things *out of cars*, however.
Heck with the security the foam between the cars makes it worth using for me.
What about side effects?
If you really want a particular car, you must steal the ticket (and the key while you are at it) from the owner.
That is, a side effect is to move the crime from a property crime to a personal crime.
As an example, car jacking effectively did not exist in the U.S. until car security became widely available.
How can Bold Lane be as secure as Fort Knox or Area 51 if they do not totally inspect each car entering for explosives. It would be very easy for terrorists entering Bold Lane to detonate explosives hidden in a car, blowing the place up. How is that secure? Many high security places do carefully examine each car before entry.
Comparing Bold Lane to Fort Knox or Area 51 is typical British overstatement.
@ Steve BarbedWireKiss: "If it is a single person monitoring 190 screens then that could cause a problem if there were multiple events occuring simultaneously"
For example, if the operator is male, a scantilly clad female may suffice. Especially, if she...
I think the key statement was "no reported criminal activities" :) So, how would this place fare against penetration testers? The way they discuss their facility is practically a challenge for hackers...
I lived in Detroit for three years, at a time when car alarms would get set off by changes in air pressure (e.g., an approaching storm). Unless the car's owner was within earshot, they'd wail away for hours, ignored, until the car's battery died.
They were mostly annoying; it was hard to imagine that they deterred any crime. Detroit police had better things to do than investigate loudly screeching parked cars, of which there were surely thousands/day citywide.
Since then, though, the technology has obviously improved. If car alarms deter theft to the extent that they "caused" the carjacking phenomenon, that may be a reasonable trade-off, given the tiny number of (highly publicized) carjackings versus the huge number of thefts.
Marketing hype. This isn't secure until they allow no more than 8oz of gasoline in the tanks, come up with a No Car Park list, have anonymous Marshalls who park their car unannounced and fortify the management office doors.
Apparently, it's been corrected since you posted this.
Many commentators note that 190 cameras might be difficult to adequately monitor by one operator.
However, I would imagine that the amount of activity in the car-park at any one time is probably minimal, except at the beginning and end of the business day (when, I agree, more operators are probably required). A simple "image-differencing" detector, which somehow draws attention (flashing border, pop-up on centrally-located "active" screen, etc.) would make monitoring much more feasible, during low-traffic periods.
Given 190 cameras, one monitor and a cycle time of 15 seconds per camera it would take 190/4= 47.5 minutes to cycle back to the same view. Plenty of time to rob a vehicle.
Even 8 monitors yields 6 minutes between views.
"the sensor also checks for vertical motion such as that caused by a person getting into the car."
So, what happens if you forgot your jacket in the car? Or, you went shopping and want to drop off a bunch of heavy bags in the trunk? Or, it's a cool day and you want to leave your rambunctious dog in the car (who likes to bounce around)? There's a number of reasons you'd get false alarms on this one.
If they are this high-tech, why dont they show where the spaces are empty instead of you having to "search for one" (as shown)? And prohibit further entry until someone leaves (unlike my college parking lot where once you enter you have to pay to leave even if there are no spaces).
I like using the under-car sensors to tell if the slot is being used or not. I expect the next generation will be able to tell how much the driver and passengers weigh ...
Anyone know what the parking fees are? I assume these are higher that the average and seriously doubt if you make a sound risk analysis (we're not talking protecting difficult-to-value human lifes here) you'll find that the trade-off would be worth it.
bob wrote ...
If they are this high-tech, why dont they show where the spaces are empty instead of you having to "search for one" (as shown)?
One of parking garages at Pearson International Airport (YYZ; Toronto Canada) has a LED display at the end of each row showing the number of empty spaces. Quite helpful.
There's also another one in Lancaster, England, too.
I've used it a few times; works very well.
I agree that "recognised as one of the most secure places in the world" is interest-generating hyperbole and nonsense from a non-specialist magazine. After all the phrase "most secure place" isn't even well defined. However this article was only started a couple of weeks ago, and if you check its discussion page there is already talk about how this is an exaggeration and needs to be fixed.
Having said that, I really applaud the operators of this car park. Most car parks are dingy, high crime areas, dangerous for people and property alike, and the operators also totally absolve themsleves of any damage to your vehicle even if it is caused by their poor car park design. Parksafe seems to have created a system which -- wheher or not "one of the most secure places in the world" -- is at least quite reasonably safe and secure for cars and people, and they even take care to avoid damage to your car and provide a guarantee to this effect. Then -- good heavens! -- they actually create a business model by GUARANTEEING their good security!!
Does it work? Well, the claimed data certainly seems to support it. From 161 crimes per year to none in 6 years. One could certainly quibble about reporting issues and so forth but unless these figurs are totally fabricated there has obviously been a massive improvement.
There should be more of it. Well done Parksafe.
Hmm, first, apologies for typos in my previous post -- this keyboard needs cleaning! Secondly, a couple of specific points in answer to other posters (some of these answers are derived by reading Parksafe's website):
1. Q: If it's so hi-tech, why can't they direct drivers to empty bays? A: They can.
2. Q: How does the operator monitor 190 cameras at once? A: He/she doesn't. Most of the camera views are only displayed to the operator when an abnormal condition is detected by the sensors. The function of the operator then being to use human intelligence to filter out false alarms before directing a response. This is pretty much what this blog has previously agreed to be the right way to use CCTV for security.
3. Q: Wouldn't the ultimate test for this security system would be to ask insurance companies if their lower your premium if you park there? A: Probably not. The driver would need to guarantee that he/she never parks anywhere else, which is pretty unlikely and impossible to prove. And car insurance is a low-margin, dog-eat-dog area of the insurance business which just doesn't offer that sort of flexibility. (I actually tried such a negotiation once, but the insurance companies weren't interested; if it wasn't already on their scripted computer checklist, it didn't get a discount.) And in any case, most car insurance policies do not cover theft of goods from a car. They cover damage done while breaking in, but that will usually be less than the excess, or only slightly greater than it (and you risk losing the "no claim bonus") so there is no point making a claim.
4. Q: Isn't this just for the benefit of the operators, to avoid people leaving without paying? A: I don't think so. If that were the case, they wouldn't guarantee to make good all losses suffered by their customers.
"When the driver returns they may only gain entrance to the building using their ticket and, on payment of the parking charges, the sensor is turned off."
It does look like they are going towards perfect security, perfect economical security for the car park company of course!
gee thanks for your incredible insight there, stian
I believe the completely automated parking garages made by e.g.
are more secure than the one referred to in the article. At least the risk of someone breaking into or stealing the car is close to zero, since you can't even get inside the thing (let alone drive out). You leave the car at the entrance and the machine parks it for you. The only way to get the car out again is for the machine to do it when you give back the original ticket.
I 've previously misplaced my ticket to Bold Lane. Unfortunately, I don't recall the procedure for vehicle recovery - I do remember, however, that it cost a full day's charge, as opposed to one or two hours'. I don't even recall if there was a check to see if the car belonged to me (which would be an almost trivial call to the ever helpful information sieve that is the DVLA).
As another poster has alluded to, it is as much to do with ensuring payment from the customer as it is making the customer feel that their vehicle is safe.
In my case, a car thief is less likely to half inch my (albeit not very good) car, if they are prevented from leaving without subjecting to even a cursory test of ownership, and a economic penalty. For the thief, the risk / reward is not in his favour, whereas for the owner, the benefit is clear, even if salutary.
As for expense - I've never parked anywhere else in Derby, due to the fear of breakin or theft, so cannot compare the relative local price. As I live in central London, however, I can park for a whole day in Bold Lane for the same price as 40 minutes on the street in London.
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