Entries Tagged "concealment"

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Security Idiocy Story

From the Dilbert blog:

They then said that I could not fill it out—my manager had to. I told them that my manager doesn’t work in the building, nor does anyone in my management chain. This posed a problem for the crack security team. At last, they formulated a brilliant solution to the problem. They told me that if I had grocery bag in my office I could put the laptop in it and everything would be okay . Of course, I don’t have grocery bags in my office. Who would? I did have a windbreaker, however. So I went up to my office, wrapped up the laptop in my windbreaker, and went back down.

People put in charge of implementing a security policy are more concerned with following the letter of the policy than they are about improving security. So even if what they do makes no sense—and they know it makes no sense—they have to do it in order to follow “policy.”

Posted on August 6, 2008 at 1:52 PMView Comments

Sunglasses that Hide your Face from Cameras

Clever. Article and video:

They work by mounting two small infrared lights on the front. The wearer is completely inconspicuous to the human eye, but cameras only see a big white blur where your face should be.

Building them is a snap: just take a pair of sunglasses, attach two small but powerful IR LEDS to two pairs of wires, one wire per LED. Then attach the LEDs to the glasses; the video suggests making a hole in the rim of the glasses to embed the LEDs. Glue or otherwise affix the wires to the temples of the glasses. At the end of the temples, attach lithium batteries. They should make contact with the black wire, but the red wires should be left suspended near the batteries without making contact. When you put them on the red wire makes contact, turning the lights on. It’s functional, but we’re thinking that installing an on/off switch would be more elegant and it would allow you to wear them without depleting the batteries.

EDITED TO ADD (7/8): Doubts have been raised about whether this works as advertised against paparazzi cameras. I can’t tell for sure one way or the other.

Posted on July 7, 2008 at 1:54 PMView Comments

Security Through Obscurity

Sometimes security through obscurity works:

Yes, the New York Police Department provided an escort, but during more than eight hours on Saturday, one of the great hoards of coins and currency on the planet, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was utterly unalarmed as it was bumped through potholes, squeezed by double-parked cars and slowed by tunnel-bound traffic during the trip to its fortresslike new vault a mile to the north.

In the end, the move did not become a caper movie.

“The idea was to make this as inconspicuous as possible,” said Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of the American Numismatic Society. “It had to resemble a totally ordinary office move.”


Society staff members were pledged to secrecy about the timing of the move, and “we didn’t tell our movers what the cargo was until the morning of,” said James McVeigh, operations manager of Time Moving and Storage Inc. of Manhattan, referring to the crew of 20 workers.

From my book Beyond Fear, pp. 211-12:

At 3,106 carats, a little under a pound and a half, the Cullinan Diamond was the largest uncut diamond ever discovered. It was extracted from the earth at the Premier Mine, near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1905. Appreciating the literal enormity of the find, the Transvaal government bought the diamond as a gift for King Edward VII. Transporting the stone to England was a huge security problem, of course, and there was much debate on how best to do it. Detectives were sent from London to guard it on its journey. News leaked that a certain steamer was carrying it, and the presence of the detectives confirmed this. But the diamond on that steamer was a fake. Only a few people knew of the real plan; they packed the Cullinan in a small box, stuck a three-shilling stamp on it, and sent it to England anonymously by unregistered parcel post.

This is a favorite story of mine. Not only can we analyze the complex security system intended to transport the diamond from continent to continent—the huge number of trusted people involved, making secrecy impossible; the involved series of steps with their associated seams, giving almost any organized gang numerous opportunities to pull off a theft—but we can contrast it with the sheer beautiful simplicity of the actual transportation plan. Whoever came up with it was really thinking—and thinking originally, boldly, and audaciously.

This kind of counterintuitive security is common in the world of gemstones. On 47th Street in New York, in Antwerp, in London: People walk around all the time with millions of dollars’ worth of gems in their pockets. The gemstone industry has formal guidelines: If the value of the package is under a specific amount, use the U.S. Mail. If it is over that amount but under another amount, use Federal Express. The Cullinan was again transported incognito; the British Royal Navy escorted an empty box across the North Sea to Amsterdam—where the diamond would be cut—while famed diamond cutter Abraham Asscher actually carried it in his pocket from London via train and night ferry to Amsterdam.

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 1:13 PMView Comments

Friday Squid Blogging: Camouflage in Squids

How squids and other cephalopods camouflage themselves:

A clue to how cephalopods disguise themselves so quickly came to Dr. Hanlon when he and his colleagues reviewed thousands of images of cuttlefish, trying to sort their patterns into categories. “It finally dawned on me there aren’t dozens of camouflage patterns,” he said. “I can squeeze them into three categories.”

One category is a uniform color. Cephalopods take on this camouflage to match a smooth-textured background. The second category consists of mottled patterns that help them hide in busier environments. Dr. Hanlon calls the third category disruptive patterning. A cuttlefish creates large blocks of light and dark on its skin. This camouflage disrupts the body outlines.

It’s not often you can find research on the intersection of security and squid.

Posted on February 22, 2008 at 4:09 PMView Comments

Little People Hiding in Luggage

This is both clever and very weird:

Swedish police are quizzing “people of limited stature” with criminal records following a spate of robberies from the cargo holds of coaches – possibly carried out by dwarves smuggled onboard in sports bags.


National coach operator Swebus confirmed it’d been hit by the audacious crims, who have over the last few months has lifted “thousands of pounds” in cash, jewellery and other valuables.

The company’s sales manager, Ingvar Ryggasjo, said that one short person had been put aboard a coach in a hockey bag. A female passenger said she’d seen some men squeezing the “large, heavy bag” into the cargo hold, and that she later found she’d been relieved of stuff including a camera and purse.

Posted on February 4, 2008 at 1:19 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.