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Napolitano gets down to business

Monday, March 2, 2009

You may remember a few weeks back when Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued an array of action directives to evaluate the health and workings of DHS. Well, the directives are in and last week Napolitano went before the House Committee on Homeland Security to discuss "the path forward" for DHS.

There was lots of good news for security manufacturers with a call for improved technology:

It is difficult to think of an area of DHS operation where a greater use of cutting-edge technology would not improve capabilities. Our border security efforts, port screening, transportation security, customs processes, immigration programs, and preparedness and interoperability efforts could all benefit from a strong push to develop new technologies and implement them in the field.

She also discussed transportation security issues.

The review identified a number of areas where risks to transportation security could be reduced. Resources such as explosives detection systems and transit, rail, and port security personnel contained in the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will enable the Department to accelerate the mitigation of risk in these areas.

Also, something I found interesting and evidently I had missed the issuance of this directive, was an evaluation of DHS's role in healthcare surge. I know I'm a little obsessed with pandemic flu outbreak and other healthcare preparedness issues, but I was surprised to see DHS involved in this issue. Napolitano stated that DHS's role would include:

DHS’s supporting role in coordinating response to such an incident, and how the Department’s preparedness and public communications efforts could better facilitate existing healthcare surge capacities.

Also, in case you missed Napolitano on 60 Minutes last night, here's the link (I couldn't get the video to play, but it could be my computer). It was a pretty frightening piece on the drug wars in Mexico, which basically concluded that the Mexican government is out-gunned, out-financed and often working in collaboration with drug cartels. Napolitano voiced concern that the violence will spill over into the U.S. and reiterated some of the points on border security.

School security still a community matter

Saturday, February 28, 2009

So, I had a chance to sit down with Bob Hellmuth, the director of the department of school safety and security for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. This guy has quite the job. He's in charge of ensuring that the county's 200 schools are protected and its 21,000 employees and 138,000 students are kept safe. I asked him about the biggest challenges he faces, which of course involved technology (we were at TechSec after all, so technology was on the minds of all in attendance) and funding issues, but the point I found most interesting and perhaps often overlooked was the challenge of working with the community. He said about half of parents and community members want to see more security in schools and think schools aren't doing enough to protect their children, while the other half doesn't understand why the school has to video tape their children. Hellmuth said trying to communicate with the public about his security program is a balancing act between addressing the security needs of the school system and the concerns of the community. Look for a video interview with Bob on sdnTVnews as well as a more comprehensive article in our newswire and April edition.

TechSec, day 2

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm a bit behind in posting my wrap-up of day two of our TechSec Solutions event because I spent most of the day traveling yesterday. I suppose I could have blogged on Wednesday night after the event wrapped-up, but I thought dinner and drinks were more important. Sorry ...

Anyway, day two kicked off with the Technology Lightning Round, a session that gave five manufacturers a chance to showcase their "cool" products to the audience. I was especially impressed with Vumii's camera, and Randall Foster's declaration that the company website is not "a porn site."

Next up was a great presentation by Paul Bodell, chief marketing officer for IQinVision and Bob Hellmuth, director of the Department of School Safety and Security for Montgomery County Public Schools. Bob outlineg the huge security overhaul Montgomery has gone through since it experienced a few issues — once a guy came to the school with roses expecting to meet a girl he met online and another time, a gun went off. Lesichen is working on a story on this for next week's newswire so stay tuned.

Although turnout to the Cyber Insurance session, led by Privaris' Steve McDorman, was light it is my humble opinion that people missed out. Steve talked about how a company's desire to have cyber insurance will affect the physical security of an organization. Although the process to gain this type of coverage is more confusing and cumbersome than I can tackle in this forum, the bottom line is that stronger physical security protocols can equate to lower policy premiums. Rob Zivney said he's going to steal this as a sales tactic.

The final panel of the day was all about standards: ONVIF, PSIA, Smart Card Alliance and SIA. These groups are fighting it out for the title of best standards group but I think it might be best for them to all work together to complete this task. Are many standards better than one? As an end user, do you care about standards? Or do you just care whether or not products are interoperable?

I, along with the rest of the team here, put a lot of work into TechSec over the year (sometimes more work than I put into the book!) and there are always some positive and negatives. The negatives this year? Attendance was down. The positives? Quantity overcame quality. As I look to 2010, all I really want is to figure out how to make people stay for the closing session. And let's be honest, that might be more challenging than figuring out this whole convergence thing.

