Essays in the Category “Physical Security”
A core, not side, effect of technology is its ability to magnify power and multiply force—for both attackers and defenders. One side creates ceramic handguns, laser-guided missiles, and new-identity theft techniques, while the other side creates anti-missile defense systems, fingerprint databases, and automatic facial recognition systems.
The problem is that it's not balanced: Attackers generally benefit from new security technologies before defenders do. They have a first-mover advantage.
An unidentified man breached airport security at Newark Airport on Sunday, walking into the secured area through the exit, prompting an evacuation of a terminal and flight delays that continued into the next day. This problem isn't common, but it happens regularly. The result is always the same, and it's not obvious that fixing the problem is the right solution.
This kind of security breach is inevitable, simply because human guards are not perfect.
Recent stories have documented the ridiculous effects of zero-tolerance weapons policies in a Delaware school district: a first-grader expelled for taking a camping utensil to school, a 13-year-old expelled after another student dropped a pocketknife in his lap, and a seventh-grader expelled for cutting paper with a utility knife for a class project. Where's the common sense? the editorials cry.
These so-called zero-tolerance policies are actually zero-discretion policies. They're policies that must be followed, no situational discretion allowed.
Physical locks aren't very good. They keep the honest out, but any burglar worth his salt can pick the common door lock pretty quickly.
It used to be that most people didn't know this. Sure, we all watched television criminals and private detectives pick locks with an ease only found on television and thought it realistic, but somehow we still held onto the belief that our own locks kept us safe from intruders.
Biometrics may seem new, but they're the oldest form of identification. Tigers recognise each other's scent; penguins recognise calls. Humans recognise each other by sight from across the room, voices on the phone, signatures on contracts and photographs on drivers' licences. Fingerprints have been used to identify people at crime scenes for more than 100 years.
Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.
Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Resilient, an IBM Company.