I’ve been thinking a bit lately about security overkill. This includes not just the notion of “security theater” — security measures meant to inspire comfort by mere show of force/complexity — but the many instances in which someone places a layer of security between me and my everyday activities with no apparent benefit whatsoever.
My bank would surely argue that its many and various anti-fraud measures are valuable but in truth a) they are meant to protect the bank, not me; and b) they are cumbersome to the point of ridiculous. It’s gotten to where I can predict which credit-card charge will trigger the bank’s idiot algorithm and freeze my account because it didn’t like the Zip code where I used the card.
And security overkill has trickled down into the civilian world. When the class parents at my kids’ school send out a list of parent contact info at the start of each school year, it comes via a password-protected Excel spreadsheet. Keep in mind this list doesn’t contain Social Security numbers or bank information — just names, addresses, and phone numbers of the kids’ parents. I can imagine the day several months hence when someone actually needs to use the list and will find herself locked out by the long-forgotten password. Read More »
Stealing a truckload of goods in Sweden is apparently as easy as waiting for the driver to go on his lunch break. Each year, billions of euros worth of goods are stolen while in transit across Europe, but no one seems to be doing much about it. Dr Luca Urciuoli, a researcher in engineering logistics at Lund University has studied the problem and finds a transportation system ripe for criminal exploitation. From Science Daily:
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Luca Urciuoli’s research shows that many haulage companies do not make any security investments at all, even though it is fairly easy to find security measures such as theft-proof doors or windows, truck alarms, track and trace systems and mechanical locks on the market.
Going through security at U.S. airports is a continuing nuisance. One technology improvement that I saw at Brussels Airport is simple: the conveyor on which you place your computer, bag, etc., slopes downward toward the x-ray machine, so that there is no need to drag bins and bags along the conveyor. Moreover, there is an adjacent conveyor that tilts backward toward the rear of the belt on which the staff can place a pile of used bins.
These devices save passenger time and are labor-saving for the security company too — no need for the workers to drag the bins by hand or hand-truck to the rear of the belt. Are we slow to innovate (how un-American that would be!) or does cheap semi-skilled labor reduce the incentive to substitute capital for labor?
The best strategy I have found for reducing the aggravation of security screening is to pretend I am a terrorist and think about where the weaknesses are in security, and how I might slip through. I think I figured out a way to get a gun or explosives into the White House during the George W. Bush administration. I only got invited to the White House once, however, so I never got a chance to test my theory for real on a return visit. Read More »
As security guru Bruce Schneier writes, “the arms race continues.” I do wonder if, when, or how there will be a computer users’ revolt against tracking tools like this one. Read More »
Researchers at the University of Tokyo say they’ve created a paint that blocks out wireless signals, reports the BBC. You can use it, for example, to make sure your neighbor doesn’t steal your wi-fi, and movie theaters can use it to stop cell-phones from interrupting films. Read More »