TechSec, day 1

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Well, TechSec, part one, is done, but a full day still awaits the roughly 200 attendees here. People kept asking me if attendance was down and yes, it is. But everything is down right now and economic conditions are certainly at the forefront of everyone's mind. I've heard some people say that the security industry is recession proof but here at TechSec, that sentiment has been replaced by a cautious outlook for the rest of the year. But people were still having a good time here and the bar at The Fairmont continues to be the place to be after the show shuts down for the day.

The day started off with a keynote presentation by Jack Johnson, former DHS CSO, on IPv6. I had the chance to sit with Jack at dinner last night and have to tell you all that his stories about his past experiences in law enforcement, DHS and the Secret Service are not only incredibly interesting but extremely hilarious. This guy knows much more about security than technology and I wish that had been more prominently showcased in his keynote address.

Paul Novak, vice president of industry sales with Pelco, filled in at the last minute to talk about applications for IP technology that will add value to the business. You've heard me talk all about this stuff before — using traditional security technology for non-traditional applications like retail traffic analysis and workforce optimization — but Paul is much more engaging on stage than I could ever be. My hats off to Paul and my thanks to him and the Pelco team as well.

I really enjoyed the presentation from Dave Fowler from VidSys, Sid Hasan from Motorola and Eric Borton with the Arlington Texas Police. Eric and the rest of the force in Arlington recently beefed up their camera system because the Cowboys are coming to town as well as the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game. When the force found out the stadium was going to be built in the city, it did not hire one additional police officer, it added cameras to augment its existing force instead.

More to come today including some SDNtvNews videos. Stay tuned.


'Integral guys' buy Pelco access biz

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sam beat me to the punch on this one so I'll just direct you to his blog for all the details.

Will uniforms stop terrorists?

Friday, February 20, 2009

So, here's a little Friday fun for you. Actually, there's nothing funny about terrorism, of course, but I thought this article was amusing for its fairly ridiculous effort in the fight against terrorism. First of all, the headline is: Clayton schools fight terrorism with bus driver uniforms, which, while certainly eye catching, says enough about the absurdity of this argument.

But there's more. The article says that the Clayton School District is spending $70,000 to outfit its bus drivers with uniforms in an effort to prevent terrorists from hijacking school buses.

“We wanted to be proactive in an effort to protect our children from terrorists,” Lyles said Tuesday. “Before uniforms, the kids could have a substitute bus driver and a terrorist could get on the bus and take 70 kids. Students wouldn’t know if this is the person who is supposed to drive the bus.”

So, yes, uniforms would help identify drivers, but I think it's slightly asinine to think that terrorists who were bound and determined to hijack a school bus couldn't come up with an embroidered polo shirt. I mean, really.

However, in their defense, the article does point out that this is only part of a larger school bus security program, but I just think arguing that uniforms will prevent terrorism is a bit of a "security stretch." Yep, I'm coining that phrase, you read it here first.

Really, Cambridge, really?

Friday, February 20, 2009

I've seen a lot of stories come through regarding the use, and the uproar, over EIGHT video surveillance cameras installed in Cambridge, Mass. (For those of you not familiar with the Beantown area, Cambridge is across the river from Boston)

Apparently, the city purchased eight cameras to watch over certain streets but the cameras have yet to be 'live' because public opinion has reared its ugly head, and the city council has crumbled under the pressure. I guess the concern is centered around who would have access to the images, what they would be used for and possible invasions of privacy.

According to the Boston Globe, the cameras are part of a "controversial surveillance network" designed to link Cambridge with Boston and seven other communities. The cameras were paid for with a $4.6-million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.

OK — eight cameras are controversial? The city is a hop, skip and a jump away from Boston where there are more surveillance cameras than I could ever count. Hey, you people who live in Cambridge — the local gas station has cameras and I would bet that most businesses you walk in and out of regularly do. Why all the fuss about these? All these were installed to do is to monitor traffic on evacuation routes.

Here's the classic quote from the local ACLU:
"Under the circumstances, when there was so little actually known about how they would be used, we felt that it was really important [that] people understood the implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled," said Nancy Murray, director of education for ACLU Massachusetts. "It's potentially liable to all sorts of abuse, from First Amendment rights to demonstrate and hold vigils, to people's privacy rights."

OK, lady, these are surveillance cameras. They are used to monitor places, help reduce crime, augment security officials and law enforcement. The implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled? Are they cameras that may morph into Transformers? Are the other thousands of cities that have deployed municipal surveillance cameras since 9/11 experiencing "all sorts of abuse?" For goodness sakes people.

OK, if you live in Cambridge and are afraid because someone monitoring these cameras might see you engaging in some criminal behavior, then the ACLU is right, these cameras are going to screw you. Life as you know it is over.

Over the years, I've talked to a bunch of law enforcement and government officials who have said local residents want and support CCTV, and its always the ACLU that comes in and causes all the ruckus. Don't they have another soap box to climb upon?

And that is my rant for the day. —Rhianna Daniels

Getting naked in the name of security

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I just read this article in USA Today that the Tulsa International Airport has begun an "experimental" program replacing metal detectors with full body scanners. The article also said that airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months.

The $170,000 full-body scanners will replace the $10,000 metal detectors, although passengers who don't feel comfortable bearing it all for the sake of security can opt to go through an old fashion metal detector and surrender to a pat down.

I must admit, I'm feeling very conflicted about this technology. The security side of me acknowledges that body scanners are more advanced than metal detectors and can more readily detect hidden objects, but the business side of me wonders if it's really $160,000 better. And, on a personal level, I certainly have some hesitation about allowing a stranger to see my naked image. I know, I know, it's not suppose to be that revealing, but let's face it, that image leaves little to the imagination. [I tried posting a picture, but no luck. Just google images "full body scanner" and you'll see what I mean.] And, the TSA better be 100 percent confident that none of these images get saved, because the first time Britney Spears walks through a body scanner and it gets sold for gobs of money to some celebrity magazine, there will be rioting in the streets and the TSA will have to eat $170,000 times who knows how many machines. That would not contribute to efforts to economize the TSA and Napolitano will not be happy. I promise.

The benefits of being neighborly

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I took a petit vacation to Quebec City for the long holiday weekend and I must say, those French Canadians are crazy - in a fun way, of course. Actually, I might be a little crazy too for traveling farther North in February, but it was the last weekend of Carnival and I wanted to say goodbye to Bonhomme. If you haven't had a chance to experience Carnival, I highly recommend you check it out. I can't help but appreciate people who instead of suffering and whining about winter, choose to throw a huge 17-day outdoor party. If you go, just be sure to wear the warmest clothes you own (people wear their snowsuits, so don't worry about fashion).

Anyway, so, of course, going to Canada means crossing the border. I grew up near the border in Vermont and I know that it's usually a lot easier to get into Canada than to get out, but luckily we didn't have any problems or long waits. However, when I got back to the office this article caught my eye.

The article is about a new paper released this week by the Canadian International Council which highlights the importance of border collaboration and argues that working together can not only improve border security, but also have economic impacts as well.

Since 2001, border management in the United States has been dominated by security and law enforcement perspectives, but the author [Geoffrey Hale] argues for a much broader review of border management policies to ensure Canadian and American administrations optimize cross-border collaboration, while containing and reducing identified risks to their citizens and pursuing policies that contribute to their broader economic well-being and security.

In his paper, Dr. Hale further argues Canadians and Americans must jointly:

1. Show effective leadership to drive necessary investments in new infrastructure and technologies and strengthen cooperation among departmental agencies and orders of government.

2. Further ensure full and joint capacity-building for the processing of goods and persons, especially at border crossings that operate on a 24/7 basis.

3. Immediately improve the coordination of trusted shipper programs to better harmonize entry requirements, reduce duplication of services and implement additional land pre-clearance projects.

President Obama is set to visit Canada soon and I'm sure this will be one of the many things on the agenda.

More Vegas, less hate

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I just returned from a productive trip to the 2009 Milestone Integration Platform Symposium in Las Vegas. Yes, Vegas was cold (about 50 degrees at the high point) but the Milestone team put on a good event that brought out a "who's who" of the security industry. Today's story on the newswire outlines some of the sessions but I plan to write more for our April issue.

If you remember, I was pretty down on Vegas after my last trip. Well, it's back to having a warm place in my heart again. Red Rock was a neat property but be warned as it is an expensive cab ride from the airport and for some strange reason, all the restaurants in the hotel close at 11 pm. It's not like you can walk to another property next door like you can on the Strip. Thank god room service was still running.

Thanks to Milestone for the invitation — great chance to network and see everyone. Even if I will see them again for TechSec next week. See you there?